Community schemes in the spotlight at All-Energy

News editor

This week’s All-Energy conference and exhibition in Aberdeen has a strong focus on renewables, community schemes, fuel cells and hydrogen power

The UK’s energy landscape is set for 25 years of restructuring that will see building projects in nuclear and offshore wind, plus decommissioning activity in the nuclear and oil and gas sectors. Factor in tidal and solar and the outlook has the potential to become more alluring for those ready to supply the sector and those wanting to join it.

Last week, Nigel Spencer, director of development & quality at the Engineering Construction Industry Training Board reiterated this view when addressing students at an awards presentation of the Energy Skills Foundation Programme (ESFP) run at Lowestoft College and Great Yarmouth College.

Like any other sector, energy has a workforce that is ageing, a situation that presents young people with exceptional opportunities, should they wish to take them. 

The Engineer has dedicated thousands of column inches to skills and the best ways to encourage young people into the industry and its encouraging to read that opportunities are there, rather than not existing at all.

Certain key indicators are beginning to show that the economy is in a period of low growth and the latest Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS) Barometer today adds to the quiet confidence that is building slowly in the economy.

More on that later. In the interim, we’re back to energy and the fact that the UK has set targets to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to around 20 per cent by 2020 and 80 per cent by 2050 (based on emissions output form 1990).

Figures released last week show that levels of CO2 have reached a historic high with 400ppm being recorded above Mauna Loa in Hawaii, an indication that non-polluting sources of energy should be seen as a key element in reversing this trend.

Renewables clearly fall into this category and this week Aberdeen hosts All- Energy 2013, a two-day event with 580 exhibitors; over 320 speakers from home and overseas in the conference; and a further 60 in three show floor seminar theatres that are devoted to offshore wind, wave and tidal and business energy efficiency.

The organisers tell us that the international reach of the show is emphasised by the fact that UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) Commercial Officers and selected international buyers from up to 20 countries will be available to meet with UK companies to discuss the opportunities that exist in each of their respective markets.

In a statement Jonathan Heastie, exhibition director, Global Group Renewables and Alternative Energy of Reed Exhibitions said, ‘More sessions this year are devoted to energy for communities; and to hydrogen and fuel cells than ever before.

‘Combining the conference and seminar areas we have some 23 hours devoted to offshore wind; and over 20 hours devoted to wave and tidal topics, but with ten parallel sessions on the first day, and nine on the second we believe we have a programme that appeals to everyone with a business/professional interest in the any part of the industry whether they are a farmer looking for a solution or from an organisation interested in grid or smart cities issues, carbon capture and storage or wanting to know the latest situation on EMR and on the UK Green Investment Bank.’

Ahead of the All Energy Conference, the Carbon Trust’s Offshore Wind team is giving a background briefing on the Offshore Wind Accelerator, a collaborative RD&D project between Carbon Trust and offshore wind developers that aims to reduce the cost of offshore wind by 10 per cent.

One element of the briefing will discuss the launch of a new measurement campaign – claimed to be the most comprehensive wakes measurement initiative attempted in offshore wind, which should lead to better wind farm layouts to improve yields, and more accurate yield estimates to reduce financing costs.

In the wider economy, a recent economic forecast from the CBI said that the UK economy will continue to grow throughout this year, with GDP growth expected to pick up in 2014. The same organization published its SME Trends survey on May 7, saying that firms are expecting orders and output to grow in the next quarter.

This cautious optimism, in England at least, is reflected in today’s Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS) Barometer, which reveals 64 per cent of companies expecting to increase sales over the next six months.

The second MAS Barometer of 2013 collected responses from 700 manufacturing SMEs across England, providing an overview of economic conditions and issues faced by the sector from January to March this year.

Nearly half (47 per cent) of the firms who responded reporting a rise in sales turnover (+4 per cent on the previous quarter), whilst 93 per cent of manufacturers are looking to take staff on or keep workforce levels the same.

Over a third (39 per cent) are planning to boost spending on new technologies and 48 per cent intending to invest in new machinery and premises – both 4 per cent up on the same period last year.

Finally, Aston Business School is hosting a so-called ‘servitisation summit’ on Wednesday, a two day event concentrating on ‘the process of manufacturers developing new services based on their existing use of technology, and offering these services in tandem with their current product offerings.’

The organizers believe the event will ‘give an insight into manufacturers that lead through their advanced services, examining their strategies and explaining the challenges and benefits these services deliver.’

Its interesting to note that Rolls-Royce aero engines set great store by TotalCare packages, which include predictive maintenance planning, workscope creation and management, and all off wing repair and overhaul activities.

In their 2012 financial results the company highlights the combined sales of 80 Trent 700, 900, 1000 and XWB engines, all of which come with a TotalCare package.

With $800bn worth of new engines forecast in the civil aerospace market in the next 20 years, servitisation clearly has a place in contract negotiations.