Tackling the UK energy crisis: how the supply chain can play a vital role
Use of renewable energy is on the rise, with bold new targets set by the UK Government dedicated to phasing out fossil fuels. This transition to clean energy is underpinned by an urgency to combat both the climate and growing energy crises, that look set to change the built environment as we know it. Nicola McGlynn, Mace’s Head of Renewable Energy, explains why it is the supply chain that will be most vital in the coming years – if the industry is to help meet these UK ambitions as well as achieve its own goals, in pursuit of a sustainable world.
Supply shortages. Surging energy costs. A transition to clean power.
The rapid expansion of the renewable energy industry, and specifically that of offshore wind, is an exciting and positive development in transitioning away from a fossil-fuel dependent world, with the sector already playing a significant part in tackling the climate emergency. And with spiralling energy costs impacting households across the UK and beyond, the need to expand renewable energy capability is becoming clearer by the day.
The Government’s ambitious clean energy targets and provisions to relax planning permissions for onshore windfarms were recently set out in the mini-Budget. This is a strong indicator of the UK’s commitment to speed up the energy transition for improved long-term independence and energy security. However, more focus must be placed on how these targets will be delivered.
The truth is, they cannot be delivered without the effective management and mobilisation of the supply chain. Not only will this accelerate the rollout of the targets, but effective supply chain management is also part of the Government’s Contract for Difference (CfD) funding scheme, which includes rigorous assessment of developers’ plans on supply chain commitments.
So, there is no two ways about it – our industry must come together, collaborate and bring the supply chain on the journey so we can collectively meet the offshore wind targets by 2030. But what does this mean in practice?
Sharing knowledge and upskilling
Specialist firms in the supply chain can offer valuable sector-specific insights to supplement the transferable skills in the existing project management and consultancy workforce. With the widely talked-about skills shortages in the industry, the supply chain has a key role to play in upskilling teams, especially as the renewables market expands rapidly. The target of 60% of supply chain to be UK based will also facilitate cross-sector knowledge sharing.
One example of this in action is through the expansion of the nuclear sector, about which there was limited industry knowledge until more recent years. The industry is rapidly scaling up, and skilled individuals and businesses from the supply chain have augmented developers’ capabilities. This could happen in the renewables sector in the same manner, with the proviso that knowledge and skills are shared over the course of time, and the collective industry competency increases.
In sustainability terms, developers are required to be more transparent than ever before. The Government has stepped up its funding process in recent months and consulted on changes to the CfD scheme to boost supply chains. The reforms include a more robust examination of developers’ plans on supply chain commitments, as well as expanding supply chain plans to cover new technologies such as floating offshore wind, for which there is a 5GW target.
In addition to being helpful in steering the sector towards 50GW by 2030, the supply chain also has a role to play here in creating an increasingly transparent and open industry. Developers and supply chain companies can galvanise each other towards their respective sustainability targets, with the potential to collaborate and create an industry where sustainability commitment is visible throughout the project cycle. Consultants and project management teams also have a strong part to play in assisting in this process and where necessary, educating the supply chain to be able to support the developer to deliver sustainability, achieving net zero and working towards a circular economy.
Streamlining standards across the industry
At Mace, we’ve consistently used our role as project management consultants to help clients streamline project processes and advise on best practice and ways of working. But with multiple new entrants to the market - in a rapidly growing sector - some developers are still in the earlier stages of making their name . The supply chain can help to share and implement repeatable and scalable processes that have been proven to work on previous projects and other sectors, and can be rolled out across the supply chain, with the support of project management. Driving through real-time reporting and assured data across the supply chain can help set the standards and ways of working across the industry. Ultimately, this will benefit the wider sector too, as it looks to scale up clean energy production and phase out fossil fuels.
The climate emergency is a challenge which becomes more pressing by the day, and, as an industry, we have a greater responsibility than ever before to create opportunities for communities to thrive now, and for generations to come.
For the best chance of succeeding in that pursuit and of meeting and exceeding the 50GW by 2030 target, collaboration is pivotal. Developers, consultants and the supply chain must work together to create transparency, share knowledge and streamline standards - by truly utilising the transfer of skills.