The CEO of North Sea operator Spirit Energy has called for Liz Truss to appoint an energy secretary to her new government.
Neil McCulloch made the comments during a panel at trade body Offshore Energies UK’s (OEUK) economic report launch in Aberdeen today.
He said: “What would I do if I was her today [Liz Truss]? I would appoint a secretary of state for energy, and I would create a department of energy.”
He was responding to Jenny Stanning, external relations director for OEUK, asking, “If you could have one thing that the new prime minister, the new secretary of state, delivers, what would it be?
This follows the new prime minister forming her government last night, in which she appointed Jacob Rees-Mogg as the business secretary, who will also oversee the energy office.
McCulloch continued: “We have lots of other secretary of states for things that are important, but energy literally causes everything in humanity to happen.
“Why has energy not come to the table? Liz has said she wants to drive growth, well, tell me how growth happens without energy. She also wants to ‘deliver, deliver, deliver’ – all of these things need energy behind them so there needs to be a voice at the table.”
The panel also discussed accelerating approvals of energy sites, tying back to OEUK’s recent report on offshore wind that found nearly half of the UK offshore wind projects needed to reach 2030 net zero targets are only at the concept stage.
A number of the panellists agreed that the UK government must cut down the time it takes to receive approval on renewable energy sites.
Sarah Cridland, vice president of commercial & subsea projects UK, Mediterranean & Caspian, & country manager UK at TechnipFMC, said: “I’m going to focus on renewables and what we’re doing with floating wind – my ask would be to look at accelerating approvals.
She added: “That really needs to get done to give people some surety of revenue and future work that will allow them to put in the investment, and to make sure we can actually execute everything there in a shorter time scale.”
McCulloch agreed, adding: “We just talked about Acorn. We need so many gigatonnes of carbon dioxide storage, so save a little bit of time and effort by having ten projects rather than two, and have them geographically diverse around the UK.
“Stop picking winners, start working on the soil conditions. We talked about skills, investment and the need to transition to net zero, and it’s making sure that the UK is truly the best.
“We have the best geography, the best skills and with a very willing government. We need to come up with a coherent energy plan that will last us to 2025, that’s one milestone, and there’s 2050 when we get to net zero.”
Geoff Holmes, chief executive of px Group also called for “a coherent and committed energy strategy that addresses today’s urgency that has a long term and purposeful mission to transition into a low carbon future”.
‘Help us help you’
Others on the panel voiced opinions inviting investment to provide energy security to the country at a volatile time for UK energy.
Interest rates and inflation need government attention before we will see investment, was the general consensus from Deloitte assistant director Lesley McEwan.
She said: “She’s essentially got two years before the next election so she doesn’t need to win the popularity contest for another year. I would really like for her to be focussing on inflation, on interest rates, on ensuring an environment that does create investment from overseas because I think without that we can’t achieve any of our ambitions.
“With the link to that UK plc, I would really like to see some consideration of the means-tested solution to this.”
OEUK’s market intelligence manager Ross Dornan rounded off the session, adding: “Help us help you. Promote investment, and recognise the role of our industry in terms of its resources
“Also you can’t develop those resources without a strong supply chain, so don’t be too fixated on just the energy supply, think about how we facilitate the supply.
“Build consensus, this is potentially a two-year government but we’re in a 30-year energy transition, there have to be enduring policies to get us through that process.”