The future of energy from the UK perspective
This year, green energy sources is one of the hottest topics. Bold statements made by activists, globally held large-scale campaigns and numerous discussions are shaping the world today, with UK not being an exception. The country is moving swiftly towards closure of coal-fire plants, and the London Stock Exchange now expects companies listed on the LSE to adhere to new principles of environmental safety and encourages them to adopt green and sustainable business models.
The UK-based Energy Institute is a professional membership body, which is actively seeking solutions for ecological problems and gathering global knowledge on renewable technologies. Institute specialists are involved in research activities, as well as they are preparing various kinds of reports, elaborating and conducting educational courses and professional development programs. The Institute mostly focuses on highlighting and explaining the critical role of energy for the society and its development. Nick Turton, External Affairs Director at the Energy Institute, provided more insight into that issue in his interview to Forpost Nord-West.
What are the main directions of the Institute’s operation?
Main task of the Energy Institute is is to bring together all sorts of expertise existing in the energy sector. Energy sector is one of the most dynamic and exciting sectors of the global economy and it brings together those professionals who are delivering energy forward and helping manage energy - all kinds of energy, from oil and gas to renewables - and use energy more efficiently. We do training, provide the best practice guidance, bring the network opportunities together - not just in the UK, but around the world as well. We are increasing numbers of our members abroad in different parts of the world.
Talking about the Institute, how many members do you have? Are they mostly individuals or companies?
We have about 20,000 individual members around the world and about 200 corporate partners who essentially asked us to help develop best practice for employees which they could use in their work.
The Energy Institute produces a large number of reports on the state of energy sector. Are they more oriented towards the UK or other countries? Who is the audience of those reports?
We annually produce reports who are very relevant to the UK. The UK is in a particular place, as in its journey of energy it is moving swiftly from carbon-based to decarbonised energy sources. So a lot of our work reflects what is going on specifically in the UK. We also produce reports and research which are of global relevance. For example, last year we produced a report on how natural gas can play a role in the long term in the energy mix, if it cleans up the methane and carbon problems around the use of natural gas as an energy source. We produced this report of global relevance and made this report available to our members internationally.
Does the Institute provide international activities?
Yes, the Energy Institute itself is an international organisation. Historically it is based in the UK, but we have branches which are led by volunteers as well as some paid stuff in centres of energy developments around the world. That includes Asia, Africa, Europe and obviously the UK.
The Institure has an educational portal. What is it? What programs does it contain? Who is it aimed at?
One of the key things that we do is training people working in energy sector, so that they do their jobs better, use the latest best practices, the latest developments. We have got training program in energy management, which is a market-leading program - people learn how can they get the best out of their energies, how they can be more efficient or how they use the latest technologies. We also have training in help and safety, which is another big part of our work. It is a really practical training, in terms of how people working in oil & gas sector or in the offshore mining could do their work much more effectively. One has to note that they also usually work in quite hazardous environments.
What is the balance of energy sources in the UK right now?
In the UK, transition towards lower-carbon sources of energy has been most successful so far in the power sector, as 50% of the UK’s power sector is now low-carbon; that is a combination of renewable and nuclear energies. The task of moving to lower-carbon sources of energy for how we power our transport and heat our homes and industry - that is the bigger challenge for the UK. So the UK has one area of success in terms of decarbonisation - which is power - and other areas are still a long way to go. The target is to get it to net zero emissions by 2050. That is a challenging target, given the need to move to low-carbon sources and the fact that transport and heating are still not getting fast enough to that target.
You have license from the UK Engineering Council. What is the importance of professional title in the energy career?
Being chartered is something that is a great value to people’s individual careers and that is also a great value to companies who are able to be certain of the professionalism of people that work for them. In the past, people actually had to be chartered to work in certain roles and that is still is the case in some companies. However, there is a real benefit for an individual who is chartered. If you look at the salaries of people working in the energy sector, salaries of those who are chartered tend to be higher, which is a real plus for chartered specialists.
How do you assess professional qualification? In what spheres?
We assess professional qualification through the use of experts and industry professionals. We have assessment panels that are made up of people that spent years in the industry developing their professionalism. They assess those new people who are applying for professional qualifications like Chartered Engineer, Chartered Environmental Scientist, Chartered Energy Manager. These titles are basically a quality mark of people’s level of accomplishment in their profession.
How many countries recognise the results of professional registrations provided by the Institute?
I think the qualifications are recognised everywhere all over the world. Within the sector, the qualifications are recognised as market leading qualifications.
Are there any differences in the qualification assessment for engineers working in the civil energy industry and for specialists, for example, working in the oil and gas industry?
We charter professionals that are working in many areas of energy including oil and gas, including power sector. There are, for example, some specific qualifications, but if someone wants to be chartered and become an Energy Engineer, which is a broad qualification, that could be done as well. The same tests apply that get a person past the assessment panels but some of them may be more specific than others.
According to Charles Hendry, President of the Russo-British Chamber of Commerce, who has participated in the Russian-British Raw Materials Dialogue since its establishment, environmental requirements will make a strong impact on operations of energy companies and eventually spread globally.
How do you see the future of energy sector? What will be the role of hydrocarbons in it?
I think that it is going to be some sort of mix. People start recognising that we need to be moving towards the low-carbon economy. At the same time, we will still be reliable on hydrocarbons. They allow us develop quite quickly, even new industries can be created at great speed. However, there is still a limit to what the traditional energy sources can do. The most important though is to to bring power to people and do it as much as we can in the low-carbon way. That is perhaps the biggest challenge for almost any industry sector today.
Recently West Cumbria Minings has developed a project to open the coal mine in the UK. Does it mean there is a need for traditional energy sources and will it, in your opinion, have an impact on country’s energy mix?
According to the plans of the Government of the United Kingdom, by 2025 all our coal plants will have been closed, and it could happen even sooner than that. In other words, there will be no coal generation in the UK in five years time. They may be developing a coal facility and they may be looking to export coal, that is possible. However, there will be no power stations in the UK to use that coal to generate electricity.
What is the impact of ecological requirements on the energy sector development?
First of all, I think that all the companies in the energy sector are looking to make sure that what they do is done in a more ecologically friendly way. They are looking to cut the emissions of methane, they are looking to make sure that when they are working and find oil they are cutting back on the emissions of gas, they are making sure that they do their work in a very sustainable way. At the same time, many of these companies are also the leaders in the investing in the low-carbon technologies. For example, BP is investing in the infrastructure for electric vehicles. All in all, it is a big change that will happen in the UK and in other countries as well.
What governmental organisations are the most effective in energy development?
Individual governments have their own structures which are delivering the change, but of course there are others. UNESCO is doing a lot of work in this sector. The United Nations is driving change. Next year, the UK will be the host country for the conference of the parties, which will take place in Glasgow. These activities are done under the auspices of the United Nations. The most important aspect is that international cooperation is happening and governments are working together, international institutions are helping to make that happen but they cannot do it without the support of businesses. Businesses have to be at the heart of driving this forward, because they have the ability to invest, they understand the technology. We also cannot do it without the academic community and universities, such as the Mining University in Saint-Petersburg that plays an important role in it too.
In November 2019, a delegation from the Competence Centre for Mining-Engineering Education under the auspices of UNESCO had meetings with Charles Hendry, Chairman of the Advisory Council of the Russo-British Chamber of Commerce, and Nick Turton, External Affairs Director at the Energy Institute. The parties had discussions on scientific cooperation and discussed their future roles in generation of reports on topical issues of energy development in Russia and the UK.
The Energy Institute is actively engaged in publication activities; top-rated Journal of the Energy Institute is published under the editorship of the Institute.
Cooperation in this area is also of strategic importance for the Competence Centre and the Mining University.