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15 July, 2011 - 11:15 By News Desk

French energy firm pinpoints East of England jobs

The energy sector is big news - says EEEGR chairman Alan Barlow - and the East of England is ready to hit the headlines.

Billions of pounds worth of energy contracts, with the potential to create thousands of jobs, will be up for grabs in the East of England in the coming decade.

Alan Barlow, chairman of EEEGR (the East of England Energy Group) told over 200 delegates at their annual summer conference that he calculated £30bn worth of guaranteed business in the energy sector within 35-40 miles of the town over the next 15 years.

It was a figure he rapidly expanded as key speakers, on sectors as diverse as nuclear, bioenergy and electricity transmission, stepped forward to detail their plans for coming years.

And there was an extra buzz of anticipation when Karl John, business development director for French-based AREVA, said that the group intended to set up a wind turbine manufacturing base in the UK.

He offered no clue as to where it might be located, adding that they were still in talks with ports and other elements of the supply chain. But he said the East of England would inevitably benefit from jobs created by the operations and maintenance work needed for the giant wind farms planned off the coast.

He urged the energy supply chain to also be alert to opportunities in the nuclear new build sector. In some cases their skills could serve both.

Both Alan Barlow and EEEGR chief executive John Best were quickly on their feet to remind AREVA that the East of England met all the needs for turbine manufacture because of its vastly experienced supply chain and workforce, unparalleled collection of energy assets, prime location and established partnership working.

Chris Squires, EDF procurement manager, told the audience that it was “all systems go” for its nuclear new build plans in the UK. They were at the forefront of the sector and would immediately progress their Hinkley Point proposals - with Sizewell C scheduled three years behind it.

He said that £20bn was being invested in the two sites, each of which would have two EPR reactors. They would take seven-eight years to build and have a 70-year life followed by decommissioning, all of which would create 100 years of work spanning many generations.

Throughout, they intended to use local businesses wherever possible and the opportunities were widespread with 80 per cent of the work not directly nuclear related.

Julian Leslie, electricity customer manager for the National Grid, also promised massive investment in transmission infrastructure in the region to ensure that all channels of new power being generated could be moved around.

“Around 20 per cent of future generation will be in the East of England and we are investing £1bn in upgrading the connections,” he said.

The eastern region should be prepared to see more overhead power lines and substations. But the National Grid’s aim for an integrated offshore transmission network would mean less cabling, fewer coastal landing points on the coast, an easier route to market and less onshore infrastructure.

The conference, sponsored by ASCO and GSP Offshore, took place at Great Yarmouth Racecourse.

• Photograph: The energy sector is big news - says EEEGR chairman Alan Barlow - and the East of England is ready to hit the headlines.

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