‘Lead energy agenda with deeds not words’

‘Lead energy agenda with deeds not words’

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.

“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,” she said.

“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.

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.

This sort of collaboration, she said, is “not rocket science” but it does take commitment and dedicated effort of senior players in the industry and both local and national government. Now is the time for deeds, not words, and the Northern Powerhouse are in a great position to start taking the actions required.”

If we want incremental growth and change, businesses compete, but to achieve exponential growth and change, businesses need to collaborate.