Grimsby's green vision and emerging reality: Highlights from the Clean Break summit

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 14 Sep 2017

GRIMSBY has received a huge endorsement of its great green vision and the rapidly emerging reality as it sets out its stall to become a leader of a low carbon future.

Hosting Clean Break, a major conference to underline ambitions to become a renewable leader for the UK, plaudits poured in for the efforts made so far, with further opportunity lit up.

Benj Sykes, co-chair of the Offshore Wind Industry Council, and UK country manager for Dong Energy, whet appetites, following a highly charged passionate welcome to the “heartbeat of the Energy Estuary” by North East Lincolnshire Council chief executive Rob Walsh.

Having heard him set out the ambition and the reasoning for it, Mr Sykes said: “A lot of what Rob is talking about – innovation, making high growth businesses and building a supply chain, is a lot of what we are talking about, and this is one of the places that has ample opportunity to do that if we can get our act together.

BACKGROUND: The low carbon vision for North East Lincolnshire

“Dong Energy has a growing footprint here, and there was great news on Monday with Hornsea Project Two, and Triton Knoll (gaining subsidy support) that opens up opportunities. Energy Estuary is more than just a name, it is becoming a reality, and Grimsby, North East Lincolnshire, can rightly claim the lion’s share of that opportunity over the next months and years.“

He told how the sector council is heading here later this month to talk about growth. “The Humber Estuary, the Energy Estuary, has to be one of the areas where this happens,” he said.

Earlier as the two-day event launched, Clean Break chair Tim Banfield, told how the three key elements for major transformation were present in North East Lincolnshire.

Formerly director of major projects oversight with the Cabinet office, he is now a senior consultant in sectors reliant on significant infrastructure.

He said: “Vision, leadership and collaboration – three things we have in spades here. The mere fact we are together is collaboration; the leadership the council has shown in getting this far is absolutely exemplary from my experience, and we have an absolutely compelling vision – becoming the UK capital for the renewable energy industry in the UK and a leading region for low carbon energy.

“If we can work together to achieve these ambitions we will have created something world-leading, defining, something we cannot find happening anywhere else.”

It was standing room only for the start of Clean Break, being held at Humber Royal Hotel. In the audience were Humber Local Enterprise Partnership chief executive Kishor Tailor, Hull and Humber Chamber of Commerce chief executive Ian Kelly and ABP's Humber ports director Simon Bird. 

Several key stakeholders had made their way back from the Humber Maritime Showcase as part of London International Shipping Week

Clean Beak is organised by DragonGate Market Intelligence, an organisation that has worked with NELC on a preliminary study to examine potential opportunities for a renewables cluster centre of excellence, enveloping operations, training and innovation. 

In his speech, applauded by the gathering, Mr Walsh underlined how far the authority had come in recent years as the burgeoning sector has blossomed.

“This wouldn’t have happened three, five, seven years ago, whether we had the case or not. We are raising the profile and being more ambitious.

“For too long we wore deprivation as a badge of honour. It is not about that. It is about turning it around and making a case for this area, making a case for hope and changing opportunities over the long term.

"For the young, it is about creating a choice to stay or come back. Aspiration is the big challenge for a place like Grimsby particularly, not aiming high enough."

Underlining the £20 million of investment in Port of Grimsby already, ambition for 8,000 new jobs and more new homes, he spoke of the second Viking coming, with Dong following Grim and Havelock, and how once unwanted visitors from central Government now had the red carpet rolled out as partnerships were formed. 

MORE: Grimsby's 1GW offshore wind milestone

“What you see now is not what you would have seen three years ago," he said of the docks, before turning to the Municipal Offices. "I remember when a lot of civil servants came here when we were in a spot of bother in 2003. I remember a similar number coming up much more recently and asking why are we so innovative and creative. It is a complete sea change, and that is a big, big message about how we are doing things differently.”

Touching on the Greater Grimsby Project, he told how "Grimsby had spent too much time having its back to the water, we are changing that round". And stating the propositions being put to Whitehall were not just begging for money, but seeking access and capability, while flagging up strong relationships with investors ABP and Dong Energy, Mr Walsh said: “We have ambition and opportunity, why not grab hold of a relationship with Government and grab hold of something for the longer term?

“It is about sustaining the momentum of investment in offshore wind, investing in renewable research and innovation and developing skills for the renewable sector. Lots of jobs are projected to come, we need to match that with supply.

“We are developing the proposal, and we are raising the profile of a small place that punches well above its weight. It is location, location, location, and we have the assets here.

“We know it is laudable, correct and necessary.”

CLEAN BREAK: David Hodgson, Department of International Trade, Matthew Wright, managing director Dong Energy UK, Tim Banfield, Clean Break chair, Councillor Ray Oxby, leader of NELC, Graham Meeks, Green Investment Group.

'Low cost of offshore wind is the breakthrough moment for the creation of thousands of jobs'

DONG Energy UK’s managing director has described the huge drop in the cost of offshore wind as a “breakthrough moment for the industry,” as it paves the way for thousands of jobs in an energy transformation.

Matthew Wright said winning the argument on cost, as universally acknowledged this week, was supported by reaching a tipping point on consistency of supply with storage and conversion technologies rapidly advancing.

He addressed Grimsby’s Clean Break summit as the ink dried on the £57.50 strike price for Hornsea Project Two, Dong’s fourth wind farm to be operated out of the town. Auction prices started at £140, and have halved since the last Contract for Difference round in early 2015.

Currently in the midst of a £12 billion investment into the UK, much of which focused on Grimsby, Mr Wright said Hornsea Project Two, would be a “another couple of billion on top of that,” as work is underway now to expand the Grimsby base from where it will be served.

The Danish giant gave it financial sign off as Monday’s announcement was made.

Explaining how the figure was reached, Mr Wright reflected on the last 25 years, with Vindeby in Denmark starting with 5MW and 11 turbines in 1991, going on to praise UK governments’ faith.

He said: “The growth of our projects, the increase in scale, is quite staggering. It is not just scale of projects, but scale of turbines, scale of the whole operation.

“None of it would be possible without two things; the support of government in the UK, successive governments supporting it. They suffered, critical early projects have been expensive, but that gamble paid off.

“We have had the same tremendous support in the supply chain.”

He told how a series of firsts showed the pioneering spirit, much of which played out from the town. “We have had the world's first 6MW installation with Westermost Rough run out of Grimsby, Hornsea Project One at 1,200MW, to be the world’s biggest, again run from here and we have Race Bank going on, and now Hornsea Project Two at 1,386 MW. That really does represent a bold strep change in terms of the cost of offshore wind. By the time Hornsea Project Two is built we will have 10,000MW, and it is quite easy to see where cost reduction has come from. It is good old fashioned economies of scale and by doing something more and more, you get better at it. It is no secret that has happened in offshore wind.

Hornsea Project Three in the pipeline and potentially a Hornsea Project Four, which hopefully will be bigger still,” Mr Wright enthused. “As size has gone up, cost has gone down and the price we see this week for CfD application round was a surprise to a lot of people but shouldn’t have been if people looked closely at the other auctions in Europe. In Denmark and Germany they are broadly at the same price level.

“The gamble government made to invest has paid off tremendously to bring down the cost.”

Touching on the £92 cost of nuclear, the price of gas, and glowing articles in the national broadsheets on the back of Monday’s announcements, he said: “People are starting to understand that offshore wind can play a much stronger part in the energy mix.

MORE: Grimsby's great green vision wholly endorsed as Clean Break summit launches 

“The North Sea has enormous potential for offshore wind. We could power the whole of Europe 1.8 times, only from the available economic capacity of offshore wind. That is a lottery win, that’s pretty significant, but having won the last argument on price, the next thing we need to correct, to open up that potential, is the next debate about intermittency. 

“We are beyond the tipping point, the technology we see coming forward is in storage and conversion are going to make this a reality.

“This region is spectacularly well placed, it is on the door step, it has won the lottery in terms of geographical advantage, so much more so than the south or west coasts, and because of that we will continue to see a number of jobs.

“Our operations base in Grimsby, we are digging up around it to expand and get several more hundred people in. Race Bank, Hornsea Project One, Hornsea Project Two, they will create hundreds of jobs, and it is fantastic news. What about thousands of jobs?

“We shouldn’t just be talking about offshore wind in Grimsby, we should be thinking about energy transformation written large across the Humber and beyond.

“This is a global opportunity, where the UK is leading. Let’s make the most of that and think big, and I can think of no better place to start that than here, and Dong Energy stands ready.”

Underlining a desire to work in partnerships and the long term commitment of the likes of Dong Energy and ABP, leader of North East Lincolnshire Council, Ray Oxby, had opened Clean Beak's day two just before Mr Wright's keynote address.

He said: “We are making the borough an attractive place to live, work and invest.

“We are not just about fishing and tourism any more. Energy Estuary is a term coined some years ago, and look what we’ve delivered so far. We have a clear ambition to be nationally and internationally recognised as UK’s leading region for low carbon energy and the UK champion for renewable energy industry.

“We are promoting a stable economy here where businesses are seeing they can and want to invest. We are very business-friendly. Administrative boundaries should never be a dividing line when investment, jobs and opportunities present themselves.

“It really is happening in the Humber, right here, right now, please come and join the journey and cement the building blocks.” 

Major stakeholder and trade body's backing for town's green ambition

HEAD of policy at ‘new entity’ Green Investment Group addressed Clean Break, with Graham Meeks a senior representative of the key stakeholder in the town.

What was the Green Investment Bank, privatised in a deal with infrastructure investment giant Macquarie that finalised last month, it – in conjunction with funds it manages – owns 75 per cent of Lincs offshore wind farm, as well as controlling shares in Lynn and Inner Dowsing, as well as a stake in Dong Energy’s Westermost Rough. 

It had been established by the UK Government in 2012 to demonstrate and help realise commercial investment opportunities in the industry. 

Welcoming the “chance to commend the town’s initiative to maximise this opportunity, not just for the area, but the wider region, with all the benefits of scale and synergies that will bring,” Mr Meeks said so much had happened in Green Investment Bank’s five years of being, not least its own acquisition by Macquarie, which was first announced in April, and valued at £2.3 billion.

“Costs across all green technology have fallen sharply, and no more so evident than in the offshore wind industry, where the cost of generating energy finds itself ahead of the milestones set by some of the industry’s most informed observers,” he said. 

“The latest CfD round marks a coming of age that will have long term implications for the pattern of energy supply.”

Formed at a time when financial institutions were still reeling from the four previous years of deep dark recession, adverse to risk having been over-exposed in the lead up to the meltdown, Mr Meeks said: “Banks now lend more, and earlier in a project, and the wider investment community is much better educated in green infrastructure.

“The solution doesn’t start with us in finance,” he said. “It may be critical to securing an outcome but the solution started with technologists, engineers, industrialists and developers, and civic leadership as well. We are part of a very large community.”

In Grimsby Siemens is operating and maintaining the Lynn and Inner Dowsing wind farms off the Lincolnshire coast, with Grimsby-based start-up Xceco handling balance of plant and governance responsibilities.

Lincs at 270MW, remains the largest operational offshore wind farm until Race Bank is fully commissioned. Developer of that, Dong Energy, has won the operations and maintenance work for it, and owns the balance alongside Green Investment Group. 

Macquarie is already a 50 per cent stakeholder in Race Bank offshore wind farm after completing a £1.6 billion deal with Dong in December last year. 

Of the buy-out, cleared this summer, Mr Meeks said: “It has blended the first green bank with the largest infrastructure investor.

“There is a commitment to financing green energy on a global platform, while still very much anchored in the UK. 

“We will have a more ambitious investment appetite, with a bias to development and construction phases.”

Maf Smith, deputy chief executive of RenewableUK, returned to his northern Lincolnshire roots for Clean Break. And he toasted the mainstream role offshore wind is now playing.

He said: “Renewables are not a fringe activity, they are now an incumbent part of energy infrastructure, and it is growing.

“Offshore wind will be one of the major components, if not the major component, and it is locked in.”

Turning his attention to the town’s green vision, set out just a few miles down river from his Barton upbringing, Mr Smith said: “Here I see a lot of activity, enthusiasm and ambition, that’s what makes the difference.  Partnerships and leadership are vital to really build on this and make something more of what has happened so far.”

District heating and community solar have a part to play

IT wasn’t all offshore wind, solar and district heating got a strong billing as the all-embracing low carbon agenda was focused on.

Emma Bridge of Community Energy England told how Grimsby was “ahead of the curve” when it comes to the opportunity for bring benefits to a social level.

Describing Richard Bellamy and the Grimsby Community Energy operation he chairs as a “driving force” she told how 100kw of PV was now installed.

“Grimsby Community Energy was ahead of the curve, one of our first members,” she said. “It has installed 100kw and raised more than £100,000 through share offers. The expertise garnered by the Enrolled Freemen of Grimsby is being fed in to the community energy in the area. We have the foundation here, we have the social commitment and the expertise to build on. I really encourage you to use that as part of your low carbon strategy for the area.”

Clean Break also saw a repeat of the district heating proposition given to Grimsby Renewables Partnership last month by Peter Anderberg of Nordic Heat.

As reported then, five potentially viable zones have been initially identified in North East Lincolnshire, as the local authority looks to build on the green credentials blown in by offshore wind. 

Mr Anderberg heads up an advisory organisation, and delivered the talk, as NELC looks to Scandinavian cousins for a solution, with Sweden the world leader.

District heating uses heat generating centres or industry where heat is wasted, and with a pipe network, controls and redistributes it in the vicinity.

Heavy industry and cold storage, both strong here, are seen as huge bonuses. Stoke is about to see the first pipes laid.

'Who should lead on skills provision?'

HUMBER Local Enterprise Partnership skills board member and chief executive of Humberside Engineering Training Association, Iain Elliott, asked where the skills strategy was, who was leading it and where young people fit in it.

Matthew Wright, managing director of Dong Energy UK, had taken a lesson at nearby Whitgift School as part of his company’s sponsorship of the TeachFirst charity, which is focusing on raising standards in education in the areas the wind giant operates in.

Matthew Wright taking a class at John Whitgift Academy, Grimsby.

He said: “The skills strategy is part of building the offering, and Dong Energy and all the companies here have an obligation to take part in that. We sponsor Teach First, I have personally just become involved in that, taking a lesson at a local school, and we work with Humber UTC, have an apprenticeship programme and do extensive training with Global Wind Organisation for our people who go offshore.

“In terms of who leads, it needs to be all of us in the room. A broader objective in business and the partnership we have spoken a lot about is that young people are the people we need to inspire and raise their aspiration. We want people to see and industry they want to be part of, and aspire to be part of it. They are a massive part of the future of this sector. I think we are pushing at an open door, we need people to walk through it.”

Cllr Ray Oxby, leader of North East Lincolnshire Council, said: “We all have a responsibility to bridge the gap. If leaders of industry all did that (take lessons at schools) that would be a big step forward.

“We are developing a skills strategy, and it has to be all-embracing. We have the democratic mandate to lead on this initiative, but it is important to be as inclusive as we can with schools, further education, universities and business.

“It is a big challenge, we have a low skills based economy in this area.”

Leaders: 'In summary the summit is a success'

THERE was no ministerial appearance to crown a strong summit, but word from Westminster is that Grimsby is on the right track with its propositions.

The low carbon proposal, twinned with the renewable centre of excellence initiative, and the Greater Grimsby Project are all with Government, and feedback is understood to be positive.

Of the summit, Ray Oxby, leader of North East Lincolnshire Council, described it as being a “very invigorating 24 hours to listen to so much passion and enthusiasm”.

“This is the start of a journey, and though I thought we should think big, maybe we should be thinking bigger,” he said, latching on to Matthew Wright’s speech and the coverage of the offshore wind industry's 'grand arrival' in the Daily Telegraph. “The North Sea can provide for UK and Europe at a surplus, it could be what Saudi Arabia was 30 years ago with oil.

“The next step is to harness this commitment, this partnership approach, to work with everyone who wants to join with us. The time is now, right here, right how, let’s seize this opportunity and work together.”

Tim Banfield, summit chair, said: “Enthusiasm and opportunity has come through in droves in the last 24 hours. We have here not only renewables as a market and method of delivery, which has started to grow rapidly, but on the other hand we are still in the foothills of the mountain. The breadth of opportunity we are pushing for is massive.

“We already have some brilliant examples of success, we have heard so much about Dong, but we have also heard about transport and apprentices, all of these are brilliant stories.

“We must now keep an eye on the end game, we are going to have to be agile, flexible, innovative and fail occasionally.

“We have heard about Grimsby, Grimsby as part of the Humber, the Humber as part of the North then we have heard of global strategies. We can work to all of these levels.

“I am going home absolutely enthused by what we have achieved; the potential, the opportunity for all of us to work together to get to a new level.”

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