Jobs bonanza predicted as new investment turbo-charges the east’s energy sector
- Credit: Vattenfall
An enterprise body is hailing a “new era of investment” for East Anglia as billions of pounds are poured into its fast-growing energy sector.
New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) said the promise of new money was “a huge vote of confidence” in the region as it positions itself for growth following the massive economic shock caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Sizewell C Consortium has pledged £4.4bn of investment in the East of England — including £2bn in Suffolk — and a report by the Offshore Wind Industry Council (OWIC) published on March 25 has highlighted the potential for 35,000 jobs in the county. A report commissioned by the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) suggests the Southern North Sea — and Bacton — could play a key role in future hydrogen technology.
The OWIC report suggests the UK’s offshore wind workforce is set to rise significantly from 26,000 currently to more than 69,800 by 2026.
The private sector will invest £60.8bn across the UK in developing, constructing and operating offshore wind projects, it predicts, with an average annual investment of £10.1bn between 2021 and 2026.
A North Sea Transition Deal between the UK government and the oil and gas sector also presents economic opportunities from new infrastructure and innovations to support the “decarbonisation” of North Sea production, it said.
Regional groups including the LEP, Norfolk and Suffolk All Energy Industry Council and the East of England Energy Group (EEEGR) are set to work together to ensure the area is recognised for its leading role in energy production, distribution and transition and can benefit from the North Sea transition opportunities coming on stream.
New Anglia LEP chairwoman C-J Green said the region was home to a “unique” energy mix and a “world-leading” supply chain which put it at the forefront of the UK’s net zero carbon drive.
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A series of announcements over the last few weeks pointed to “a new era of investment and a massive vote of confidence in our energy industry”, she said.
Mark Goodall, chairman of the All Energy Industry Council, said: “We are also the only English region that covers all of the major component parts of the energy sector – offshore wind, gas, nuclear, hydrogen, onshore renewables – presenting a unique opportunity to support the government’s commitment to reach net zero by 2050.
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“This Transition Deal is very welcome news for the Southern North Sea and will only strengthen our region’s ability to play to its strengths and maximise the economic opportunities presented by clean energy.”
EEEGR chief executive Simon Gray welcomed the “good news stories” emerging in the energy sector in the East of England.
“We will continue to work with our colleagues at the local authorities, the developers and the supply chain to ensure that our region benefits from these advances and maintains its role as the UK’s leading all-energy region,” he said.
A report commissioned by the Oil and Gas Authority has identified the Southern North Sea as a significant site for hydrogen production.
OGA commissioned Progressive Energy to assess potential demand for hydrogen in Bacton and the South East of England — and look at whether its infrastructure could be repurposed for the new technology.
It concluded the Southern North Sea can play an instrumental role in the future production of hydrogen, starting with “blue” hydrogen (from fossil fuels) production in the 2030s and 2040s, and envisaging “green” hydrogen (from renewables) by the late 2040s and early 2050s.
The Progressive Energy report was conducted in parallel with another by Hydrogen East which has been part-funded by the LEP and is due to report in April on its findings.
C-J Green said a managed transition to a new regional hydrogen economy was a “key pathway” to delivering net zero.
“The East of England already has a diverse energy mix and solid foundations to support early deployment and scaling of hydrogen. It has the potential to become a leading hydrogen region with a number of markets that must decarbonise,” she added.