Editor’s weekly: Brexit should spur industry collaboration
Network editor Jane Gray deliver’s the first weekly overview of trends, events and news in the gas, power and heat network community.
29th June 2016 by Networks
You’ll forgive me for starting this first round up with a few thoughts on Brexit and its undoubtedly enormous implications for all parts of British society and industry – including networks.
It would be easy given the sheer volume of coverage and hysteria about the referendum outcome to develop a sense of inertia regarding its manifold implications, but I urge readers not to let this happen with regards to their businesses and industry relationships.
The coming weeks, months and years are going to require strong messages of intent and clear communication on network aspirations in order to overcome the confusion and complexity which will attend the development of Britain’s EU exit plan.
Pre-referendum, there was already a feeling that technology providers and product manufacturers wanted greater visibility of network investment and innovation plans – despite improvements to these under the LCNI and NIA/NIC schemes.
Post-referendum the need for networks to proactively and reassuringly communicate with their suppliers and partners is even more intense. Why? Because there has been an immediate reaction on the part of some Europe-based suppliers to ask if they should revise strategies to use the UK as a first point of call for piloting new technologies.
This threatens the UK’s position as a pioneer in new ways of operating and optimising gas and power networks and it does nothing to help the burgeoning heat sector which already has challenges in attracting investment/supporting deployment of best in class systems.
Now is the time for industry working groups, trade bodies and networking forums to redouble their efforts to be inclusive and accessible for all parts of the industry value chain including small and large technology and product providers, network operators, local government, regulators, policy makers, and so on. This includes links with European groups where we will no longer have a guaranteed place at the table when they discuss changes to technical standards – a challenge which industry leaders identified at a recent round table debate about our future in Europe.
A second critical issue which needs to be modelled and panned for now, is the impact of Brexit on industry skills profiles. Most UK network operators employ a high proportion of foreign workers, in both front line field force roles and difficult to fill positions like project management.
No doubt national negotiations on the UK’s exit will tackle movement of workers as a priority, but companies need to think now about the changes to systems and policies which might be needed in recruitment, issuing of contracts etc. And of course efforts to build diverse local talent pools and to address sector attractiveness challenges will, again, need to be redoubled.
Over this summer, Network will work with EU Skills Group and a newly reformed Energy and Efficiency Industrial Partnership to explore exactly what a new, shared sector skills strategy should now look like.
But while Brexit plans are resolved, the world goes on. Other things which have recently captured Network’s attention have been the first anniversary of National Grid’s Power Responsive campaign. This exploratory initiative has led to the launch of two new balancing tools – Enhanced Frequency Response and Demand Turn-Up, and in its second year it plans to take a closer look at the parallel requirements of DSR and energy storage markets.
Duncan Botting has delivered the second part of his comment series on smart energy dynamics and we’ve heard about SP Energy Network’s new safety campaign to help protect and educate Scottish farmers about the dangers of power assets on their land.
We’ve also seen networks celebrate National Women in Engineering Day and Deputy Editor Lucinda Dann has had first hand insight into energy technology leader Enel’s operations near Milan in Italy as part of her trip to PowerGen, a European energy systems exhibition. You can read more about both of these topics in our July/August issue along with a special project focus for SGN’s Realtime Networks project.
These are just a few highlights of what’s been and what’s to come. Explore the site for more and I’ll be back next week with another update.
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