Dong Energy's new MD wants the Humber to lead on next stage of green dream

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 18 Jul 2017

WORLD leading offshore wind developer Dong Energy is looking to lead a new 'energy paradigm' – from the Humber.

The Danish giant’s new UK managing director has outlined ambitious plans to be at the forefront of storage and distribution of clean, green electricity as the critical mass of generation keeps building.

Huge academic projects are about to begin, honing innovation from operations and maintenance developed in Grimsby, while bringing new skills to the table, as it seeks to make renewables – a huge variable – much more of a constant.

Matthew Wright has arrived from the ever-present utility of water, taking over as the head of Dong in Britain from Brent Cheshire, outgoing chairman.

And, he told how he believes the business can grow on the back of generation.

Mr Wright, who welcomed Grimsby’s 1GW milestone passing this past month, said: “We are generating – from offshore wind – more than 50 per cent of the time, that’s not far off base load generators, but we need dispatchable energy, for when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining. We need to provide some kind of storage technology and capitalise on that performance. “The rise of electric vehicles and battery technology is going to go massive.”

Across Britain, off Liverpool, a modest 2MW storage system is being introduced at Burbo Bank, in what is another first for Dong, and it comes as major delivery partner Siemens announced it is to join forces with AES Energy in the US to launch Fluence, to provide a “full suite of energy storage solutions”.

Mr Wright said: “Where power makes it onshore, that’s where the battery is going in, that could equally be the case here, but storage is going to be everywhere, we’re envisaging millions of batteries. That’s where the National Grid, and the way in which we work in this country, is going to have to change. Small scale generation, battery storage everywhere, and the Grid needs to respond to that and get with it.

“Technology is changing and with that we need to develop, we can see where it is going. We need to be a leader in storage and smarter generation, and in the whole system. It is something I very, very much look forward to starting to spearhead in the UK. It is something linking to the Industrial Strategy, very much central to that. How can you not leverage this position we now have? We are leading the world in construction of offshore wind, we have seen growth in that sector and the supply chain to support that. How does the UK hold on to that position when the rest of the world realises what a fantastic opportunity this is?

“It is part of my world now, not just to build the operations and maintenance business – where this is a natural home for it, where the resources are sitting offshore here – but how we also make the Humber the Energy Estuary at the centre of innovation, the invention side of the offshore wind and work on green integrated energy systems.

“It doesn’t just become about several hundreds of jobs which are vitally important for the whole term of operations and maintenance, but it is about how does it become the innovation centre for a new energy paradigm.

“If we can leverage this lead we now have in the UK that will further help this region, and it is in line with Industrial Strategy, growing emerging technology and by not being in he South East of England.

“It stems from the benefits we have in operations and maintenance, the leadership roles, the innovation roles, in the North East and North West, it is a good thing and a positive thing, I am sure.

“We can go from strength to strength and evolve, not just for operations and maintenance, our role is bigger as we get bigger. That is then a platform to take it global.

“The whole Energy Estuary should benefit from being a leader, being a cluster for a new energy paradigm.”

While the Danish giant is playing a leading role, along with turbine provider Siemens sponsoring major academic works across three universities, there is still a role required of Government too.

“There is a challenge around how electricity can be really, really cheap, but yet we still need a market to supply into.

“Investment of this scale needs to have guarantees around return. The decision will be less and less about subsidy and more about guarantees of capacity being paid for. Whether that is a different form to CfD (Contracts for Difference – the current auction-based subsidy rounds), whether it is a merger with capacity market deals (where contracts are issued to generators such as South Humber Bank gas-fired power station at Stallingborough), there still does need some support to allow this.”

Despite now waving goodbye to the Humber bank for some relaxing fishing banks, Mr Cheshire remains completely enthused by the concept.

“I think this is absolutely the right time and the right place,” he said. “It is about seizing the opportunity, and something that has to be done quite quickly. I am sure we can make sure we capitalise in the UK and get the benefit.

“I am hugely encouraged with how this recent bid with Hull, Durham and Sheffield (universities) has been successful, for research and development. The main industry sponsors are Dong and Siemens.

“The University of Hull’s Project Aura embraces Grimsby, we have got that innovation hub, and we are going to see quite a lot with the university south of the river, through Catch, through all sorts of things. This whole region could really benefit, and that’s why I am so pleased how Grimsby is operating.”


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