Kevin Keable, chair of the East of England Energy Group (EEEGR), discusses why  establishing an energy policy for the region is so important.

Last autumn, Peter Aldous MP and I had several discussions, resulting in a decision for The East of England Energy Group (EEEGR) to write an overriding energy policy for the East of England. Easy to say, although quite a challenge to make sure we represented the views of all the stakeholders across the region.

However, with a positive approach and some fantastic support, we did it. On January 24 we launched EEEGR’s at a reception in the House of Commons and it has been received very positively indeed.

The 5 Core Principles are aimed at setting a framework and foundation for all energy stakeholders in the region to get behind and work towards. They are centred around: the environment, sustainability and biodiversity; education, skills and job creation; economic prosperity; growth of the supply chain; and regional engagement.

Eastern Daily Press: EEEGR's 5 Core PrinciplesEEEGR's 5 Core Principles (Image: EEEGR)
The order of them is not necessarily important, but it would appear that the biggest concern across all sectors, not just energy, is education and skills, although we need a robust economy to be able to push forward at pace.

The East of England is strategically positioning itself as a pivotal player in the UK’s evolving energy sector, marked by a diversified portfolio of commercial energy generation sources.

This region leads the nation with 47 Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPS). Many of these are energy related, underscoring our commitment to powering the UK through a mix of nuclear power, natural gas, offshore wind, solar, biomass and the grid upgrade, while simultaneously striving for enhanced efficiency, sustainability and resilience.

We are in a transitional period – no one knows what the future really holds in terms of energy generation. We can be sure of only two things: rising demand and the reduction of our net carbon dioxide emissions to zero.

Interestingly, while we try to achieve that, there is opposition to every single part of the energy generation and transmission industry: onshore wind, nuclear, gas, solar farms, the great grid upgrade, batteries. Perhaps only offshore wind has significantly less detractors, although there are huge hurdles to making this work efficiently and effectively, as was seen last year when significant cost rises resulted in no bids made for offshore wind projects in the fifth Contracts for Difference (CfD) round.

Carbon capture and hydrogen fuel will no doubt come under pressure from opposition groups as well, but that is for another article – for now we should concentrate on the positives.

In fact, central to the region’s energy landscape are its world-class gas reservoirs, earmarked for CO2 storage and hydrogen production facilities, establishing the East of England as not only a current but future energy stronghold.

The Bacton Terminal, instrumental in managing up to 30% of the UK’s gas supplies, is poised to transition into a low-carbon hydrogen production centre through carbon capture and storage technology. This initiative is pivotal for the decarbonisation efforts in the East of England.

Eastern Daily Press: Peter Aldous MP, also spoke in support of the East of England’s pivotal role in UK’s energy sector at the House of Commons eventPeter Aldous MP, also spoke in support of the East of England’s pivotal role in UK’s energy sector at the House of Commons event (Image: Sonya Duncan)

Sizewell B’s recent milestone of generating over 250TW of electricity (sufficient to power Suffolk’s homes for nearly two centuries), alongside Sizewell C’s anticipated output of more than 3GW, highlight the significant contributions of nuclear energy to the region’s power supply.

Renewable energy plays a crucial role in the region’s energy mix, with over 1,000 wind turbines currently installed, producing 5GW of electricity, and an additional 10GW in development.

The Great Grid Upgrade by National Grid Electricity Transmission and collaboration with the Future System Operator are critical steps towards optimising the distribution of low-carbon electricity across the region.

The region’s blueprint for a low-carbon future hinges on government support in several key areas, including establishing a stable fiscal environment to bolster investor confidence, providing predictable regulatory frameworks, fostering innovative solutions for power distribution and facilitating the progression of innovative projects.

Investments in innovation, skills development, and long-term asset development are essential for enhancing manufacturing and investment within the UK and particularly our region.

Environmental stewardship is a fundamental aspect of the region’s energy strategy, focusing on biodiversity, ecosystem conservation and integrating environmental considerations into decision-making processes.

To support the transition towards a low-carbon economy, we are emphasising the importance of developing a diverse skill set across industries, including re-skilling and up-skilling initiatives, educational outreach, and fostering partnerships between industry and academia. These efforts aim to build a versatile workforce capable of supporting the energy sector’s evolving needs.

This is not an easy task; industry and academia must work together closely so current and future jobs are catered for. Industry cannot sit back and wait for well-trained staff to be churned out and academia must listen to the needs of industry, not just focus on hitting government targets.