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Energy and clean growth in the Northern Powerhouse

At the start of November, a major two-day event in Hull will bring together energy sector businesses, policy-makers and researchers from across the North. North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) Chair, Andrew Hodgson, who will be chairing a panel discussion at the event, looks ahead to the Energy & Clean Growth in the Northern Powerhouse conference.

The Energy & Clean Growth conference is the next stage in an ongoing process of collaboration, as we work together with partners across the Northern Powerhouse to showcase the combined energy capabilities of the North, and to illustrate how the North has a vital role to play in tackling global challenges of clean growth.

In late 2017, the Northern Energy Taskforce published the Northern Energy Strategy, with a vision of creating the leading low-carbon energy region in the UK, with an energy economy worth £15 billion per annum and 100,000 green jobs.

And now, the Energy & Clean Growth conference has been organised by the NP11 – the 11 Local Enterprise Partnerships that cover the 76 Local Authorities in the North of England – to shine a spotlight on clean growth, the new technologies being developed here in the North, and the opportunities we have as a region within the energy and clean growth arena.

We know that here in the North East we have fantastic history and a bright future in the energy sector. Our region is home to a globally important offshore energy and subsea technology cluster; we have comprehensive innovation and demonstration assets; and we have partnerships like the North East Energy Catalyst which is focused on accelerating decarbonisation, driving economic growth and delivering on national policy.

But we are not just looking at this on a sub-regional level. It’s important that we also show the breadth of what we have to offer across the wider North and that we make sure the combined capabilities of the North are recognised nationally and internationally.

The conference in Hull will bring together more than a thousand delegates from the energy sector, it will spark conversations and it will bring stronger linkages between the different elements of the energy supply chain. I hope that it will also result in even stronger links between industry and academia, bringing research into new technologies up front and centre.

The timing of this conference is important. Energy is a hugely important part of the UK’s Industrial Strategy and this conference comes at a time when many Local Enterprise Partnerships are in the process of publishing their own Local Industrial Strategies. Discussion and debate like we will see at the Energy & Clean Growth event will influence how energy is positioned within these strategies.

And of course, these discussions are all taking place at a time when we are facing global challenges on clean growth and the growth of industry. The UK Government has committed to reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and the Northern Powerhouse has a leading role to play in achieving this aim.

What we can contribute to the energy agenda when we work together is huge and I look forward to making further progress towards our goals for the Northern Powerhouse in November.

Andrew Hodgson, Chair, North East Local Enterprise Partnership.

Energy and Clean Growth in the Northern Powerhouse takes place on 5 and 6 November in Hull. Find out more.




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North East Energy Catalyst ready to deliver on global challenges

A ground-breaking new partnership has been established to unite the North East’s leading energy innovation, demonstration and delivery capabilities, in order to drive new opportunities and growth for the region.

The North East is home to an array of internationally-recognised energy innovation, demonstration and science assets, and a wide range of ‘real-world’ follow-on delivery opportunities. These are owned by the public sector, universities, government bodies, and businesses already developing and delivering important products and services within the energy sector.

These partners have now joined forces to form the North East Energy Catalyst, with a mission of catalysing an integrated energy system which grows a productive, clean economy for prosperous communities. The initiative aims to co-ordinate North East energy innovation, demonstration and delivery capabilities, both onshore and offshore, to develop and showcase solutions to global energy challenges.

Energy Catalyst partners will work together on projects which tackle these major energy challenges, delivering on national energy, industrial, and clean growth strategy, whilst also supporting efforts to drive decarbonisation and economic growth in the region.

The Catalyst will invite and co-ordinate engagement with industry and business, promoting opportunities available in the North East to diversify, commercialise new solutions, and to deliver regional growth and employment across the energy sector.

The partnership includes Newcastle University; Durham University; Northumbria University; Zero Carbon Futures (a subsidiary of Gateshead College); Northern Powergrid; Northern Gas Networks; the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult which has test facilities at Blyth; the British Engines Group; the Innovation SuperNetwork; Northumbrian Water; the North of Tyne Combined Authority; and the North East Combined Authority. It is facilitated by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).

Andrew Clark, North East LEP Energy Programme Lead, said: “We are delighted to be a founding partner of the North East Energy Catalyst, an initiative which builds on our region’s position at the heart of the UK’s energy industry.

“The region has a unique and comprehensive asset base for innovating, demonstrating and delivering solutions to global energy challenges working both onshore and offshore.

“We also host a highly innovative business base at the cutting edge of developing and commercialising these solutions, presenting significant growth potential and new economic opportunities for places across our region.

“The North East Energy Catalyst brings these assets together in this exciting new partnership to showcase our critical role in this global agenda.”

The initiative follows the identification of energy innovation and demonstration as a key theme within North East LEP’s new Energy for Growth strategy, which aims to drive economic growth in the North East while also bringing sector partners together to deliver on national energy strategy.

Energy was identified as an area of key importance in the North East Strategic Economic Plan, with the potential to bring investment and jobs to our region.

Read more about the North East Energy Catalyst here. For more information, contact [email protected].

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Students at Excelsior Academy energised by Northern Powergrid partnership

Year 7 and 8 students at Excelsior Academy in Newcastle upon Tyne have been learning about the future of green and renewable energy thanks to a new partnership between the school and the region’s electricity distributor, Northern Powergrid.

Part of the North East LEP’s Education Challenge initiative, which aims to reduce the gap between the best and lowest performing secondary schools in the region, staff from Northern Powergrid have been supporting students’ curriculum-based learning with teaching and learning direct from the workplace.

Elliot Dixon, EHV Design Engineer at Northern Powergrid, visited the school to speak to pupils about the role of Northern Powergrid and its commitment to green and renewable energy.

Elliot said: “The students at Excelsior Academy really impressed me with their intelligent questions about how we deliver electricity to homes and businesses and how we respond to a power cut.

“Having the opportunity to speak to the workforce of tomorrow about Northern Powergrid and the important role we play has been a great experience for everyone involved. I hope we’ve inspired some students to come and work with us in the future.”

Hannah Cummins, Industry Alignment Manager at Excelsior Academy, said: “Having meaningful encounters with employers from the local area is something we’re committed to delivering our students.

“The Education Challenge programme expands students’ knowledge of the opportunities available to them when they leave school and it also helps them understand the skills they need for the workplace.”

Excelsior Academy is one of three schools in the region piloting the North East LEP’s Education Challenge initiative, which is built on the highly successful Ford Next Generation Learning programme currently embedded in schools across Nashville, Tennessee, and other US cities.

When introduced to Nashville schools, high school graduation rates rose by almost 23% as well as improvements in attainment, student behaviour and attendance.

For more information about Education Challenge, visit www.nelep.co.uk/skills.

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Durham University recruiting for three Energy PhD posts

Durham University is currently recruiting for three Energy PhD posts to support its work in Offshore Renewable Energy and Offshore Wind Energy.

Full details, including deadlines dates for applications, are available below. Applications can be made online at: https://www.dur.ac.uk/postgraduate/study/apply/

Vacancy for Collaborative PhD with Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult

A PhD studentship is available for research into offshore investment planning under severe uncertainty, at the School of Engineering & Computing Sciences, and the Department Mathematical Sciences, Durham University. Support and active involvement will come from the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult, which has facilities in Blyth, Glasgow and Fife.

The aim of the project is to investigate investment planning over a wide range of technology options by formulating a set of decision problems taking into account severe uncertainties in both operational and environmental data. The potential candidate will have a good degree (normally first class or equivalent) undergraduate or MSc degree in Engineering, Mathematics, or Statistics. A good background in Statistics is required.

For more information about this opportunity please do not hesitate to contact Dr B Kazemtabrizi ([email protected]), or Dr M Troffaes ([email protected]) as soon as possible and preferably before 23rd September 2016. Proposed start date is 1st October 2016 but there is flexibility.

For further information about this opportunity go to http://www.jobs.ac.uk/job/AON868/phd-studentship-offshore-transmission-systems-asset-management-under-severe-uncertainty/


Vacancy for 2 PhD studentships in Data Mining Wind Farm Operational and Maintenance data funded through DONG Energy

Off shore wind energy is one of the fastest growing sectors, with major new projects planned within European waters as well as further afield. These new wind farm developments are sited further off shore than ever before (the Round 3 wind farm projects in the North Sea are some 200km off shore).

This presents new challenges in terms of maintenance and repair: the cost of going on site is significantly greater (both financially and time).

These two linked PhD projects will develop novel data mining methods to maximise the information gathered from wind turbines’ sensor arrays. The aim is to be able to identify that a wind turbine is developing a fault well in advance of that fault becoming sufficiently severe that it prevents the wind turbine from operating. Given this advanced warning, a wind farm operator is then able to organise maintenance and identify a good weather window to carry that maintenance out.

These projects will be undertaken with close collaboration with DONG Energy (Danish Oil and Natural Gas, one of the largest wind farm operators globally).

These PhD studentships are available to Home and EU students. Please contact Dr Peter Matthews ([email protected]) for further information preferably before 30th September.

For further information go to https://www.findaphd.com/search/ProjectDetails.aspx?PJID=73802&LID=427

Durham University’s online application link can be found at https://www.dur.ac.uk/postgraduate/study/apply/

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In Conversation with North East LEP Chair and Chief Executive of Subsea Engineering Specialist Soil Machine Dynamics, Andrew Hodgson

It’s been a busy start to March for the region’s energy sector, with some real positives on the agenda for both immediate and longer-term growth.

More than 600 delegates from the worldwide industry were in Gateshead for the NOF annual energy conference at Sage Gateshead on Wednesday, March 10. Although Durham-based NOF badges this as a national conference, it attracts international attendees including delegations from Brazil, Canada and Oklahoma in the US.

The energy industry is a strong sectoral community that supports a lot of jobs in the North East. It’s also one that we’re really well-positioned to benefit from in the future, whether that’s oil and gas, offshore renewables or nuclear. Offshore engineering is one of the LEP’s smart specialisation areas and we’re investing heavily into the riverside infrastructure through the Enterprise Zones adjacent to the rivers Tyne, Wear and Blyth. This excellent deep-water access is vital for companies in the offshore sector.

Some of the NOF conference delegates were able to see our Tyneside facilities first hand, on an Invest North East England-hosted trip along the river. It was a well-received tour, which showcased some of the Tyne’s capabilities and some of the Enterprise Zone investments to a new audience.

Energy is an evolving industry and it’s vital for the region to be at the forefront of innovation if we’re to fully benefit from the more and better jobs it will create in the years ahead. The LEP is supporting the creation of the Neptune National Centre for Subsea and Offshore Engineering on the North bank of the Tyne. The centre, headed by Newcastle University, is the first of its kind in the UK and will lead the development of new technology for the industry.

We also have a very strong supply chain, which is recognised nationally and internationally. There were a lot of conversations at the NOF conference about the strength of the North East’s manufacturing and supply chain and its support of the energy sector worldwide.

We can’t ignore the downward pressure on jobs that has been caused by recent low global oil prices. The view from the NOF conference was that the industry is cyclical and these low prices are not sustainable, and that particularly offshore gas – as well as oil – still has huge growth potential. Plus, there is work available in efficiencies and decommissioning ahead of the upturn forecast by the industry. In the North East, I’m confident that in the long term, this is a sector where there are some really strong opportunities for the region.

In addition to the positives coming out of the NOF conference and some excellent forecasts of longer-term prospects for the region, we’ve also had some welcome news for the sector that will have more immediate benefit for the North East.

After a number of years of talks, the UK Round 3 offshore wind project is beginning to show significant progress with contracts starting to be placed for the planned new wind farms. Three North East companies – Tekmar, JDR Cables and Deep Ocean – are among the businesses to benefit as the programme finally gets underway.

For the oil and gas industry, it could be 12 to 18 months before we start to see signs of a major revival, but the industry is confident there are opportunities for growth on the horizon.

Andrew Hodgson is chair of the North East LEP, chief executive of subsea engineering company Soil Machine Dynamics, and chair of Subsea North East.