Insights from EnergyREVs recent ‘skills for a smart local energy system’ Governance Seminar…

Insights from EnergyREVs recent ‘skills for a smart local energy system’ Governance Seminar…

Madeleine Morris, Research Associate at Grantham Institute at Imperial College London

28th May 2020

On 20th May we held the second event in our Governance Insights Lunchtime Seminar (GILS) series, on the topic of skills for smart local energy systems. This coincided with the release of a report by EnergyREV researchers Dr Ruzanna Chitchyan and Dr Caroline Bird which took Bristol as a case study on the training and skills needed for a smart local energy ‘system of systems’.

The hour-long seminar was expertly chaired by Dr Jeff Hardy, who leads the policy and regulatory team of EnergyREV. Ruzanna gave an overview of the key findings of the report, including explaining the challenges of a ‘system of systems’ in the context of smart and local energy in Bristol (think multiple smaller ‘subsystems’ which are connected in a loose yet complex, and not always entirely functional, way) and which skills will be needed to transition to this kind of structure successfully.

Next, we heard from Luke Nightingale from the Department of Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), who is Team Leader for Economic Opportunities for Net Zero. Luke gave an overview of what the UK Government is doing to make sure that we have the skilled workforce we need to deliver on the our Net Zero target, including the setting up of the Green Jobs Taskforce which aims to bring the ‘green skills system’ together as a whole.

Neil Kermode then gave us his thoughts from the perspective of someone who has been involved in developing a smart local energy system – ReFLEX Orkney, one of the three PFER demonstrator projects – in his role as Managing Director at the European Marine Energy Sector. Despite being at the other end of the UK, he has found similar challenges to those identified in Bristol, including the need for a common goal, the importance of ‘soft skills’ as well as technical ones, and the importance of governance, particularly in getting people with different motivations to work together for the greater good of the project.

Our audience submitted so many incredible questions that we didn’t get through them all in the 25-minute Q&A session - look out for an upcoming blog that addresses some of these! - which covered topics from the need for a new co-ordinating body to how we retrain people in declining sectors and jobs to the shift in approach to education and training that is needed to ensure we can deliver on Net Zero.

I highly encourage you to watch the recording of this lively discussion, which is available here, along with the previous GILS episode on SLES and post-pandemic recovery.

Here are the key points that our panellists want you to take away from the seminar:

  • Ruzanna – everyone has a role to play in this, but so far the role of individual citizens is the missing piece of the puzzle. Just as clear and persistent messaging caused a transformation in behaviours because of the Covid-19 pandemic, people need useful information about what they can do to help. And if anyone can suggest a catchy message that could aid in this, let us know @EnergyREV_UK (think ‘Hands. Face. Space’)!
  • Luke – This challenge isn’t only about technical skills; we need a much broader set of ‘soft’ skills – in finance, project management, data and digital, for example – to deliver what will be a huge societal and economic transformation.
  • Neil – Read the report! (We agree – thanks, Neil!)

A huge thank you to all our panellists, our chair and our audience for a brilliant session. We’re looking forward to the next Governance Insights Lunchtime Seminar (GILS) series which will be announced in the coming weeks. Sign up on our website to receive an invite