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Regional Sector Deal for East possible, Energy Minister tells East of England industry

Energy Minister Richard Harrington assured the East of England energy industry that its disappointment about a lack of a regional sector deal in the Government’s industrial strategy was “temporary.”

There would be a second round with “much to achieve”, he told companies from the unique all-energy East of England at a special reception at Westminster.

Simon Gray, CEO of the East of England Energy Group (EEEGR), said the minister’s acceptance in principle of a potential regional sector deal for EEEGR as an exemplar for a regional 'all energy' sector lead organisation was what the East of England wanted to hear.

“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.”

Mr Harrington told nearly 200 industry representatives from the region who had travelled to the House of Commons Members’ Dining Room for an event organised by EEEGR and hosted by Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey that “my door is open” to talk business.

He is planning a visit to the region to meet the supply chain in the only region contributing a mix of offshore wind, oil & gas and nuclear to the UK’s energy supply.

Staff from the Treasury, Department of Business Energy and Industry, Crown Estates and other government departments, key leaders from ScottishPower Renewables, Statoil, EDF, and other major operators also met East of England representatives at the reception, also attended by region MPs Peter Aldous, Brandon Lewis and Bernard Jenkin.

Three major industry announcements were made from the stage, as well as revelations from the Oil & Gas Authority of "green shoots” for the oil & gas industry in the Southern North Sea (SNS), with operators making “exciting developments.”

Jonathan Cole, managing director of Iberdrola Offshore Wind, revealed that Lowestoft-based James Fisher Marine Services had won the marine services contract for ScottishPower Renewables’ £2.5 billion East Anglia ONE project.

He praised the contribution to offshore wind by East of England companies 3sun Group, Seajacks, Cwind, hoping “these businesses continue to grow as the industry grows.”

Developing a skilled workforce for the growing energy industry in the east was high on the Westminster event’s agenda.

Stuart Rimmer, principal and chief executive of the new East Coast College, announced a new Wind Technicians Skills and Competency Centre would open in January in association with 3sun Group, Global Marine and Petans.

He also revealed a multi-college bid with West Suffolk College, College of West Anglia and Suffolk New College for an Institute of Technology in the east, one of eight planned for the UK.

A £11.3m energy skills centre being built at East Coast College’s Lowestoft campus will be open for business in December 2018, training offshore wind technicians and operations and maintenance engineers and skills for nuclear, oil & gas, decommissioning, marine engineering.

EEEGR’s Energy Skills Foundation programme, which runs at East Coast College Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth campuses, will be rolled out to West Suffolk College, Bury St Edmunds in September.

Ms Coffey said the East of England was “ready and willing to power the nation with offshore wind, nuclear and oil & gas’ and be a key energy generator for UKplc” if it had the tools and the infrastructure.

Simon Gray, CEO of EEEGR, which represents more than 300 members, said the industry would welcome Mr Harrington’s announced visit.

”To have a full room in the House of Commons representing the vibrant, diverse and ambitious East of England, speaking to the minister, MPs and government officials across a variety of key departments, shows the prominence of the energy industry in the East of England. We must keep raising the profile of its crucial contribution to the UK energy supply and UKplc. “

Eric Marston, Southern North Sea area manager for the Oil and Gas Authority, said “green shoots” were appearing as gas prices stabilised and the SNS celebrated the 50th anniversary of production.

“We have a couple of rigs in the SNS progressing exciting exploration wells.

“We are working with a number of operators who are progressing developments in the next three, four, five years. We are working with Centrica, DANA, Premier and Independent Oil & Gas (IOG), who are progressing exciting developments across the SNS. Some companies, previously competitors, are now collaborating, unlocking opportunities for marginal developments.”

Mr Cole spoke how “predictable, reliable and flexible” offshore wind was transforming areas of unemployment around the UK, including Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft, creating new career opportunities for oil & gas workers, fishing industry and ex-forces, and creating an internationally competitive supply chain.

“East Anglia is the best place in the world to build offshore wind farms,” he said.

East Anglia ONE contained 53% local content, he said. The industry was aiming for 50 % of UK power to be generated by offshore wind by 50GW of offshore wind projects supporting 50,000 highly skilled jobs and 1.5-2% of the UK’s export value.

Currently 10GW of offshore wind projects is powering more than 8million UK homes with more than £30billion of private sector money.

Jim Crawford, Project Director for Sizewell C, said more than 1300 East Anglian companies registered on portal for the development of Sizewell C.

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