By Joanne Leng MBE, chief executive, NOF
North East England has been at the very heart of industry and innovation for generations, led by a cluster of companies rich in engineering excellence and ingenuity, which is continuing as the UK makes the energy transition towards achieving net zero by 2050.
Its enviable geography on the East Coast of the UK has been fundamental to the region’s contribution to industries such as ship building and oil & gas, establishing a strong and diverse cluster of companies, utilising the talented and skilled workforce located in the region.
And now, as we continue the story of North East England’s energy sector, the next chapter is being written by companies that are involved in offshore wind, nuclear, hydrogen and Carbon Capture & Storage (CCS).
In fact, the region is becoming the epicentre for net zero, attracting investment that is driving a low carbon future, as well as being home to a rapidly growing supply chain, which is continuing to evolve to serve the current and future energy sectors.
For example, in the same way the solutions developed in the North Sea for the oil & gas industry by UK companies were exported globally, as one of the pioneers of offshore wind, innovative, technology-led businesses from this region have, collectively, contributed to the vast majority of offshore wind farms around the world.
This can be partly attributed to the fact this region has developed key specialisms in offshore renewables around cables, subsea engineering and equipment, large fabrications such as transition pieces and jackets with technology development at the heart of the supply chain.
North East England’s strategic location, which served it so well in the past, is being maintained for green energy projects, in particular offshore wind, where developments in the North Sea, including the Dogger Bank Wind Farm and the Sofia Offshore Wind Farm, are in close proximity – around 80 miles from the coast.
Indeed, all UK wind farms are reachable within 24-hour vessel time of North East England and with the region having six highly active ports, all of which are proving to be magnets for investment and supply chain activity, it is a prime location for the industry.
The region also has an extensive portfolio of exceptional industrial development sites, all with easy access to deep water ports and direct quayside access, including Tyne Clean Energy Park, Energy Central, Trinity Rail, Road and Sea Enterprise Zone.
In addition, there is the Teesside Freeport site and Teesworks, which is the UK’s largest industrial zone and, at 4,500 acres, will be the biggest low customs zone in the UK. It has already attracted significant investment from GE Renewable Energy for the manufacture of offshore wind turbine blades, creating around 2,000 jobs, and will be a hub for green and blue hydrogen production.
The East Coast Cluster, which is aiming to remove almost 50% of the UK’s industrial cluster CO2 emissions, is now actively bringing together communities, business, industry and academia to deliver the carbon capture and storage (CCS) infrastructure needed to decarbonise this key industrial heartland of the UK.
NOF, as the UK’s leading UK energy sector business development organisation, which is based in North East England, but with a truly international reach, plays its part by supporting supply chain engagement between the main players in both traditional and renewable energy sectors and will be a key enabler in connecting businesses in the low carbon space.
Working with both the North East and Tees Valley Local Enterprise Partnerships, developers, operators, Tier 1 contractors in the key energy sectors, academia and a strong cluster of supply chain companies, NOF is helping to showcase the capabilities and expertise that exists in the region and the opportunities to utilise the attributes the area has to offer by investing in and developing facilities here.
In the offshore wind sector in particular, through North East of England’s offshore wind cluster, Energi Coast, which is managed and delivered by NOF, there is a programme of activities that encourage collaboration and innovation across the industry and the region’s supply chain. Energi Coast’s skills and
innovation groups, together with a calendar of events provide a platform for engagement and development that benefits the sector.
NOF has consistently evolved to be able to provide the most relevant industry connections and intelligence to ensure that the supply chain can bring its innovative technology-led solutions to either deliver clean energy or reduce the environmental impact of traditional resources, increase efficiencies and maintain the highest levels of safety. In 2022 NOF will increase it’s support for members around energy transition, ensuring they are fit for purpose to meet the new demands in the changing energy landscape.
These businesses are part of one of the most exciting periods in our industrial history, creating solutions that will not only power our world, but also help protect it for future generations. They are helping place North East England at the heart of the clean energy revolution, which is inspiring others to come and join them here in this dynamic region.