Northern Powerhouse should lead energy agenda with deeds not words, says industry expert
Managing Director of the Energy Innovation Centre says that industry and local and national government should fund body to oversee progress in the North.
The Northern Powerhouse needs to place itself at the centre of the UK’s energy innovation agenda by being the first region to lead major collaboration across the industry, according to Denise Massey, the Managing Director of the Energy Innovation Centre.
She commented: “Securing the UK’s future energy supplies is one of the most important issues on today’s political agenda with ramifications for everyone from the individual householder to the Ministry of Defence. And it is only collaboration between the different sectors making up the energy industry – renewables, oil, gas, nuclear etc. – that could meet the challenges of the energy trilemma of energy security, energy access and affordability and lower carbon i.e., environmentally sustainable. Yet at the moment there seems to be little appetite for actually taking action on developing this collaborative approach nationally.
“The Government is open to new ideas and approaches where things are working well in order to inform the development of the national policy framework, but at the moment, those models are simply not there.
“This is where the Northern Powerhouse could come in. We’ve got an incredible asset base in terms of energy –nuclear, gas, electricity, renewables, offshore – and a comprehensive network of SMEs primed for innovation. It’s all right here in the region. We could provide a framework for how the different strands of the sector could work together and provide part of the blue print which could, over time, be rolled out nationally.”
There’s already appetite for this collaboration in the sector, says Massey. Mark Horsley, the CEO of the Northern Gas Network has already worked with consultancy KPMG on a ‘Powering the North’ report exploring these very issues. She will discuss this and more at the 2017 UK Northern Powerhouse International Conference and Exhibition in February at a dedicated session exploring the issue of ‘Powering the Powerhouse’ – focusing on energy in the north. Otherspeakers for this session include Andy Koss, the Chief Executive Officer of Drax Power and David Gill, Director of Stakeholder Relations, Northern Gas Networks.
Starting to work together, is, says Massey, the best way to reach if not a solution, the start of a solution, to an issue that affects all of us. “Cross-sector collaboration in the industry is challenging and almost too big a task to tackle nationally, but the Northern Powerhouse is ideally placed to start a shift towards a collaborative way of working by “thinking big, acting small.”
She continued: “What we need to do is paint the picture, plot the direction of travel, and then start taking those small steps that ensure we’re aligned and moving together in the right direction.”
But collaboration is not easy and requires dedicated resource.
To do this, she said, energy businesses across the North and national and local government should explore the possibility of jointly funding a body to drive forward the agenda to achieve progress in this area. “Once organisations have some money invested and own the agenda, they’re much more likely to push for results,” she explained.
And there is, she said, precedent for this sort of collaboration in the work of the Energy Innovation Centre, which was launched in 2008 in order to accelerate the discovery, development and deployment of innovation among energy businesses.
The 2017 UK Northern Powerhouse International Conference and Exhibition event will be held in Manchester Central on 21 and 22 February and is expected to attract some 3,000 delegates over two days.
It will feature sessions with the CEOs of major national businesses such as Nissan, Cisco and Stobart Group. International delegations are expected from India, Australia, China and the US.
The conference is one of the few events to attract delegates from across the entire range of sectors, with leading political, academic and business figures from across the North of England present.
Topics being addressed during the conference include manufacturing, transport and infrastructure, finance & delivery, devolution, competitiveness and productivity and energy.