The first Energy Barometer report, published by the Energy Institute (EI), was launched in London on Tuesday, 23 June. It is the result of an initiative to survey energy professionals on an annual basis to identify priorities and trends, and monitor progress over time.
Energy is a complex system and energy professionals have a unique perspective into how it operates and how industry stakeholders and policymakers can effect change. The EI has called upon its members to provide insights on the industry’s current and future challenges, which are reported in the Energy Barometer.
Professor Jim Skea CBE FRSA FEI, President-Elect, Energy Institute, says, ‘The aim of this project is to solicit the views of EI members on the biggest challenges and opportunities facing the energy sector, and inform the conversation between industry, policymakers and the public. With a primary focus on the UK energy system, the Energy Barometer will be produced annually from surveys of the EI membership, covering both topical issues and regular subjects for year-on-year comparison. This report is intended to be a helpful resource for policy development and a useful gauge of industry trends.’
EI members were asked to identify the biggest challenges facing the energy industry in 2015. The most commonly cited span all sectors and demonstrate the broad range of issues facing the energy industry. They are framed within four key themes:
Policy continuity – EI members call for policy continuity, particularly recognising the role of nuclear power, energy efficiency and renewable energy to meet UK emissions targets. The perception from professionals working in energy is that investment risk, due to policy uncertainty, has increased, particularly around CCS and onshore wind.
Low carbon investment – To maintain supply security and meet environmental goals affordably, energy professionals recognise the need to increase levels across low carbon technologies, particularly highlighting the need for increased energy efficiency and smart grid investment. When asked further about the greatest scope for efficiency improvements, EI members deem changes to the building stock should be made the top priority. To underpin these developments, EI members believe there is great need for innovation across low carbon technologies, but single out energy storage as having the greatest need.
Forward planning and knowledge transfer – To coincide with these opportunities, EI members perceive there to be shortages of skilled and qualified workers across the low carbon energy system, with shortages more likely to be seen in areas of high political uncertainty. This report highlights the need to do more to capture the knowledge of retiring professionals, with mentoring schemes seen as being particularly effective.
Engaging the public – 70% of EI members recognise the energy sector is ineffectively communicated to the general public. This is seen to lead to apathy towards, and a lack of understanding of, energy issues. This coincides with an acknowledgement that public perception, acceptance and trust are factors influencing the success or failure of new energy projects.
When asked which single government measure would be most effective to reach the UK’s emissions targets, EI members prioritised the development of nuclear energy, energy efficiency, and energy from renewables.
The report also examines UK investment risk, the impact of policy uncertainty on investor confidence and changes in investment levels. The Energy Barometer voices a consensus among EI members that greater levels of investment are needed across all technologies and sectors to enable security of supply and the transition to a low carbon energy system.
Sir David King FRS HonFEI, Special Representative for Climate Change, Foreign Office, echoes this consensus, ‘The most pressing need in the world today is for a global focus on the development of energy from clean, reliable, competitively priced primary sources. Climate change, very largely attributable to fossil-fuel burning, provides a looming but avoidable catastrophe, but the co-benefits in energy security, health and wellbeing, and long-term prosperity alone justify the investment of funds needed for these exciting innovations.’
Malcolm Brinded CBE FREng FEI, Chairman, Shell Foundation, adds, ‘The Barometer suggests modest support for increased North Sea oil and gas investment compared with other areas, but there remains a strong need for sustaining high investment into this sector. This is critical because there is only a short window of opportunity to maximise output from existing producing fields, and to find and develop remaining small prospects, whilst the ageing production infrastructure is still in place and operable. And however successful our renewables programme, the UK will now be a major net oil and gas importer for many decades, so maximising our own North Sea production has huge economic and employment benefits.’
EI members hold a wealth of expertise and experience, which the EI utilises to enhance understanding of energy issues. The Energy Barometer provides a means to communicate the views and insights of energy professionals to help inform the energy debate. To enable the Energy Barometer project, a College of 850 energy professionals was established, representing a wide range of sectors, disciplines and levels of seniority. A total of 543 participants fully completed the online survey in February this year.
Adapted from a press release by David Bizley