Subsea UK chief executive Alistair Birnie will be urging business and governments to learn lessons from oil and gas when tackling new energy challenges at a European event on Wednesday.
Aberdeen-based Mr Birnie will be speaking at the European Future Energy Forum, an off-shoot of the World Future Energy Summit, from tomorrow until Thursday in London.
Sponsored by UK Trade & Investment, the forum provides a platform for discussion and debate on exploiting future energy sources.
To be staged in the UK for the first time, the event will also promote the country’s sustainable energy credentials.
“The UK has an amazing energy success story in oil and gas which can be replicated as we move towards renewable energy sources,” said Mr Birnie. “As we strive to become a leading global player in renewable energy, we must learn from how we did it in upstream oil and gas.”
Success in the early days of oil and gas was by no means certain. The offshore oil industry was driven by a strong American influence and most jobs were low-grade aboard rigs or in construction yards. The safety culture was poor with cost being a priority, explained Mr Birnie.
He said: “We were set on a path of short-term insecure future, exploited and driven by overseas influence. But that changed in the seventies when UK companies with a better understanding of needs unique to the North Sea emerged.
“This spurred on a generation of rapid evolution and investment to build an innovative and efficient capability that was also competitive. We are now recognised as having the strongest capability anywhere in the world as a hub for both project execution and technology excellence.”
“Our vision of building a knowledge base that would create value on a global scale, centred in the UK, was what drove this change,” said Mr Birnie.
“Even today when the North Sea is still very active, exports are outstripping domestic output and growth continues year on year. As long as we keep investing in the development of new knowledge, we will retain our world-leading position.”
UK subsea companies employ around 40,000 and deliver about 30% of global subsea activity. They play a vital role in renewable energy with some 30-40% of capital cost attributable to subsea and marine operations for offshore wind and an even greater percentage for marine energy.