Just as oil and gas has borne decades of partnerships between the UK and Norway, Britain’s ambassador wants to see similar team-ups as offshore wind booms.
Richard Wood has been the UK’s top diplomat to our North Sea neighbors since 2018 – seeing first-hand the “fruitful collaboration” between Aberdeen and Stavanger; a relationship he describes as “basically symbiotic” in the energy world.
Now, just the as the UK has unveiled sizeable offshore wind ambitions, Norway has announced similar plans – to develop 30GW by 2040.
“We see exactly the same opportunities for companies on both sides of the North Sea to work together and develop capability on both sides of the continental divide,” says Wood.
“There are a lot of big investments from Norwegian companies in the UK, offshore wind opportunities and a couple of Norwegian winners in the recent ScotWind round, but perhaps more so even in England so far.
“And similarly, I’d like to see British and Norwegian companies teaming up in consortium for the Norwegian build up as well.
“Because a lot of those skills built up in oil and gas are clearly transferable, alongside directly transferable technologies in many ways from oil and gas to offshore wind.”
Unlike the UK, which has had a strong sense of energy security issues historically, emphasised by recent events in Ukraine and the gas price crisis, security of supply is a relatively nascent issue in Norway.
The country has always been safe in the knowledge that its impressive hydroelectric industry will cater to its needs.
However an ambitious electrication programme for industry means that demand for electricity is almost going to double by 2050.
“Therefore they do need, for the first time, to start looking at a different sources of power,” Wood reports.
“I think that the recent announcement on offshore wind…the timing of that is probably not coincidental and there is a need to start getting that on the road.
“We’re also trying to raise the issue of electricity interconnection as another means of ensuring security of supply and a kind of efficient and effective use of resources in the North Sea.”
These are issues which have “risen up the debate pretty rapidly in Norway” and all part of a wide partnership agreement signed by the two countries’ Prime Ministers on May 13.
In keeping with the theme of “Trust” at ONS 2022, delivering on the energy transition requires governments “to describe the transition in a way that engenders trust with the general population” and ensure that “no sector or no part of society will bear costs unduly compared to others”, Wood argues.
High ambition begets momentum
While addressing those issues, Wood is clear that “people shouldn’t be scared of managing down demand for oil and gas” and the world tries to “kickstart the green economy”.
The UK Government is targeting 480,000 green jobs by 2030 – the estimates may sound over-optimistic, but Wood disagrees.
“High ambition begets momentum and once you start down that road and prove the benefits and prove that you know massive and accelerated rollout is possible, that just in itself engenders a huge amount of trust in the green shift and at the same time builds up a whole associated green economy.
“So those figures around of 480,000 clean jobs by the end of the decade – including 90,000 jobs in offshore wind – that’s absolutely not pie in the sky figures plucked out of nowhere.
“Those things we know are true because of huge shifts in the green economy and clusters around green technology that we’ve seen building up in Aberdeen and elsewhere in the UK.
“So that issue about the green economy and kickstarting a green economy, is a really powerful thing to introduce and people shouldn’t be scared of managing down demand for oil and gas.”