Proposal for �11m energy skills ‘hub’

PLANS to make the East of England an energy force to be reckoned with are to be put to the Government in a multi-million-pound funding bid.

Energy sector bodies from the region have joined forces to create an �11million skills hub which, they say, could be built in under two years and would supply training to tens of thousands of people a year.

East Anglia is seen as sitting on an “energy gold mine” but lacks the necessary skills levels to cash in on the boom.

A new centre, provisionally called the EpisCentre, would act as a hub, bringing together and plugging the gaps between existing training providers in the state and private sectors.

Four potential locations have been identified for the facility, which would extend to around two acres and include offices and workshops able to support training for 20,000 people a year.

Two of the possible sites are in Lowestoft, one off Gas Works Road and the other at Riverside, near the town’s Asda store, with the others being Beacon Park at Gorleston and South Denes, Great Yarmouth.

One of the sites is to be picked in the new year by the Skills for Energy Partnership, which, together with the East of England Energy Group (EEEGR), is behind the project, before a bid for cash is submitted to the Government’s Regional Growth Fund.

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Some �75,000 of preparatory work is expected to start in 2011.

Celia Anderson, executive director of Skills for Energy in the East of England, said: “This is not about a building but about a flagship centre that will unite existing training providers with the people who need the skills and that will make this region much more attractive to industries thinking of moving or investing here.

“We believe this is the best way to avert a critical shortage of skills in an industry which faces unparalleled growth in the region, whether in wind power, gas, nuclear, agricultural biofuels, carbon capture and storage, marine energy or clean coal.”

The project has the backing of authorities in Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex.

The Government has shown its support for green energy with a shake-up of the power markets to support investment in low-carbon generation.

However, the East of England will miss out on a �60m funding pot for ports-related offshore work because it is not a designated assisted area.

The Regional Growth Fund bid is also likely to come up against other region’s pleas for cash, including the North East.

EEEGR says that half of the funding for the centre, in cash or equipment, must come from within the industry itself.

The skills partnership would also look to the European Regional Development Fund and local councils, it said, and was sustainable long term.