Hopes for a support deal for East of England’s energy industry are rekindled at Westminster reception

From left, Simon Gray of EEEGR, Therese Coffey MP, energy minister Richard Harrington and Waveney MP

From left, Simon Gray of EEEGR, Therese Coffey MP, energy minister Richard Harrington and Waveney MP Peter Aldous at the EEEGR House of Commons reception 2017. Picture: TMS Media. - Credit: Archant

Companies in the east's energy industry have been reassured that the door remains open to government agreeing a support package for the sector, in a deal which would make the region a national exemplar.

National sector deals are a part of the government's industrial strategy, and involve specialist sectors explaining to ministers what kind of support could help them to flourish – but have until now been proposed only at a national level.

The East of England Energy Group (EEEGR) had proposed a regional sector deal, reflecting the fact that East Anglia's energy profile comprises oil and gas, offshore wind and nuclear, but ministers rejected the proposals.

At a Westminster reception this week, energy minister Richard Harrington told 200 industry representatives that their disappointment should be 'temporary' and said a second round of sector deals would be held, while also announcing he would visit the region to find about the region's supply-chain companies.

Simon Gray, EEEGR chief executive, said: 'One of my requests in my speech at Westminster was that the government should consider regional sector deals. If so, we could be one of the first in the country.'

He added: 'To leave Westminster with the news that the minister would potentially consider this once the national sector deals are in place was what we wanted to hear.'

A regional sector deal would not necessarily mean extra funding, but would be a national endorsement of the work being undertaken in the region, which could then be rolled out elsewhere in the country.

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That could include studies into sharing logistics between oil and gas and renewables, developing certification which could be used across the industry, and how to further reduce the reliance on subsidies in offshore wind, said Mr Gray.

He added that the sector deals could be supplemented by government funding after Brexit, when cash from the likes of the European Regional Development Fund and the Coastal Communities Fund dries up.

Guests at the reception also heard from Eric Marston, Southern North Sea area manager for the Oil and Gas Authority, on the 'green shoots' appearing as recent gas prices stabilised.