‘New era of investment’ in the Southern North Sea is welcomed by New Anglia LEP

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A raft of announcements confirming billions of pounds of investment in the region’s energy sector and the prospect of thousands of jobs has been hailed as a “new era of investment” by New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership.

The Sizewell C Consortium has pledged £4.4bn of investment in the East of England, including £2bn in Suffolk alone, and a report has highlighted the potential for 35,000 jobs in the county.

Today the Offshore Wind Industry Council (OWIC) has published a report indicating that the number of people working in the UK’s offshore wind industry is set to rise significantly – from 26,000 currently to more than 69,800 by 2026.

Over the next five years the private sector will invest £60.8bn billion across the UK in developing, constructing and operating offshore wind projects, 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 has meanwhile been agreed, presenting opportunities for industry players to work together over the next decade and beyond to deliver the skills, innovation and new infrastructure required to ‘decarbonise North Sea production’.

Regional partners, including the LEP, Norfolk and Suffolk All Energy Industry Council and the East of England Energy Group (EEEGR) will work closely together to ensure the area is recognised as a UK leader in energy production, distribution and transition and is perfectly placed to be at the centre of the North Sea transition opportunities.

New Anglia LEP Chair C-J Green said: “The East of England has a unique energy mix and a world-leading supply chain which positions it at the forefront of the drive to Net Zero and the UK’s Clean Growth Region.

“The series of announcements we have seen this week highlighting billions of pounds of investment in our energy sector over the coming years points to a new era of investment and a massive vote of confidence in our energy industry.”

Mark Goodall, Chair 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.

“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.”

Simon Gray, Chief Executive of EEEGR, said: “EEEGR welcomes the good news from the oil and gas and offshore wind sectors. There is a pipeline of good news stories emerging in the energy sector in the East of England and 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.”

In another announcement underlining the instrumental role the region stands to play in the UK’s drive to Net Zero, the Southern North Sea has been identified as a significant site for hydrogen production.

The Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) commissioned Progressive Energy to assess the potential demand for hydrogen in Bacton and the South East of England, requirements for its production, and the repurposing of infrastructure to enable it.

It has concluded that the SNS can play an instrumental role in the future production of hydrogen. A sustainable market is expected to develop, with blue hydrogen being the most commercially viable option in the 2030’s and early 2040’s. This will allow time for the maturation of green hydrogen technology and for green hydrogen to become more cost-competitive on an industrial scale by the late 2040’s and early 2050’s.

Progressive Energy’s study was conducted in parallel with a local one by Hydrogen East and part-funded by the LEP into the options and steps needed for development of a regional hydrogen market, which is due to report in April.

C-J Green commented: “A managed transition to a new regional hydrogen economy is 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.”

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