Looking forward to a busy spring

Well, it’s been some while since I posted an update. No excuses other than I have been very busy despite the latest lockdown. Indeed, any rumours of my demise (to quote Mark Twain) are greatly exaggerated. 

Hydrogen East continues to build momentum. We have secured our first research contract, on the Bacton/SNS energy hub project, with a report due by end April. The project is being co-funded by the New Anglia LEP, North Norfolk District Council, OGTC and the ORE Catapult. 

We are already progressing ideas around how to build on this work, including innovation projects at two sites, one in Norfolk and one in Suffolk. We are also looking to retain at least one year-in-industry under-graduate to deepen our analytical work ahead of taking on a third analyst in the summer. 

It is very clear that even in advance of the release of the hydrogen strategy in the Spring that this versatile fuel offers huge opportunities especially for the Norfolk-Suffolk region, but it is increasingly taking us into other vectors. We continue to talk with local authorities and other planners about net zero, place-based solutions and their climate change plans. Michael Brown has done some fabulous work on our mapping platform for the Norfolk and Suffolk region, and this now extends to over 80 data layers across a range of economic sectors, and we are now working on visualisation and possible uses. Meanwhile Charlotte is developing deep knowledge of agriculture, food processing as well as transport (land-based as well as shipping). 

On the basis of this growing body of research, I’m pleased to announce that Johnathan Reynolds and I will soon be launching Net Zero East. We will be previewing our thinking at an open access webinar on 14 April, and we have three splendid external speakers – Laura Sandys of Challenging Ideas, Guy Newey of the Energy Systems Catapult and Ed Birkett of the Policy Exchange. The theme of the event will be taking some of the latest thinking around delivery of net zero at the national level and applying this appropriately at the local and regional level. We will also be previewing (among other things) our mapping work and thinking on a regional carbon offset market. Exciting times! 

In the background I have also been providing support for UKRI/Innovate UK on smart local energy systems. This has been a very interesting piece of work and I am aiming to deliver my final report on barriers in mid-March. Much more on this shortly once I have finished the work. 

There has also been a step up in activity around the work of the UKPN Customer Engagement Group. I have long been an advocate of enhanced stakeholder engagement and it’s great to see this approach being applied in a meaningful way. The depth and breadth of this process is mind-boggling, but there is a clear run through now to the company delivering its first draft plan by mid-year. With the distributors having a key role in delivering net zero through electrification of heat and transport, and the overhang of the pandemic, this has been a fascinating exercise. RIIO-2 also represents the first time that there has been a meaningful focus on establishment of the DSO and boosting local electricity flexibility so it’s a pretty critical process. 

A number of dates for your diaries.   

w/c 15 March 2021 

Bacton Energy Hub – Focus Group 1 – Terminal operators/ offshore developers 

Bacton Energy Hub – Focus Group 2 – Local Authorities 

Bacton – Energy Hub – Focus Group 3 – Other relevant stakeholders 

8 April 2021 

Hydrogen East Stakeholder Update Event – Bacton project progress and Norfolk focus 

14 April 2021 

Net Zero East Launch Event 

4 May 2021 

Bacton report publication and dissemination session 

I’d better get back and do some work! 

We’ll provide a further update round about Easter.