Energy group goes Dutch on expertise

THE East of England Energy Group is to host a major Anglo-Dutch conference next week to pool information and ideas from either side of the North Sea on how to cash in on the boom in off-shore wind power.

All 150 places at the “Going Dutch” event, to be held at the M�ller Centre in Cambridge on Tuesday, January 11, have been snapped up as companies across the energy supply chain seek maximum benefit from the multi-billion pound expansion of the wind farm sector.

Keynote speakers will include Guy Madgwick of Eneco, Andy Kinsella of Mainstream Renewable Power and Allan MacAskill, SeaEnergy.

There will also be panel discussions and a series of “speed dating” sessions enabling delegates to explore business opportunities with some of the major energy companies involved, including RES Group, Siemens, Vattenfall, KBR, RWE Innogy and Ballast Nedam.

The initiative for the conference came from within the Dutch embassy in London, with the regional energy group (EEEGR) agreeing to organise a joint event.

Joanneke Balfoort, who is the head of economic development at the Dutch embassy, said it was important for businesses from both countries to co-operate with each other as well as to compete, adding: “It is a very practical idea where both countries have good experience to share.

“The conference is mainly for business but on the policy side our countries have much common ground in their thinking about wind energy and other renewables.”

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John Best, EEEGR chief executive, added: “We are delighted to have been asked to co-organise this conference with the Dutch embassy as the wind power sector is an international one and to gain the most benefit we need collaboration as well as competition.

“Within the East of England, we have one foot in the door of opportunity and when we enter we must be fully prepared, equipped and ready for action.”

The conference was heralded as a good example of trade co-operation between the UK and Netherlands at a recent meeting between deputy prime minister Nick Clegg and his Dutch counterpart, Maxime Verhagen, which saw the launch of a new UK-Netherlands Strategic Business Dialogue.

Liesbeth Staps, the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency’s executive director for UK and Ireland, said that while the North Sea separated Britain and the Netherlands, it also united them in trade and investment opportunities.

“We have moved on from times when you look only within the boundaries of your own country. We are always looking for cross-border opportunities,” she said.

The agency was pleased to work with EEEGR to bring the event to Cambridge although she stressed that the initiative was a national, not just a regional one, with Dutch officials having already been to Edinburgh and Aberdeen for informal talks on closer co-operation.

She said the Netherlands had much to offer with more than 10 years’ involvement in offshore wind power, resources such as deep-water sea ports and expertise in offshore dredging, turbine design, foundations and cabling.