East Anglia: Eric Pickles and Vince Cable voice support for region’s energy sector at EEEGR House of Commons reception
06:00 15 May 2014
A delegation from the East of England Energy Group (EEEGR) has received pledges of Government support and recognition for the region’s energy industry during a reception at the House of Commons.
Business Secretary Vince Cable said there was a determination that a higher portion of the billions of pounds to be invested by international companies in sectors such as offshore wind should go to the UK supply chain.
And Communities Secretary Eric Pickles saluted the work being undertaken by the region’s energy sector and its importance to Britain’s energy future.
Mr Pickles also officially launched the EPISCentre project, a skills and training hub in Great Yarmouth to bring more training provision into the region rather than sending trainees as far afield as Aberdeen or overseas.
It will save companies significant amounts of money in travel and accommodation, reducing the costs of delivering projects and increasing competitiveness. By acting as the focal point for energy industry skills, it will increase the ability of local people to be able to access employment opportunities in the industry.
Mr Pickles said such a centre of excellence would help ensure that the region took advantage of its strategic position to cash in on opportunities of the £50billion of capital to be spent in the energy industry over the coming decades.
Much of the action would be in the Southern North Sea with interest not just from the UK but across Europe.
“If the East of England is to be a magnet for that work it must be able to offer the skills,” he added.
Dr Cable told delegates that international energy giants chasing the business must make good use of local suppliers.
“I had to call in one of the big offshore wind operators when I discovered their UK content was 20%,” he said. “The company assured me they couldn’t find firms in the UK with the relevant experience but admitted they hadn’t tried. They are now trying and the purpose of our industrial strategy is to work with them. “
Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis, who co-hosted the event, said there had been a great start to the year for the region with Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft gaining Assisted Area Status; a three-year extension on business rate discounts for companies moving to the Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft Enterprise Zone; and now the launch of EPISCentre.
Bruce Provan, chairman of the Norfolk and Suffolk Energy Alliance (NSEA) said it was vital for Government to be resilient and strong in encouraging good UK content within investments into the East of England Energy Zone.
“We must ensure we gain from these huge projects, which will be subsidised by the UK taxpayer but often delivered from outside the country. We welcome international companies to join us and work with us in the East of England for the advantage of all,” he added”
EEEGR chief executive Simon Gray said afterwards the reception had been a huge success.
“To have two Secretaries of State and many MPS attending was a real coup and a testament to EEEGR and the region’s energy industry,” he said. “It was good to have next generation representatives such as Lowestoft College, the University of East Anglia and Colchester Institute attending. It shows how bright the future is for our industry.”