Industry experts discuss the future of energy with Prospect

11 December 2023

During our Union Week event in November, Prospect hosted a special webinar with three industry insiders to discuss the future of energy, clean jobs and skills.


More than a hundred of our energy members and reps joined the webinar, which was hosted by Prospect National Secretary, Steve Thomas.

On the panel were industry experts:

  • Tom Glover, UK country chair, RWE
  • Jeremy Williamson, Director of Technology, SSE Renewables
  • Richard Crossick, Public Affairs Manager, Ørsted

Watch the whole webinar in the video at the top of this page where the panel tackle topics such as preferred storage technologies, the impact of a new systems operator and the impact of Brexit on business.

Here below are verbatim transcripts, edited for length and clarity, of how the panellists responded to three specific questions.

What are the key issues for your business at the moment?

“Generally speaking, the UK has been extremely strong for investment in low carbon technology. The different parties have been kind of competing to see who can be more green and more low carbon.

“What are we seeing now, and you saw it in some of the government’s announcements in the last few weeks, is a little bit of a wedge issue created on the political side. So far it hasn’t affected those so much on the power generation side and the overall targets that remain the same. But it gives international investors a little bit of unease.

“Second of all, there’s a challenging investment environment. You have rising capital costs across all technologies, as a result of Covid and the Ukraine crisis.

“Everybody has doubled down on low carbon investment. So you’re squeezing the supply chain. You’ve got about a 20 to 40% increase on almost every technology that we look at in terms of cost. You’ve got a rising interest rates, which means your cost of capital is increasing a lot.”
Tom Glover, UK country chair, RWE

“One thing that we really do need is to make sure we get support from regulators and from the government to make these investments attractive. And, while we are still building at the moment, looking at the some of the future projects, they are not a given now.

“Planning is a big enabler for us and grid is a big enabler for us as well, and I know that it’s a topic, that a lot of us on this call now will be involved in these activities, particularly from grid reinforcement.

At the moment, we’re seeing costs increase exponentially and timescales cut back significantly, which, again, makes the investment much harder. And the bit, I would say, which I think the Government misses is, where we do see the investment coming in, it has real economic benefits, and for jobs.”
Jeremy Williamson, Director of Technology, SSE Renewables

“From an offshore wind perspective, we have longer term problems around grid, planning and supply chain. The pace is set by these auctions, which now happen annually… And if they win these contracts, they can go ahead and develop.

“At the last auction for offshore wind. They got the pricing wrong, they miscalculated, and no projects were put through.”
Richard Crossick, Public Affairs Manager, Ørsted

How can we attract more talent and skills to the renewables industry?

“This is something very close to me. I’ve been able to develop my career from an apprentice through to board level in this company, and I am very thankful to this industry, I would say.

“Key to this, is to make sure the reward is appropriate to the skills and the needs of the job, and then career development as well. And it’s something we get very clear messages about within our company.

“People need to understand the development path and need to have the opportunity also to take that. Engineers are at the forefront of those enabling this. It’s very important that we make sure we get those fundamentals right.”
Jeremy Williamson, Director of Technology, SSE Renewables

“Ultimately, you get more jobs if you build more things. So, the most important thing is actually to get on a good path to building again, getting this capital deployed, and having this green, Net Zero, low carbon future.

The amount of investment and the amount of jobs available is huge, but only if we get on and do it. First of all, let’s get the policy and regulation right to make sure we’re actually investing.

Second, we need to push a clear industrial strategy… Be clear what the future looks like. So that people will know how many jobs you’re talking about, and then work with education and work with businesses, whether it be apprentices or transitioning people, to make sure that we get people into good quality careers.”
Tom Glover, UK country chair, RWE

“If we look at the pipeline of people we’ve got coming into to our industry, and it’s not just Ørsted, it’s the supply chain around us too, you’ve got young people coming through the apprenticeship route or early career routes. Getting that pipeline of young people interested in these types of careers is going to be really important.

“Then, there’s existing talent that transfers across from other industries or military is also key. We have not struggled yet, but I can see that time where we will begin to struggle. I think having that, industrial strategy, a government work plan, is really important.

“I think we are also missing quite a talent pool through our diversity, and the energy industry hasn’t been as diverse. And that’s something we as an industry, and everybody on this call, I know, is working really hard on it, whether as leaders or as part of the offshore wind diversity task force. As companies we’re trying to push these agendas. And I think that’s really important as well.”
Richard Crossick, Public Affairs Manager, Ørsted

What are the strengths and weaknesses of the UK renewables industry?

“I think the UK has very slightly slipped down and it has had problems of its own making, but I think the fundamental strengths are still there. In terms of its capabilities, in terms of what it’s created in the last 15 years. It’s not a position where it can’t turn itself around.

“I think one of the things, is it’s a much more crowded market for investment. The UK used to be the place to go to site for offshore. I don’t think the UK needs to panic, but it does need to get things right that are in its own control.
Richard Crossick, Public Affairs Manager, Ørsted

“The UK was a leader in this industry. I’m in wind and doing hydro. We have deployed some of the assets, onshore and offshore, at speed and highly diligently, working very much with international partners.

“But I would say, at the moment, our leadership is being lost and we are falling back. We have a great deal of ingenuity. We have a great deal of capability, but we need to back it. Otherwise, we’re going to fall behind.”
Jeremy Williamson, Director of Technology, SSE Renewables

“The UK, historically, has been a very attractive place to invest… A third of our capital plans are coming to the UK at the moment.  The starting point is really good. It’s been good because we’ve had stable framework and a stable political environment. We had a good economy.

“So, generally speaking, when you look at all the key criteria about why you want to choose a market, the UK had it. I still think it’s attractive. We haven’t moved yet.
Tom Glover, UK country chair, RWE


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