Double boost for North East green energy sector

The North East’s hopes of benefiting from the green energy revolution received a double boost today with two reports indicating it is well placed to attract investment and jobs in the sector over the coming decade and benefit from the transition to ‘net zero’.

The Energy Networks Association (ENA) published research stating that planned hydrogen innovation projects could create over 17,000 high-tech, green jobs in Britain’s industrial heartlands, including Teesside.

Investment plans submitted by the ENA to the energy regulator, Ofgem, as part of the business plans of the gas and electricity network companies propose £4.4b of investment in developing hydrogen gas grids to help reduce carbon emissions from Britain’s six industrial clusters where strategically important heavy industries such as chemicals, iron, steel, glass and ceramics are concentrated.

Over 9,000 of the jobs expected to be created would be employed by the network companies, with another 8,000 roles created in supply chain partners.

The ENA’s Innovation Impacts report shows that new hydrogen innovation projects proposed by Britain’s five gas network companies could create a total of up to 25,000 highly skilled green jobs across Great Britain over the next ten years across five strategically important areas, including those in industrial clusters, as they plan to invest a total of £6.8b in proposed hydrogen innovation projects. Up to 13,300 of the jobs would be created by network companies directly with a further 11,400 jobs created by supply chain partners, in projects spread across the country.

Chris Train, ENA’s Gas Goes Green champion said:

‘For the first time, this report sets out the sheer size and scale of the economic and social opportunities that hydrogen innovation can deliver over the next ten years, creating new green, hydrogen super-skills in communities and companies across the country’.

Meanwhile, a report from the Social Market Foundation (SMF) today presents a new analysis of the local-level opportunities and risks associated with decarbonisation and efforts to reach ‘net zero’ by 2050.

It shows that the North East is among the regions with the best opportunities to take advantage of the move to net zero, along with the North West, Wales and the Midlands. For these top-ranking regions, the key opportunities include proximity to renewable energy sites, to a decarbonising industrial cluster and to a top university for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) research and associated innovation.

Of 262 local authorities, Sunderland ranks second overall for opportunities and Gateshead 17th. Sunderland ranks well due to the proportion of workers in key economic areas for transitioning existing occupations, ranking fifth with 10.5% of the total employment in the area in this category. Sunderland also benefits from a high proportion of low and medium skills with nearly two in five (37.5%) of the working age population having relevant skill levels for green jobs.

The North East has no local authorities in the bottom 20 for opportunities from the move to net zero and none in either the top 20 or bottom 20 for disruption to activities like transport, household heating, industry, jobs and incomes.

The report says: ‘Most (66%) local authorities in Britain that face relatively high levels of disruption from the transition to net zero also face relatively high levels of opportunity from, for example, new job creation and the formation of new decarbonisation business clusters. That is to say, they are well-placed to stand to gain from net zero, even though they face challenges.’

Among recommendation in the report, policymakers should empower local authorities with new revenue and capital-raising abilities to support the transition to net zero and should put green at the heart of Apprenticeship Levy reform to drive local green skills agendas.