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‘New era of investment’ in the Southern North Sea

Billions of pounds of investment in the region’s energy sector and the prospect of thousands of jobs mark a “new era of investment”, according to Norfolk & Suffolk Unlimited partners.
A14 Corridor - Port of Felixstowe (6)_Suffolk
A combined bid for freeport status from Port of Felixstowe and Harwich International Port has been greenlighted. Picture: Suffolk County Council

With the Sizewell C Consortium pledging £4.4bn of investment, including £2bn in Suffolk alone, the East of England has huge potential to create jobs. 

An estimated 233,000 supply chain jobs will be supported by the development, with 73,000 in Norfolk and 35,000 in Suffolk. In addition, 1,500 apprenticeships will be created by Sizewell C and its supply chain. 

A recent report published by the Offshore Wind Industry Council (OWIC) has meanwhile indicated that the number of people working in the UK’s offshore wind industry is set to rise significantly – from 26,000 to more than 69,800 by 2026. 

Most of these jobs will be created in parts of the country that urgently need levelling up, including East Anglia. 

Over the next five years, the private sector will invest £60.8bn across the UK in developing, constructing and operating offshore wind projects, with an average annual investment of £10.1bn between 2021 and 2026. 

In another development, a North Sea Transition Deal between the UK Government and the oil and gas sector has been agreed, presenting opportunities for industry players to work together over the next decade and beyond to deliver the skills, innovation and infrastructure required to “decarbonise North Sea production”. 

Regional partners, including New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), Norfolk and Suffolk All Energy Industry Council and the East of England Energy Group (EEEGR) will work closely together to ensure the area is recognised as a UK leader in energy production, distribution and transition – while remaining perfectly placed at the centre of the North Sea transition opportunities. 

Speaking on behalf of Norfolk & Suffolk Unlimited partners, New Anglia LEP chair C-J Green said: “The East of England has a unique energy mix and a world-leading supply chain which positions it at the forefront of the drive to net-zero and as the UK’s Clean Growth Region. 

“The series of announcements we have seen highlighting billions of pounds of investment in our energy sector over the coming years points to a new era of investment and a massive vote of confidence in our energy industry.” Mark Goodall, chair of the All Energy Industry Council, said: “We are also the only English region that covers all of the major component parts of the energy sector – offshore wind, gas, nuclear, hydrogen, onshore renewables – presenting a unique opportunity to support the government’s commitment to reach net-zero by 2050. 

“This transition deal is very welcome news for the Southern North Sea and will only strengthen our region’s ability to play to its strengths and maximise the economic opportunities presented by clean energy.” Simon Gray, chief executive of EEEGR, said: “EEEGR welcomes the good news from the oil, gas and offshore wind sectors. 

There is a pipeline of good news stories emerging in the energy sector in the East of England and we will continue to work with local authorities, developers and the supply chain to ensure that our region benefits from these advances and maintains its role as the UK’s leading all-energy region.” In further positive news for the region, the Freeport East bid – covering the Ports of Felixstowe and Harwich – was one of eight new freeports announced by the Chancellor in the spring budget. 

It is welcome news and will generate growth, investment and potentially ‘thousands of new green jobs’ in the region. 

Companies locating in freeports benefit from tax advantages on imports and exporters as well as and simplified planning rules and lower business rates. 

 

NB_07_Gas_pipelineBacton Gas terminal. Picture: Archant

East can play key role in hydrogen production  

Bacton has been identified as a significant site for future hydrogen production in another boost for the region’s future prosperity. 

The welcome report from the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) came after a combined bid for freeport status from Port of Felixstowe and Harwich International Port was greenlighted by Chancellor Rishi Sunak in last month’s Budget. 

A Hydrogen Hub is central to the planned creation of a low-carbon freeport and at its peak will produce 1GW of hydrogen – 20% of the 5GW target in the Prime Minister’s Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution. 

The project will be delivered in partnership with Ryse-Hydrogen and Sizewell C developer, EDF, which hopes the proposed nuclear plant will use hydrogen produced from power supplied by neighbouring Sizewell B to cut carbon emissions. 

A competitive and sustainable market for hydrogen is forecast, with blue hydrogen the most commercially viable option in the 2030s and 2040s. This will allow time for the maturation of green hydrogen technology as it becomes more cost-competitive on an industrial scale by the late 2040s and early 2050s. 

Progressive Energy was commissioned by the OGA to assess the potential demand for hydrogen in Bacton and the South East of England, the requirements for its production, and the repurposing of infrastructure to enable it. It concluded that the Bacton area has the potential to become a significant hydrogen production site for London and the South East. 

Bacton’s strengths include:

  •  Access to UK and imported natural gas for blue hydrogen production, as well as offshore wind power. 
  • Sufficient land for the development of hydrogen production. 
  • Availability of offshore structures for carbon dioxide and hydrogen storage. 
  • Distribution connections to London and the South East. 

The report also highlighted the fact that the SNS has sufficient indigenous hydrocarbon reserves to supply feedstock needs and meet the growing demand for blue hydrogen. Blue hydrogen would make use of existing resources and the extensive carbon dioxide storage potential the SNS offers, while green hydrogen can be used to redeploy constrained wind energy. 

Progressive Energy’s study was conducted in parallel with a local study by Hydrogen East. Partfunded by New Anglia LEP, Hydrogen East’s assessment of the steps needed to develop a regional hydrogen market will be published in April. 

New Anglia LEP chair C-J Green said: “A managed transition to a new regional hydrogen economy is a key pathway to delivering net-zero. The East of England already has a diverse energy mix and solid foundations to support early deployment and scaling of hydrogen. It has the potential to become a leading hydrogen region with a number of markets that must decarbonise.”