Speakers at the event, held in the Strangers’ Dining Room in the House of Commons, included (left to right in photo):
- Phil Jones, chief executive, Northern Powergrid
- Sue Ferns, Prospect senior deputy general secretary
- Elinor Harrison, nuclear engineer and chair of Prospect’s Young Professionals’ Network
- Mary Creagh MP, chair of the Environmental Audit Committee
- Rachel Reeves MP, chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee.
- Mike Clancy, Prospect general secretary
Prospect’s new pamphlet ‘A Sustainable Future for UK Energy’ has identified some of the emerging trends and disruptive factors affecting the energy sector.
For example, there is the decline of coal generation and the growth of renewable sources; the advent of smart grids and a promised battery storage revolution; and obstacles that need to be met, such as Brexit and an ageing workforce.
The publication includes six recommendations:
- A commitment to a balanced, low-carbon energy mix
- The establishment of an energy commission to provide leadership and oversight
- Action on an ageing workforce and meeting the skills crisis
- Addressing market failures and restoring public confidence
- Seizing new technological opportunities
- Preparing for life outside the EU
In her opening remarks, Mary Creagh MP said, “I want to pay tribute to Prospect’s members. You are the unsung heroes of the energy industry who keep the lights on and keep us all warm on cold days. I like invisible services that are vital that people don’t think about. I enjoy bringing your work into the light.”
“It’s great to see so many young members here. You’re going to be inventing and creating the innovative solutions that are going to power our energy in the future. I thank Prospect for the work it has done.”
The chief executive of Northern Powergrid, Phil Jones, told the audience: “These are important discussions to be having in our sector and I welcome this contribution. I may not agree with everything you are saying but the key thing is that you are evidence-driven and that is hugely important. Energy matters to everybody.”
One of the event’s highlights was hearing from Prospect’s YPN chair, Elinor Harrison, who spoke about her work in the control room of a nuclear power station. She is a passionate advocate of the need for greater investment in nuclear energy.
“By 2035, there might just be one nuclear reactor left out of 15 across seven plants currently in the UK. That’s on top of the coal stations that have already been shut down. “The efficiencies that we’ve recently seen in the grid are slowing down and, with electric batteries coming, we’re just going to see demand going back up.
“We need to get the regulation right so that we see new power stations being built, including new nuclear. This will not only ensure my career in energy but also those of my apprenticeship and graduate colleagues who are still joining the industry.”
Rachel Reeves MP said, “I’ve got a huge amount of respect for Prospect because of the union’s expertise in this area. I couldn’t do my job as select committee chair without the evidence that we get from stakeholders.
“The work that we’ve done with Prospect over the past couple of months has been crucial for my select committee to appreciate the scale of the challenges in energy. The MPs on my committee have had briefings with Prospect and talked to members who work in the sector to better understand it. For that I am very grateful.”
On summing up the event, Mike Clancy, Prospect general secretary, said: “This demonstrates Prospect at its best. We’re displaying our expert knowledge of energy and ensuring that people remember that it is a public good that has to be delivered for the entire country.
“We’ve had a great turnout here. We’ve shown our reach and influence in the political community and the corporate sector, but more importantly we’ve showcased our members’ skills.”
Download the pamphlet from the Prospect library: A sustainable future for UK energy