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SNS2020: A bright future for the region’s skills, employment and infrastructure

The East of England Energy Group’s (EEEGR) flagship Southern North Sea conference, held online this year, has come to a close with over 4,082 connections made, 1,549 messages exchanged, 335 video meetings scheduled, 870 online discussions conducted, 61 exhibitors and 31 live sessions broadcast across two stages.
The second day of SNS2020 highlighted the importance of collaboration to overcome skills challenges. Pictures is an apprentice at Bacton. Picture: EEEGR

“It’s been fantastic to see the industry engaging in the virtual event with such enthusiasm and interest, I’m thrilled with how our delegates, exhibitors and sponsors have embraced this new way of networking and connecting," said Simon Gray, EEEGR CEO.
"We all enjoyed hearing the minister’s encouragement for our region. We now need to move ahead with the massive infrastructure project we have in our region, from Sizewell C to future rounds of offshore wind development, grid integration and the North Sea transition deal providing the springboard we need to recover during the post-covid period. The East of England is where it’s all happening!”
Delegates have made the most of opportunities to interact with one another and key industry speakers across a range of subjects. The conference, entitled Smart Generation: The Transition to 2050, dedicated specialist stages to oil and gas, renewables, hydrogen and skills.

Opened by Senior Minister Kwasi Kwarteng, the conference launched to much fanfare following his announcement of the Government’s ambitions for offshore wind. Kwarteng outlined the aim to grow exports to £6.2 billion a year within the next 10 years and the requirement for the oil and gas industry to transition to meet the 2050 Net Zero targets.

Day two saw the main stage cover future integration to support the energy transition and the potential solutions in the pipeline. The panel was comprised of David Wright from National Grid (chair), Richard Halsey (capabilities director Energy Systems Catapult), Sara Walker (National Centre for Energy Systems Integrations) and Keith Bell (UK Energy Research Council).

Topics of conversation focussed on regional pilots, funding, a co-ordinated and pan-European network in which the development of North Sea offshore wind will play a key role. The panel presented an enthusiastic picture of the region, predicting real growth in investment, infrastructure and employment within the sector.



b4f2718c-21cb-43bf-ad53-57c67df14dddEEEGR CEO Simon Gray. Picture: EEEGR

The Hydrogen Stage opened with a panel discussion concerning its role in the wider energy transition targets. Discussions between the Oil and Gas Authority, the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult and North West Hydrogen Alliance covered carbon capture storage and the evolving technologies around electrolysis and its potential to be competitive with conventional energy sources.

The second discussion on the Hydrogen Stage, hosted by Opergy’s managing director Johnathan Reynolds, looked at the potential for hydrogen production in the East of England. Panellists from Sizewell C, The National Grid, New Anglia Energy and the Oil and Gas Technology Centre opined that integration and a natural advantage due to existing infrastructure meant the region was perfectly positioned to be a leader in hydrogen production.

Johnathan Reynolds highlighted the need to change the discussions to further examine sizeable opportunities in production and stimulating demand across power, heat, transport and shipping.

The Skills Stage hosted OPITO, ScottishPower Renewables, Vattenfall and ECITB, with EEEGR’s Skills for Energy programme manager, Gemma Head, engaging with industry and offshore wind operators about the challenges and skills shortage they face. Facilitating the demand for skills to be led by industry and fed down into skills programmes. All parties agreed the overwhelming importance of collaboration to outline the requirements for a multi-skilled workforce.

Neptune Energy closed the Hydrogen Stage with an in-depth look at its PosHYdon platform - a hydrogen pilot project, commissioned by Nexstep in the Southern North Sea. This has created the first offshore green hydrogen plant with a view to demonstrate that hydrogen can be produced safely on a decommissioned gas platform and utilise existing infrastructure for onshore transmission.

ScottishPower Renewable’s Ross Ovens spoke of the East Anglia Hub, which is comprised of three offshore wind projects. He highlighted the need for a project of this size to rely on the supply chain for ambitious delivery phased through to 2028. The East Anglia Hub will deliver up to 3.1 GW across 263 turbines. A project of this scale brings enormous opportunity to the region, both during its construction and its operations and maintenance cycle.

Vattenfall’s Rob Anderson joined Simon Gray on the Main Stage discussing Vattenfall’s Norfolk Vanguard and Boreas projects. These projects are colossal in size and will bring many challenges to the region’s supply chain. Further discussion with ScottishPower Renewable’s Ross Oven saw the two operators agree that closing the skills gap has to be a collaborative priority, especially with the number of projects planned for the eastern region.

"The chance to manage what would be the world's largest offshore wind farm doesn't come around every day. It's an exciting time to be involved in offshore wind, industry is booming,” said Rob Anderson.

The conference was closed by ScottishPower Renewables’ Jonathan Cole, who said of Net Zero: “Governments want it, companies want it or know we have to have it, and the public want it, so now we have to find a way to deliver it.
“It’s about an industrial and social transformation which means you have to change the way people earn their livelihoods and the way they live their lives.
The Swapcard platform remains open for a further six months allowing delegates and participants continued access to all the live resources hosted on the system.