Centrica boss tells of pride in Grimsby's offshore wind 'legacy'

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 19 Oct 2018

A SENIOR executive at Centrica has told of the company’s pride at having lead offshore wind development in the UK off the coast of Lincolnshire, and explained why it chose to subsequently exit the burgeoning market. 

Mark Futyan was back on the Humber bank to open a special gas-fired peaking plant at Brigg this month, as part of a package of four installations worth £180 million to dovetail with green generation, firing up when the sun and wind lulls. 

The owner of British Gas brought forward the twin wind farms Lynn and Inner Dowsing more than a decade ago, adding Lincs and taking Race Bank to consenting stage, before selling the latter to what has become Orsted.

Mr Futyan, Centrica’s distributed energy systems director, announced the sale of the first assets nearly three years ago, when operations director.

Read more: How Centrica's new 'peaking' power station will complement renewables growth

Looking back to the early world leader, and the arrival in the town with a single vessel, he said: “We are hugely proud of that. We were at the beginning, opening the first Grimsby base with the first project, Lynn and Inner Dowsing, and there have been many more since. For us it is as much about creating the infrastructure as owning and operating it. 

“We selected the sites, created them, and they are there for the long term, it is something we are hugely proud of.”

The sale of Race Bank indicated a major strategic shift, with Dong Energy, subsequently Orsted, becoming world leader as it acquired alongside its own huge development pipeline. It has subsequently taken over Lincs’ operations and maintenance. 

Mark Futyan, speaking at the Brigg launch.

Mr Futyan said: “Renewables was changing. When we started it was about pioneering projects and applying technology and market expertise. It has become much more about scale. To be competitive we needed to do bigger projects, with bigger turbines and very big investments, and it became financed not by utilities, but banks and funds, the profits we could make and the progress, started to reduce unless you can do it on a grand scale. 

“Orsted made that choice, it concentrated on wind, but it was different for Centrica. We have 16 million gas customers, we are a retailer and solutions provider, we are in many different markets. “For us to focus on offshore wasn’t the right choice.”

Read more: Plans unveiled to double the size of Race Bank offshore wind farm

The Brigg addition, alongside the existing station which he announced was being retained back in 2015 – with the model changed from National Grid to direct distribution network – can be up and running in two minutes.

“Renewables are now at 30 per cent of capacity on the grid, it has reached a critical point, and Brigg will help to keep that grid strong,” Mr Futyan said. “It doesn’t run often, it is there to compensate for dips and gaps.

“The way we generate energy is changing and that will see new plants like this coming on to the system that wouldn’t have been built 10 years ago. 

“It is a very hard market to know what to invest in. Industry is changing and we have worked very hard on what are the fundamentals that are happening.

“We are seeing a real expansion of decentralisation and decarbonisation, more and more low carbon generation and we are also seeing generation being built closer to the point of consumption.

“Brigg fits in very well. It a local power station that feeds into the distribution grid and can respond very quickly.

“We are also helping our customers build similar plants behind the meters with owned facilities. We will see more mini power stations cropping up around the country.”

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