ENA Fringe Review: Labour conference

For immediate release - Thursday 4 October 2012

Economic growth dominated the Energy Networks Association (ENA) and New Statesman fringe event which followed immediately after the Labour leader’s speech yesterday (Tuesday 2 October). Echoes of the Labour party’s conference slogan “Rebuilding Britain” and Mr Miliband’s speech could be seen during the fringe which heard how energy infrastructure would deliver economic growth and a jobs boost as part of innovative solutions.  

Shadow Energy Minister Tom Greatrex set out the importance of energy infrastructure both for generation and networks but recognised the balance that needs to be struck with communities and also outlined how a smarter network can help:

“There needs to be investment but we must also look at a range of potential solutions. Community benefit could be seen as community ownership and incentives for communities are an important part.

“We should never underestimate the economic boost from investment and jobs from work like this. This needs to happen for climate change targets and many other reasons. Green jobs and energy jobs are skilled jobs and they are very valuable.”

He also commented on the critical role for smarter networks in addressing the infrastructure challenge. He said he "knew ENA had raised the issue with Caroline Flint (Shadow DECC Secretary)."

Steve Johnson, Chief Executive of Electricity North West and Chairman of ENA, highlighted the importance of the customer when addressing the investment challenge:

“The cost to the consumer is the defining issue. We do underground cables where it is right to do so but we must be mindful of the cost and look at better, smarter infrastructure as well as how to manage demand rather than just building bigger networks. Fuel poverty is a very real issue and we must not forget that some consumers are really struggling at the moment.”

Steve also outlined the role for SMEs saying that with the growth of small scale renewables such as solar panels, SMEs “are currently and will continue to be critical in delivering infrastructure.”

Janine Freeman, Head of UK and EU Public Affairs at National Grid outlined the “huge scale of projects” the company needed to progress to ensure society could rely on energy being there when they needed it, and stressed that the involvement of local communities is essential to delivering them:

“We need to look at how we empower people to be part of the discussion. We’re delighted to be working alongside organisations like CPRE because we are relying on them to highlight important concerns. There are costs and benefits associated with infrastructure and it is important that we understand both side of the equation.

“The impact of pylons and infrastructure is something we take very seriously at National Grid, and there are tough decisions for society to make. Although the cost is the challenge, securing our energy future will also provide the opportunity for growth in jobs and the economy.”

Shaun Spiers, Chief Executive of CPRE, commented on the importance of engaging with communities to ensure integrity of consultation:

“We commend National Grid for their engagement in recent years and they have made a great start in the debate, but we would like to see continued pressure from regulators and government to establish a clear strategic future for energy infrastructure.”

“We believe that all new infrastructure in areas of outstanding natural beauty and National Parks should be undergrounded. The question is about reframing the debate to ensure more is done to bring about demand reduction, smart grids and storage.”

ENA’s Conservative fringe event will hear from new Energy Minister John Hayes MP on Monday 8 October from 12.30 - 2.00pm in the Jury’s Inn hotel in Birmingham.

ENDS

ENA represents the ‘wires and pipes’ transmission and distribution network operators for gas and electricity in the UK and Ireland.

For further information please contact:

Tim Field MCIPR,
Head of Press and Public Affairs
Energy Networks Association
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