UK is no energy island

Steve Holliday

Steve Holliday, Vice President of Energy Institute and former CEO of National Grid

Red flags have this week been raised by engineers and other professionals who work to provide a reliable supply of energy to our homes, workplaces and roads, that energy must be a serious priority for Messrs Davis and Barnier at the negotiating table in Brussels.

During my decade at the helm of National Grid I was acutely aware of the interconnected nature of the UK’s energy system. As an island nation we enjoy enormous indigenous energy resources. But the efficiencies available through trading energy with our European neighbours offer huge benefits to consumers, the resilience of our economy and the environment.

We are physically connected. Vital electricity cables lie on the sea bed connecting the UK to France, Ireland and the Netherlands. Gas pipelines link our system to Belgium, Ireland and the Netherlands. About 5% of the UK’s electricity is imported from the EU, and 38% of its gas.

Interconnection is the most tangible manifestation of collaboration with our European neighbours in the energy sphere. There are many others – standards on cars and kitchen appliances; targets on renewables energy efficiency and carbon reduction – these provide a level playing field for mutually beneficial gain.

Membership of the EU is not essential to a fruitful relationship with European neighbours – after all Norway provides up to a fifth of the UK’s gas – but what will be complicated is disentangling decades of carefully crafted market integration and finding new mechanisms for achieving similar benefits.

So I’m not surprised that the Energy Institute’s new 2017 Energy Barometer ranks Brexit uncertainty among the five most pressing concerns of energy professionals. And those surveyed are very clear on the four big signposts for the new Government as it navigates Brexit.

First – existing EU energy laws that govern how Europe’s energy markets work should be transferred into UK policy post-Brexit as a top priority and as seamlessly as possible. Second – the UK must retain the closest possible cooperation with the EU. It would be a mistake to assume going it alone is an option – not least in the case of Ireland and Northern Ireland, who presently share a single all-Island Energy Market. Third – the Government needs to act to ensure the necessary skilled workforce is available to the energy industry, prioritising engineers in particular. Nearly 60% of those responding to the Barometer anticipate a fall in the number of skilled workers, if free movement of labour is curtailed.

Lastly, energy investors are desperate for a predictable, no-surprises policy environment. Energy and climate policy has been on ice for the best part of a year. After a decade of tremendous progress in decarbonisation in the power sector, investor confidence has also chilled. Investment in clean energy plunged in the first quarter of 2017 to around $1bn, the lowest since 2010. Add to this the potential loss of around £2.5 billion of EIB bank loans in energy each year and the need for government to defrost its strategy is critical.

That means bringing clarity, soon, through the much heralded Industrial Strategy, a Clean Growth Plan to meet our carbon reduction targets, and breaking the logjam of delayed policies.

The UK is no energy island. Energy, due to its complexity, investment lead times and importance to our economy and society, stands out as a special case among industries which are heavily integrated at the European level in need of an effective, clear and far-sighted government strategy. And it must be one that retains essential links – and future ambition – to make the most of collaboration with our energy neighbours on the European mainland.

The Energy Institute’s Energy Barometer 2017 is available here.

This blog post first appeared as an article for the Times comment online on 29 June 2017

When it comes to tackling climate change, can the UK hold its nerve?

Jim Skea CBE FEI

Professor Jim Skea CBE EI President

We are in danger of missing legally-binding emissions targets set out in the Climate Change Act. If we’re to fulfil our international obligations under the Paris agreement, we need to up our game—and fast.

For those of us wrestling with how the world should respond to something so scientifically beyond doubt as man-made climate change, the rollercoaster of short-term politics is dizzying. The ups and downs make it hard to discern whether one’s glass, at any given time, is half empty or half full.

Despite recent events, my glass is, surprisingly, half full in relation to the impact of US climate policy. When it comes to the situation on this side of the pond, in contrast, my glass is half empty. This might sound counter-intuitive—but let me explain.

The immediate reaction to President Donald Trump pulling the US out of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement—which brought all countries for the first time into a common cause to keep global temperature rise this century well below 2C above pre-industrial levels—was loud and despairing. Newly elected President of France Emmanuel Macron said in a televised address that Trump had “committed an error for the interests of his country, his people and a mistake for the future of our planet.” And it was hard not to see it as such.

But to Christiana Figueres, seen by many as the architect of Paris, it was “a vacuous political melodrama.” This assessment was an early, eloquent hint at a more sanguine view that has come to bear.

President Trump’s decision had the effect of galvanising the remaining big blocs—the EU, India, China and others—into reaffirming their commitment to global action. Likewise many individual US states—who between them control around 70 per cent of US carbon emissions—have also committed to delivering on Paris. And the combination of market forces and technological change is also forcing down US emissions.

According to UK energy professionals surveyed for the Energy Institute’s 2017 Energy Barometer, published yesterday, 66 per cent believe President Trump’s decision will have no effect or is surmountable if US action continues at state level and federal support is reinstated under a future administration.

Turning to the situation in the UK, I am currently less optimistic.

As one of the pioneers of climate action, the UK has been in the driving seat of the EU’s climate leadership. Founded on cross party consensus—in 2008 only three MPs voted against the UK’s ambitious domestic legislation, the Climate Change Act—it was reassuring to hear the Queen reaffirm in last week’s state opening of parliament that the government intends to “continue to support international action against climate change, including the implementation of the Paris Agreement.”

But Paris cannot simply be pigeonholed as foreign policy. It is a global agreement, but it requires clear and determined action domestically on the part of all signatories.
In the UK, sticking to commitments under the Climate Change Act is just the starter. The Paris Agreement means we have to go further and up our ambition, aiming towards zero emissions in the second half of this century.

But the Energy Barometer finds that 77 per cent of UK energy professionals believe we will fall short or significantly short of the 57 per cent reduction in emissions on 1990 levels required under the Climate Change Act by 2030.

This assessment is in the context of existing policies and reflects a similar finding by the Committee on Climate Change—that we are likely to hit the current second and third carbon budgets but, without significant policy innovation, the fourth and fifth will prove elusive.

The Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change advised ministers earlier this year that they must set out a clear long-term vision for the future of climate related policy to 2030 and beyond if investment is to be made in the UK.

We have been waiting for this since government and parliament accepted the Committee on Climate Change’s advice on the fifth carbon budget a year ago.

But energy and climate change policy has effectively been on ice. Distracted by Brexit, elections and other major challenges, the Clean Growth Plan is now delayed well beyond the statutory deadline. Other long-awaited policies remain on the Whitehall drawing board.

After a decade of tremendous progress in decarbonisation and renewable investment in the power sector, this has knocked investor confidence. Investment in clean energy plunged in the first quarter of 2017 to around $1bn, the lowest since 2010. Add to this the potential loss of around £2.5bn of European Investment Bank loans in energy each year and the need for government to deliver a clear and credible strategy is critical.

The low carbon transition is a challenge for any advanced economy and, set against Brexit, an unenviable task. But commitments made in law and on the international stage must be matched by actions on the ground.

Signs of action are needed soon if my optimism—and my glass—are to be replenished.

The Energy Institute’s Energy Barometer 2017 is available here.

The Committee on Climate Change’s statutory 2017 Report to Parliament is available here.

This blog post first appeared as an article for Prospect magazine online on 28 June 2017

Women are global agents of change


Louise Kingham OBE FEI, Chief Executive, Energy Institute

Louise Kingham OBE FEI, Chief Executive, Energy Institute

Two facts put into stark relief the disproportionate impact climate change and lack of access to adequate energy have on women:

• Of the 150,000 people killed in the 1991 Bangladesh cyclone – it is estimated that 90% were women.

• Around 4 million people die each year prematurely simply from trying to cook food, heat or light their homes using solid fuels. Most of these are women and children.

We have, in a relatively short period of time, made astonishing progress in our understanding of our changing planet and the impact we’re having on it. The detrimental effects of climate change are already being felt, not only by the natural world but also on the lives of billions. Landslides, floods, hurricanes and long term environmental degradation are affecting agriculture, food security, water resources, health, human settlements and migration patterns.

Unfortunately the majority of the world’s poor are women and climate change amplifies the problems they already face. Women are more reliant on natural resources. They are more likely to be responsible for securing food, fuel and water for their families and more dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods. So they face the greatest challenges when those resources are disrupted. And women are often afforded a lower social standing and have less capacity to cope and respond to natural hazards. Society sometimes prevents them from acquiring the skills needed – for instance the ability to swim. And, at times of food scarcity, they fare worse than men.

Similarly, not having access to adequate energy affects women disproportionately. Forty percent of the world’s population still rely on wood, coal, charcoal or dung for cooking and heating. Inhaling smoke from conventional cooking fires and kerosene lamps in small homes, often without chimneys or windows, causes respiratory disease, heart disease and burns. Four million people die prematurely as a result of this each year – more than malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS combined. Most of these are women and children.

Solutions driven by women

What is clear to me is that solving these massive global challenges requires the ingenuity of both men and women. Indeed without the full participation of women, we have one arm tied behind our back. Thankfully, concerted moves are afoot to tackle climate change and access to energy. And I believe there are many positive stories to be told about women who are proving transformational in terms of the search for solutions.

Christiana Figueres is a Costa Rican diplomat with 35 years of experience in high level national and international policy and multilateral negotiations. She was appointed Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in 2010, six months after the disastrous climate change summit in Copenhagen. During the six years that followed she dedicated herself tirelessly to rebuilding the global climate change negotiating process. By putting fairness, transparency and collaboration – attributes found in abundance in women – at the heart of her approach she is widely credited with brokering what Ban Ki Moon described as “a new covenant for the future”.

And, on the front line, look at the fantastic work of Solar Sister, helping to tackle energy poverty by empowering women with economic opportunity. Their work combines the breakthrough potential of cheap solar energy technology with a deliberately woman-centered direct sales network to bring light, hope and opportunity to the most remote communities in rural Africa. Working in Uganda, Tanzania and Nigeria, Solar Sister involves 2,500 entrepreneurs and has benefited 700,000 people.

I am not complacent, there is much more to do. Regrettably the UK energy profession’s gender representation is poor. 61% of the top 100 UK energy companies have all male boards. Little more than 13% of the entire energy sector in the UK are women. But there is evidence of change and efforts to bring it about. Most prominently in the renewables sector where 17% are women. Still low, but better.

Women must be, and are, global agents of change. They have a vital contribution to make, alongside men, in ensuring we throw every bit of ingenuity we can at finding the best solutions to these global challenges.


This blog post is based on a lecture given by Louise Kingham at the University of Bath on 11 May 2017.

A low-carbon future and the case for urgency


Jim Skea CBE FEI

Professor Jim Skea CBE EI President


The transition to clean energy  is irreversible but it needs to speed up, according to Professor Jim Skea, president of the Energy Institute and co-chair  of IPCC Working Group 3

Democracies are complex animals. The consent and legitimacy they confer on those who govern is a stabilising feature of most modern societies and thankfully, generally, this serves us well. But amidst the issues competing for voter favour, short-termism and sensationalism can eclipse the long-term and the evidence-based.

A challenge this poses to those of us wrestling with intergenerational concerns such as climate change is how to sustain backing for vital action over decades – how to ensure horizons extend beyond the next election. But despite changes in energy policy in individual countries, the global shift to low-carbon is now, I believe, hard-wired into our energy system in a way that will ride out the ups and downs of short-term political cycles.

 Why am I certain?

 First, although in some quarters it may not be fashionable, we should not underestimate the power of evidence. The Fifth Assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the most unequivocal articulation yet of the direct link between human activities and the changing climate. And the evidence continues to mount – 2016 was the hottest year ever recorded , underscoring the urgency of emission reduction and adaptation.

How our economies respond to this challenge also calls for the application of evidence, by governments, the private sector and through institutions such as the Energy Institute, which works to bring the best expertise and knowledge to bear in the public debate.

Secondly, the global agreement reached in Paris sent an enduring signal. The world’s nations have escaped the prisoner’s dilemma and committed to decarbonise for the sakes of both our shared environment and their economies. Paris will survive any doubts– as we have seen in the continued commitments from China, India and the EU.

Thirdly, technological innovation, spurred by cost reductions in clean energy, is an unstoppable driver for change. The cost of manufacturing one watt of solar PV cell capacity fell from $76.67 in 1977 to a staggering 36 cents in 2014, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. This, combined with cost reductions in storage, is opening up extraordinary new possibilities. Global investment in renewable power capacity reached a record $265.8bn in 2015, according to UNEP, which was more than double that for new coal and  gas generation.

Likewise in oil and gas, climate change has become a mainstream, existential issue. The Energy Institute’s recent International Petroleum Week, attended by IPCC chair Dr Hoesung Lee and UNFCCC executive secretary Patricia Espinosa, saw meaningful dialogue about the industry’s role in defining pathways to decarbonisation and bringing on the technologies such as carbon capture that will make it possible.

But is it enough? 

The test of human ability to avert the most dangerous impacts of climate change won’t be whether we decarbonise, but how quickly we do it. With the weight of scientific evidence and the strength of international resolve behind us, the pace of clean energy investment must speed up.

Just as the horizons for tackling climate change are beyond a single electoral cycle, so too are those for investing at scale in new technologies. The smartest companies have spotted the direction of travel and are taking the long view. And they will certainly reap the benefits.

This blog post was first published as an article in a supplement of the New Statesman on 28 April 2017, you can read the full supplement here.

Fueling the pipeline of women in energy

Jaz Rabadia MBE MEI Chartered Energy Manager

Jaz Rabadia MBE MEI Chartered Energy Manager

A recent report by PWC in association with POWERful Women (PfW) shared that only 6% of executive boards seats in top 100 UK-headquartered energy firms are held by women, a  troubling statistic in the age of women empowerment, diversity and inclusion targets and a changing energy landscape.   With International Women’s Day 2017 only a few weeks away (8 March), what more can we do to attract, retain and promote female talent in the energy sector?

Energy is all around us; in the food that we eat, the roads that we travel, the homes that we live in and the businesses we work in. It’s something we all take for granted. Yet it’s not something we are taught at school.  Most of today’s energy professionals have fallen into the sector by accident and never looked back. I want tomorrow’s leaders to join because they want to, with a purpose and on purpose. The energy industry is incredibly diverse and full of opportunities to learn, to grow but most importantly to make a difference.  Offering careers in oil and gas, renewable energy, energy efficiency, product innovation, energy policy and public engagement to name a few, the sector has something for all skill sets.

So how do we attract more women into energy from an early age? The process needs to start at home and then must continue on into schools. We need to raise awareness of the range of energy careers available and showcase the many amazing women already working in energy. As practitioners, we have a duty to reach out and inspire the next generation of energy professionals.  So where do we start?  By volunteering to talk at a school careers event, by posting fun facts about your role on social media or by just sharing your career experiences with your daughters, grand-daughters, nieces and the young boys in the family too!

But once we’ve jumped the first hurdle and attracted some women into this male dominated sector, what can we do to ensure we keep them? Similarly to other industries facing this challenge, the key is to provide, development opportunities, job satisfaction, flexibility and inspirational role models. As someone who entered the energy sector as a young female, I know too well how important these all are.

A collaborative environment that allowed me to be creative, to grow and to develop others is what has kept me in this industry for over a decade. I’ve had many supporters over the years who have been fundamental to my progression. Through the Energy Institute, I have obtained Chartered Energy Manager status, won the Young Energy Professional of the year award and now sit on the Energy Institute Council. These achievements have not only boosted my confidence, but given me a sense of professional credibility when I most doubted myself. We need to do more to promote, showcase and champion the women making waves in the energy sector. So, shine a light on a female energy professional you know, enter them for an award, put them forward for a guest blog, or simply tell them they inspire you.

PfW is a great initiative designed not only to showcase but also most importantly to develop the best women in the industry. Developing female leaders within the sector is crucial to ensuring we have a seat at the table and are able to influence decisions at the highest level. As members of this growing industry, we are surely the best ambassadors of it, so let’s shout about how great it is from the solar paneled rooftops and help each other on the climb to the top. If each of us inspired just one more woman into the sector, imagine the difference we could collective make.

Happy International Women’s Day to all the women (and men) who have inspired and supported me throughout my career in energy

Who really decides the future of our industry? Answer at IP Week 2017


Raphael Vermeir CBE FEI Chairman, IP Week Programme Board

Only a few weeks left before International Petroleum (IP) Week 2017 is upon us.

The programme is now set, although, in all fairness, there is always going to be last minute rearrangements due to travel, availability and other difficulties. But this year, our main challenge so far has been in fitting in so many relevant presentations.

This is a nice problem to have, caused, I believe, by several factors: first the success of last year’s IP Week, second the global political scene and associated energy policy decisions and finally my desire to address “who really decides the future of our industry”. This last factor led us to invite not only NOCs, IOCs, OPEC, ministers, government bodies and regulators of course, but also financial institutions, Climate Change key players, traders and new technology gurus.  And we have been able to gather an impressive line-up of speakers from all these organisations – notably Mohammad Sanusi Barkindo, OPEC’s Secretary General, Dr Hoesung Lee, Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, H.E. Dr Mohammed Bin Saleh Al-Sada, Minister for Energy and Industry, State of Qatar, and Igor Sechin, Chief Executive Officer of Rosneft, Gretchen Watkins, Chief Executive Officer, Maersk Oil and Saif Humaid Al Falasi FEI, Group Chief Executive Officer, Emirates National Oil Company.

So the agenda is a lot fuller. Under the theme of “Shaping the industry’s future”, we will be looking at the forces impacting the supply and demand scene, identify the key players in this new world and their response to the challenges they face. A significant portion of the programme will address climate change. We will also receive input from disruptive technology experts as well as new financial players, see how the lower prices have been dealt with and how the gas industry will cope in this environment.

I am particularly looking forward to the discussions with OPEC, the reactions to political developments in the US, Russia and the ME, the role of natural gas and specifically of LNG, the importance of the Far East and Africa on the demand curve and of course how the unconventionals have fared.  The climate change sessions should also be particularly interesting.  It will be a busy and I trust very engaging programme – it will also be great to catch up with so many colleagues and make new connections over the three days of IP Week activities.

I leave you for now with a scene setter from BP, who have just released their Energy Outlook report, which reviews long-term energy trends and develops projections for world energy markets over the next two decades

‘The global energy landscape is changing. Traditional centres of demand are being overtaken by fast-growing emerging markets. The energy mix is shifting, driven by technological improvements and environmental concerns. More than ever, our industry needs to adapt to meet those changing energy needs’ – Bob Dudley, BP group chief executive.

I look forward to welcoming you at IP Week 2017.


Setting the agenda for 2017

Louise Kingham OBE FEI Chief Executive

Louise Kingham OBE FEI Chief Executive

Now in its third year, the EI’s Energy Barometer is becoming an established channel for gathering evidence from our members to inform policy decisions. Our last blog detailed some of the ways it informed our messages to policy makers and laid the foundation for further engagement around Brexit negotiations and industrial strategy in 2016. A look at the media coverage of the 2016 findings also demonstrates why this initiative, and our members’ participation, is so crucial. So as we prepare to send invitations to take part in this year’s survey, here’s a preview of what to expect in 2017.

The survey and report will focus on policy, markets and investment. On climate issues, we will again explore professionals’ expectations for emissions targets and the most effective ways to meet them. We’ll also look into drivers of the low carbon economy and the potential role of adaptation measures in the UK. Of course Brexit will be on everyone’s mind throughout 2017, so we hope to capture our members’ views on priorities for negotiation and transition plans, as well as forthcoming industrial strategy. We’ll also think about whether Brexit might have any impact on energy prices and the labour market in the short term.

Each year we take a deeper look into 2-3 areas on professionals’ and policy makers’ minds. This year we’ll be asking members in more detail about decarbonising heat, new business models in the energy industry, and trust between industry, government, and the public.

In response to feedback from young professionals, we are planning a section in the report which puts a spotlight on the unique perspective of Graduates. They will answer some tailored questions about the best ways attract and retain young talent, and how they foresee their own job might be transformed over the course of their career. We hope those new to the industry will share their vision for the future, and a fresh look at what attracted them to the industry and keeps them in it.

As always, the survey questions are intentionally diverse – there’s no need to be an expert in all the areas covered. It’s the respondents’ experience inside the industry that makes the responses valuable. And all the responses truly are valuable: the survey results will determine our key messages to policy makers for 2017 – specifically around priorities for Brexit negotiation and transition, industrial strategy, and how to make the UK more ‘pro-innovation’.

Invitations to join the EI College, the group which will be surveyed, will be sent by email in mid-January.  Watch for yours, and I hope you’ll accept this unique opportunity to contribute to the energy debate should you be one of the limited number of members to receive an invite.

For more details about the Energy Barometer, including past reports and media coverage, visit

Empowered by our members

Dr Joanne Wade FEi

Dr Joanne Wade FEI, Chair, EI Energy Advisory Panel

A core aim of the Energy Institute (EI) is to support our members in achieving their professional and learning goals. But equally,  EI members support us as we work towards improving the energy system. By sharing their knowledge, they help to shape the messages we use to drive progress and engage with policy makers and wider industry. The Energy Barometer survey is one of the most powerful mechanisms through which EI members can provide this vital input.

The 2016  survey, conducted in February, was launched just days before the referendum on UK membership of the EU. The general mood in the country of uncertainty and concern about the future was reflected in many of the survey responses, including important detail about areas of concern for energy professionals.  After its launch in Westminster, the report and its findings – particularly those around the potential energy-related impacts of exiting the EU – were picked up by the BBC, Telegraph, Guardian and others. It was recognised as bringing unique insight into the expectations of those working at the heart of the energy industry.

Post-referendum, attention has shifted to the future. The EI has endeavoured to offer an evidence base to policy makers as they set priorities for Brexit negotiations, heat decarbonisation and future industrial strategy.   They welcomed this knowledge, which again was gathered through the support and engagement of EI members contributing to this vital input through written evidence, our recent Brexit debate, and presentations to the Parliamentary Group on Energy Studies.

The EI has also collaborated with the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Association for Decentralised Energy to provide cross-sector recommendations on industrial strategy and productivity, two high priorities for Theresa May’s government going forward. The EI’s submissions continue to be underpinned by the expert contributions of our members which form the narrative carried across these activities.

During the next, crucial, year for the development of UK energy policy, we will continue our efforts to support Government decision-making with a solid evidence base. To be effective, we will rely on our members’ on-going  participation in initiatives such as the Energy Barometer. Collaboration will be increasingly important next year as two new Government departments – DExEU and BEIS – finalise their strategies and begin putting them into action.

Thank you to those who have shared your insights so far. I hope you will continue to support this important work if you are invited to take part in early 2017.

Invitations to join the EI College will be emailed to a limited number of members in early January. Those who accept will be sent the Barometer survey in February. For more information, visit

Recognition creates inspiration…still, and is so very necessary

Louise Kingham OBE FEI Chief Executive

Louise Kingham OBE FEI
Chief Executive Energy Institute



The Karen Burt Award was launched in 1998 in memory of Dr Karen Burt, an eminent physicist and active member and Council office holder in The Women’s Engineering Society. She campaigned tirelessly to promote the recruitment and retention of women in science and engineering – a cause which is still very much alive and important today as it was when she first began simply because of the scale of shift we have to make.

This Award in particular recognises the best newly qualified female Chartered Engineer and aims to encourage more women to achieve Chartered Engineer status in either engineering, applied science or IT. This year’s winner, Clare Lavelle, was nominated by the Energy Institute so we were especially delighted for Clare when she won.

Clare works as an energy consultant for Arup, specialising in offshore energy: offshore windfarms, wave and tidal as well as oil and gas decommissioning. She inherited her interest in engineering from her father and his enthusiasm for technology.  She studied physics and maths and enjoyed the discipline and rigour of those subjects. Luckily, Clare had a reasonably rare influence in her life which many do not, so we still struggle to undo societal norms that work against the promotion of STEM careers to girls in particular – those influences which comes from our parents and the teaching profession largely who can often themselves be unaware of the real opportunities a STEM-based education can provide.

Clare finds working in the energy sector very rewarding because energy professionals and the decisions that they make have real impact on society, climate change and people’s quality of life.  So, rightly, she feels she is doing work that has meaning. Very many congratulations to Clare who now becomes an important role model for others to see and hopefully recognise a bit of themselves in.