Paul Yates

UK & Europe

Paul is a client director for the Energy Market, with a primary focus on renewables, generation, waste to energy and networks. He is passionate about finding new ways to reduce carbon and increase resilience in energy supply.He is a key interface with our Energy business and engages with clients and colleagues to bring ideas to life. He brings the full range of Atkins’ capability to any client project, generating new ways of moving them forward, identifying and managing out risk and innovating in  project development, from initial concept through to design and delivery. He is a Chartered Environmentalist and a member of the Institutes of Environmental Management and Acoustics.

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It generally comes from large generating stations of various types and is delivered to us through the National Grid. But the landscape is changing, devolving, localising, which presents the regions, and the North of England in particular, with a golden opportunity to shape it for the future.

The population and demographic in the North’s towns and cities will continue to evolve, as will the demand for skills and the modes of transport people will use to get to their place of work. Major infrastructure, including inter-city projects such as HS2 and HS3 (linking the cities of the North), new road links and new nuclear power stations, will drive some of this change and the need for people and skills. Ways of working are also changing as more people use technology to enable their daily lives. And mobility will change and become more intelligent within cities. On top of this we have devolution.

With its long history of manufacturing and innovation in industry, the North already has a great foundation from which to build. It has been home to several nuclear power stations for decades, with new facilities in the pipeline, and has seen rapidly–developing, large-scale offshore wind in the North Sea and Irish Sea. Its deep water ports allow the region to service the offshore oil and gas and renewable industries, and are ideally located on the East coast to service future carbon capture and storage. There’s also a potential tidal lagoon off the Cumbrian coast, and the region has the people and skills to build, operate and maintain these facilities.

Through the grid, the power generated in the North can be used anywhere. But how could the North capture the benefits? Perhaps this can come from consideration of energy use and ownership of supply. Local low carbon generation linked to local distribution networks could provide additional resilience, and this will also add economic opportunity in construction and operation. If we align this with the long term change in demand for people and skills, upcoming major infrastructure and changes through technology in how and where we work, it starts to look like we have a strategy for energy that can be lower carbon, can give greater local control and is more shaped to meet future changes in demand, particularly when storage to buffer large scale generation is added to the mix.

Atkins is working with IPPR North and other partners to help develop this strategy for the North. This will inform policy makers on future investment and devolution in energy policy. It will also help to shape policy around the wider infrastructure the North will need in the future. This is a great time for the North to grab this opportunity to shape its own low carbon, resilient energy future.

UK & Europe,

So, what’s the energy challenge?

News stories about the UK “energy gap” are widespread. According to the government, bill payers are reluctant to subsidise low carbon forms of energy such as onshore wind and biomass, but what are the other options? The coal fleet will close by 2025. Carbon capture and storage has been kicked into the long grass. Nobody wants waste incinerators in their back yard, despite them being a clean, low carbon technology. Very few new gas fired power stations are being built (and they don’t count as low carbon anyway). Taking all these points into consideration you might think we are in serious trouble. Not quite…

In recent years there have been a number of advancements by those working in the energy sector and where plans are being delivered at pace to create an energy hub in West Cumbria, commonly referred to as the “Energy Coast”. The region has ambitious plans to build up to 10GW of new generation capacity, all low carbon, equating to about 10% of the total UK energy demand.

There are already well-developed plans for the Moorside nuclear power station (3.4GW), and a further 600MW nuclear capacity at Sellafield. The area is also ideal for a tidal lagoon, which would generate a further 3.2GW. The offshore wind fields in the Solway Firth can be expanded to deliver a further 1.5GW. All connected to the new high voltage interconnector currently being built by National Grid. We’re also expecting to see further advances in waste to energy and local generation connected to heat networks in the region. These are all incredibly exciting opportunities for building a diverse energy mix in the Northern Powerhouse.

Ultimately, due to uncertain long term policy and strategy from government on energy, local authorities need to take the lead, and we can work in partnership with them, enabling them to deliver localised energy, such as heat distribution networks and micro-grids. This can then engender energy-led infrastructure. The outcome of this would be cities and local communities collaborating across the Northern Powerhouse to create connected, decentralised energy generation networks providing resilient low carbon energy for communities across the region. Combined with large scale generation at Cumbria’s Energy Coast, public services and bill payers will reap the benefits of a resilient and low carbon energy supply for years to come.

UK & Europe,