UK: East of England Urged to Grab Its Energy Opportunities

UK: East of England Urged to Grab its Energy Opportunities

More than 320 delegates attended the biggest ever conference staged by EEEGR (the East of England Energy Group) but it was the scale of the challenges and the potential of the multibillion pounds opportunities for the region which engaged them most.

They were urged to make sure the East of England took its chance to become a world leader in the energy market with the potential to create employment for about 170,000 people by 2020.

But leading international speakers on both windpower and oil & gas warned that delays, lack of skilled workers and too little aggression in the market place could thwart some of the local ambitions.

Former BP chairman Lord Browne had to call-off from the Norwich event but sent a specially recorded video message urging delegates to make the most of the remarkable resources of the Southern North Sea (SNS) in gas, offshore wind and marine energy.

He said the region must create the right skills through innovative partnerships, ensure the essential infrastructure for an energy hub and to maintain public support throughout the development.

Lord Browne is now partner and managing director of Riverstone LLC, owner of Seajacks, whose own managing director Blair Ainslie told the conference that the region must not lose sight of the value of its gas industry.

There was £7.5bn invested in UK oil and gas in 2011 and with enhanced production and extended field life, coupled with the decommissioning of older platforms, ensuring decades of work to come in the sector.

But he also acknowledged the growth of the offshore wind industry with Seajacks launching a third jack-up lift vessel later this year which expected to focus on turbine installation in the North Sea. Another three vessels were lined up in a $500m investment programme.

“There’s a chance of the East of England to become a world leader in an emergent market with huge export potential for the future,” he added.

Dr Rainer Mohr, president of offshore sales for REpower, said they would be looking for UK partners to deliver projects in the SNS but urged a more realistic approach from the supply chain.

 “This is a preferred region but we need to build up a sound order book before we think of announcing a production site in the UK.”

Because of delayed projects, they were also looking for business in the 2013-17 period. “We have the technology which can be installed tomorrow. We can start negotiations today,” he added.

Conference chair John Westwood, chairman of Douglas-Westwood, looked ahead to the next five years in the SNS and warned of the end of ‘cheap’ electricity with the potential for bills to soar as global energy demand doubled.

It was the last conference for John Best before he steps down as chief executive of EEEGR, the group he founded 11 years ago.

“People ask what will happen when I leave. But the future is up to you,” he said. “We have built a platform over 11 years but the story is only just beginning. EEEGR will continue to thrive and support the supply chain. We have an absolutely fabulous resource.”

The conference was sponsored by Seajacks with support from the University of East Anglia, ODE and the European Regional Development Fund.


Offshore WIND staff, March 05, 2012; Image: eeegr