The Changing Utility Model and Need for More Diverse Talent Pools

Published: 21 July 2014

Recently there has been a clear theme emerging from the interactions that I have had with my clients and candidates around the changes that are taking place to the current UK utility model. In line with this, there is a demand for leaders and commercial people who have the capacity to transform the industry, not only in the here and now but also in the long-term. 

There is an emerging pool of senior executives, who have enjoyed careers in more established parts of the energy sector.  Many are looking to transition their experience into the more disruptive end of the market and join the technology companies that are driving innovation. However, this inevitably comes with a key decision – ‘is the desire to do something different and leverage one’s existing knowledge within a more entrepreneurial environment, worth the potential short-term salary sacrifice for the long-term upside such as equity?’ I spend a significant amount of my time working with senior executives to help them to make this decision. 

The push factor is that the conventional energy and power generation sector (Big Six especially) have been focused on rationalisation as opposed to growth.  The pull factor is obvious; by the end of April 2014, investment deals topped $1.4 billion in the Cambridge UK technology cluster – taking the 13 month cumulative total to $29.7bn.  At the same time, traditional cleantech transactions had increased on previous months. Thus, the entrepreneurial leaders in the sector are being attracted to the companies that are entering into emerging markets and technologies; the more exciting and potentially more lucrative end of the market in the long-term. 

Alongside this, the Big Six and established energy multinationals are facing huge challenges in attracting new blood into their organisations and developing a sustainable talent pipeline that will allow them to compete within the changing landscape.  Commercial, senior engineering and process delivery managers who can bring different perspectives in line with the changing utility landscape are in high demand. With the activities that are currently taking place in the UK across the wider infrastructure sector, there is significant demand for people who can deliver major capital projects, and when competing against some of the more well-paid parts of the industry, such as Oil and Gas, the conventional power generation companies are struggling to compete. 

We have the technologies that will in time allow us to transform the energy sector and replace fossil fuels with renewables, nuclear, and energy efficiency.  What we need to do now is to focus our efforts on finding and attracting our future leaders before we lose out to other fast-evolving sectors!

Victoria Jordan is a Consultant in Berwick Partners’ Energy, Manufacturing and Infrastructure Practice and co-leads the Energy Practice

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