The East of England is unique, it is the only region in the UK that can truly lay claim to being an ‘all energy’ producer. We are at the centre of Europe’s and the UK's largest offshore wind developments, a strategically important contributor to UK natural gas production, and have existing nuclear power with new build on the horizon.
Couple this with our growing solar generation and bioenergy capabilities, and the East of England is a major force in energy production and employment and is playing a key part in achieving the UK’s target of bringing greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.
It would wrong to underplay the impacts of Covid-19 to the sector. Due to the historic fall in demand for oil and gas, our industry has suffered the impacts of falling prices head on, and while there is some evidence of stabilisation in oil prices in recent weeks, when operating in a mature basin with often tight margins, these types of shocks can be profound. However, the region’s oil and gas supply chain has shown great resilience and we hope that in due course, things will improve.
In terms of offshore wind, thanks to the incredibly dynamic wind energy businesses and versatile ports in the East of England Energy Zone, we have been able to maintain, albeit for essential works only, safe and effective support to ensure the fleet of offshore wind turbines off the coast continue to generate clean energy.
For me the ‘green recovery’ in our region was well underway before the pandemic hit, however, there is now more emphasis than ever to ensure that the communities of East Anglia truly benefit from the enormous opportunities presented by offshore wind, solar and new nuclear construction and the significant operations and maintenance activity associated with all forms of production in the East of England.
We must strive to ensure that local people can access the sustainable, well-paid and highly-skilled jobs the green recovery has to offer. Our colleges, such as East Coast College in Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft, and universities, including the University of East Anglia and University of Suffolk, will continue to play crucial roles in arming people with the right skills, behaviours and competencies to become fully engaged in the recovery.
Our energy sector and its supply chain in the East of England are well versed in collaborating, and this has ensured the East of England Energy Zone has remained a globally competitive location for over 55 years, and it is this collaborative approach that will help us through the current crisis we are facing.
The journey to net zero will present new opportunities for companies to transition their skills, expertise and capabilities into new and emerging forms of clean energy generation. The energy sector can also work closely with the regions digital and ICT sector to lever the benefits of artificial intelligence and the use of big data to continually improve how we build, operate and maintain both our offshore and onshore energy infrastructure. This will in turn open up exciting opportunities to export our capabilities to other parts of the world who share our ambitions for clean growth.
It’s often been said that we don’t shout loud enough about our amazing energy success story and I think this is largely because we are confidently getting on with the job. We need to shine a light on the region, not only to a global audience but also to people who live and work here, so they too can gain insight in to the local energy sector and the significant contribution it makes to the UK's economy.