Berwick Partners’ Energy Practice were recently privileged to host a selection of the senior leaders and influencers from the North West Energy and Utilities sector. Arley Hall & Gardens in Cheshire provided the perfect setting for a lively and informative round table discussion on the place of ‘Energy’ at the heart of the Northern Powerhouse.
It is hugely exciting to see that the North West’s economic potential is being recognised by Government and overseas investors, and that its native medium-sized businesses are achieving rapid growth compared with their counterparts across the UK. Business leaders have called on George Osborne to put energy security at the heart of the agenda, and it is clear that the North West could be a significant contributor. The opportunities for the region are huge. Most of the UK’s shale gas reserves are believed to lie here, we have a strong nuclear presence, and we are the leading region in Advanced Materials and Energy Research. Putting flesh on those bones, it is estimated that onshore shale gas exploration could deliver £30 billion of income and 13,000 additional jobs for the North alone.
Our guests were in firm agreement that the growth potential is significant. However, throughout the discussion a number of opinions emerged. These centred upon the challenges of our future energy mix and security:
- Concerns that rejecting plans for test fracking in Lancashire for example, will potentially send a message that the country is not open for business or investment.
- More time and effort should be put into educating the public about the real positives of a diverse energy mix. Positive messages are key; for example the phrase ‘fracking’ wasn’t ever going to make for good PR!
- The UK public are not embracing the ability to switch energy supplier, and seem to accept the high charges! This was an area that all agreed needed more focus. Like the new 5p charge for plastic bags, can we make people more socially responsible for their energy consumption?
- Government policy needs to support our power industry with long-term planning. This will enable businesses to plan for the future, rather than hedging through the constant uncertainty that they currently face.
- A collective national Energy agenda needs clear leadership and ownership. The sector needs real advocates who can conceive, manage and drive positive forward change.
The UK’s Energy industry faces serious challenges that must be overcome if as a nation we are to enjoy the same levels of supply that we have possibly taken for granted until now. ‘Black-outs’ are a real threat, and we must embrace the opportunities that are on offer to ensure a sustainable energy mix and security for the future.
This event was run and managed by Victoria Jordan, Consultant in the Energy Practice at Berwick Partners based in Manchester but with a national remit. She was joined by Marisa Williams, Principal Consultant in the Financial Management Practice at Berwick Partners who specialises in recruiting senior finance roles across the Energy and Utilities sectors.