With the COP26 presidency still sat with us, the UK Government is keen to maintain its leadership position, Madano’s Energy team provides advice to some of the most exciting energy projects from Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and nuclear through to solar and wind. Our team is focused on connecting projects to the most influential stakeholders supporting the UK’s net zero and levelling up agendas. Looking ahead to 2022, here are some of our predictions about trends and opportunities within the energy sector:
1) Will SMRs start to happen, or will fusion make the grade?
With Hinkley Point C, Sizewell C and even Bradwell B securing sizeable column inches in recent years, Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) have always been seen as exciting, but something for tomorrow. However, will Qatari investment to the tune of £80m coming into the Rolls Royce consortium be enough to progress to the next phase of supply chain readiness and site selection? They had better get a move on with a number of exciting fusion companies that are hoping 2022 will be the year to recreate the sun and limitless clean energy.
2) Do people really understand what Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) is?
Our Energy practice has witnessed varying levels of understanding of CCS in 2021 – from being compared to nuclear geological storage and explained using chocolate biscuits and mugs of tea. There is a need for companies to communicate what CCS means for net zero more clearly. Part of this will be to look past transporting CO2 relatively short distances to geological storage sites and understanding how emitters that aren’t close to storage sites can harness this technology, maybe by boat or truck.
3) Will we have the honest debate about the need for oil and gas?
We saw in recent weeks that the Cambo oil field has been vaunted as a massive win for environmental campaigners, but equally we have seen the Faroe Islands double down on new exploration. With the wrangles around Nord Stream 2 and Russian exports from Yamal, we are still going to be using considerable volumes of oil and gas in our daily lives through to 2050. With the electrification of platforms starting to come forward, there does need to be an honest debate around our longer-term dependency on hydrocarbons and where Direct Air Capture or nature-based solutions can offset our needs.
4) Low Carbon Hydrogen
Ever increasing hype around the potential for hydrogen was seen in 2021 with major investments and dedicated funds launched to promote innovation and investment. More will be unveiled in 2022, as the UK Government looks to publish its draft Heads of Terms for the forthcoming Hydrogen Business Models in Q1-2, and it has already begun the process engaging with end-users to support the development and scaling up of hydrogen technologies. Industry will continue to match and even exceed the Government’s ambitions in this sector, with trade associations like Hydrogen UK, supported by Madano, serving to support key departments to move from strategic thinking to deeper work with the sector to deliver a fully-fledged value chain.
5) Will we see a moratorium on new energy from waste facilities?
Energy from waste assets is seen as highly valuable. With money flowing in from private equity and pension funds, the sector is now mobilising around carbon capture and storage technologies. However, there is ever increasing pressure on the thermal treatment of waste, and its perceived impact on recycling rates. Wales has come out with their own moratorium on large, new scale EfWs to curb development appetite. Further parliamentary debates have asked the same question and now an open letter has been signed with cross-party support. Future proposals will need to be equipped with a clear narrative and be compatible with net zero ambitions.
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Andrew Turner, Associate Director in Madano’s Energy practice, shares his thoughts ahead of COP26. With the Conference finally here, hoards descending upon Glasgow, Greta Thunberg being greeted like a celebrity and the start of the dialogue, it is now time to see what ‘meaningful and effective’ (unsure what this is in Italian/G20 thinking) discussions and commitments (if any) will come from the largest international gathering since before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Staying relevant in the energy transition
However, one question keeps bugging me. In our race to Net Zero and the climate change commitments, can we really turn our backs on the past? Ben van Beurden’s comments were stark last week commenting that Shell ‘would not have been welcome’ in Glasgow. Whether we like it or not, Shell is one of the key influencers in the UK’s and global energy sector. Would you want your football team to play their cup final without their one of the most influential players?
We have seen the Global Investment Summit bring together exciting technologies, such as fusion, fuel cell and sustainable aviation innovators (all projects we support at Madano) seeking capital to progress along their development pathways. But with natural gas still making up a significant percentage of our energy system, and likely to do so for decades to come, we still need to look at the role oil and gas majors can play in low carbon transition.
Shell have focused on CCS; BP are a leading presence in the East Coast decarbonisation cluster and are setting 2050 net zero targets and Total have rebranded to the technicolour-dream-coat of TotalEnergies in a bid to communicate their commitment to change. We should not be afraid to acknowledge that the Net Zero, or our orderly transition as it is sometimes known, will be A) expensive B) hard work C) involve oil and gas and coal too, especially in the developing world. We can’t simply reinvent out way to a low carbon transition.
Accepting that we can’t forget the past
When we talk about ‘difficult choices’ we see the COP26 President Alok Sharma finding it ‘difficult’ to commit either way on Andrew Marr. We know that there will be changes to our lifestyles – whether that be subtle comments about eating less meat, or increases in taxes for long-haul flights. Things are changing.
The deeper communications issue for me, is the reality that every day we use oil and gas. Whether we like it or not, oil and gas underpins all our activity. We can’t drive our cars, drink a bottle of water or work on our laptops without it. Hydrocarbons play a key role in our society, however, this is not communicated clearly enough by organisations, individuals, and governments. Sure, there can be eye catching headlines from the PM about plastic recycling not working. Focusing exclusively on wind farms, battery plants and fusion distracts from key issues, such as where the oil and gas is going to come from to sustain our lifestyles and how we can ensure this is as low carbon as possible.
The central challenge is how we transition away from these sources of energy, as quickly as possible, but recognising some industries cannot simply be electrified at the flip of a switch. Project narratives and communications plans need to acknowledge the energy mix, today, tomorrow and in the decades to 2050. Stakeholders, whether that be investors, communities or the media are demanding more and more information to make their own decisions about how investments today will impact balance sheets and dividends in our Net Zero society.
What to expect from Glasgow?
We have already seen strong language from the PM around the clock ticking to midnight, Prince Charles coming to the table and Glasgow being the ‘best, last hope’ to hit our 1.5-degree ambition. The UK ranks 5th in the league table for cumulative carbon emissions and this means we have a sizeable role to play in supporting global decarbonisation. One of the core pillars of this COP is to increase financial support for the developing world to deliver $100bn climate financing a year alongside greater collaboration.
Looking closer to home, big issues like Cambo or continuation of hydrocarbon production will not be resolved this week, but with organisations calling for quicker and more transformational change to Net Zero we must recognise that our lifestyles can’t be left behind.
Madano Energy practice advises clients in the energy transition, infrastructure, and development sectors to shape their narrative, engage with Government and stakeholders and to communicate their objectives in creative and impactful ways. If you would like to speak to the author, Andrew Turner, or a member of the team, please contact us: MadanoEnergyPractice@madano.com.
Photo Credit: Markus Spiske on Unsplash
The UK Hydrogen Strategy provides a welcome route map for the sector but there’s still much more work to be done
August was a big month for the hydrogen industry with the long-awaited publication of the UK ‘s first ever Hydrogen Strategy.
The strategy showed how far the industry has come in convincing policymakers about the potential benefits of hydrogen within a very short time. It set out a clear direction of travel, with policy commitments set to unlock over £4 billion in investment and create thousands of jobs by the end of the decade. The government will support multiple technologies by taking a twin track approach to ‘green’ hydrogen, produced by using electrolysers powered with renewable energy, and ‘blue’ hydrogen production, enabled by carbon capture processes. The strategy contained funding options for hydrogen projects across the supply chain, including a £240 million Net Zero Hydrogen Fund, and a “preferred Hydrogen Business Model” will be designed to overcome the cost gap between low- carbon hydrogen and fossil fuels.
Still, the industry’s journey is far from over. Before the policy framework is finalised, there will be formal consultations on the preferred Hydrogen Business Model and the Net Zero Hydrogen Fund, as well as a ‘UK Low Carbon Hydrogen Standard’ and a hydrogen production strategy. A decision on using hydrogen for home heating has been put off until 2026. And the 5GW target may yet be increased. These provide the industry with a big opportunity to shape government policies on hydrogen. Government and the industry will need to work together to deliver the policies needed to support innovation, boost investment, and scale up low-carbon hydrogen in the 2020s.
The Hydrogen Strategy highlighted another, parallel challenge: the need for both the industry and government to look beyond Whitehall to achieve these goals. Local authorities will be important in ensuring adoption of hydrogen at the local level. The supply chain will need to scale up and reskill the hydrogen sector. And of course, public buy-in will ultimately be needed. The sector is increasingly aware of these imperatives and the government’s strategy contained a welcome commitment to work with industry, trade unions, the devolved administrations, local authorities, and enterprise agencies to support sustained and quality jobs.
Both industry and government seem to have their work cut out. Research over recent years has found that public knowledge of hydrogen and hydrogen blending is low. Likewise, many local authorities appear to have a limited appreciation of hydrogen, its potential and applications.
There is, however, a growing level of interest and debate around the role of hydrogen in delivering net zero and creating a prosperous economy. For instance, in the ten days following the launch of the Hydrogen Strategy, it was the subject of more than 440 articles in leading UK publications, a jump of more than 350 per cent on the previous ten-day period. While most of these articles appeared on 17 August, the day of the strategy’s publication, there was a steady drumbeat of coverage and commentary afterwards, with around 20 articles about the strategy appearing per day.
With key policies still to be finalised, important audiences yet to be informed and convinced about hydrogen’s potential, and a media that is becoming more interested, the hydrogen industry has big challenges ahead – and a great deal to play for.
On Tuesday 7 September, the Hydrogen Taskforce, a coalition of the industry’s largest organisations, will launch a major campaign to show how hydrogen can play a leading role in accelerating the UK’s journey towards net zero. The Building a Hydrogen Society campaign will showcase the many benefits for local communities of applying hydrogen in running public transport, powering our industries.
By Neil Stockley, Director of the Energy team. Madano advises clients across the Energy sector, if you’re interested in learning more, please contact: MadanoEnergyPractice@madano.com
Strategic communications and insights consultancy Madano has appointed Neil Stockley as a Director in its growing Energy practice.
Drawing on a wealth of political and communications consultancy experience, gained right across the energy sector, Neil will provide senior counsel to Madano’s range of clients in the low-carbon and clean energy space. He previously served in Director roles at Bell Pottinger and MHP following his tenure as Director of Policy for the Liberal Democrats.
Commenting on his new position, Neil said: “This is an exciting and challenging time for the energy sector, with the drive to net-zero emissions, and Madano is supporting some of the most exciting innovators who are at the heart of the energy transition. I’m looking forward to working with our clients to help shape the future of the industry.”
Michael Evans, Managing Partner at Madano, said of Neil’s appointment: “For more than two decades, Neil has helped organisations across the energy sector overcome policy, regulatory and political challenges in the context of the increasing drive towards decarbonisation. His expertise will only serve to improve the Energy practice’s offering and contribute to Madano’s sustained growth.”
Madano’s Energy practice provides specialist communications support to companies and organisations in the energy and environment sectors, with a focus on the low-carbon economy and clean energy sector. The practice’s deep and long-standing expertise helps clients make sense of industry developments by tracking emerging government policy, managing media sentiment, overseeing campaign delivery and engaging with key stakeholders.
Alongside a Budget that focused heavily on the immediate actions required to return to growth and respond to the economic impacts of Covid-19, the Government published Build Back Better, its plan for growth, a new economic strategy for the post-Brexit, post-pandemic world with technology, net zero and innovation at its heart.
Autumn’s Comprehensive Spending Review will still be significant in putting this to work longer term, but Build Back Better makes clear that today’s Budget, and recent announcements such as the £800m ARIA and the Green Industrial Revolution, are part of a bigger picture for the Government. Its three pillars are infrastructure, skills and innovation. New strategies expected over the next year, such as a Hydrogen Strategy, Innovation Strategy, a Transport Decarbonisation Strategy, and Digital Strategy, will all connect back to Build Back Better.
It aims to build a connecting economic narrative for the future of the UK, with leadership in science and innovation, and the transition to net zero, all creating transformative changes in productivity and quality of life in regions across the country.
Our highlights included:
- The new Future Fund: Breakthrough, a £375m public-private fund to invest in promising, R&D-intensive companies ready to scale up with equity rounds of over £20m, showing Government’s seriousness about a greater appetite for risk and supporting companies directly.
- The launch of the new National Infrastructure Bank, expected to deliver £12bn in public and sector project investment from Spring onwards and drive forward new net zero projects.
- Freeports, eight new economic zones spread across nearly every region, with special regulatory, development and taxation rules to incentivise high-tech investment.
- Several commitments on green finance, including a change to the Bank of England’s remit to include environmental sustainability, and new green savings products and bonds.
Levelling up remains a key focus. Alongside freeports, the location of the new National Infrastructure Bank in Leeds and the Treasury’s new Darlington hub make that abundantly clear.
Undoubtedly, the focus today will be on measures taken by the Chancellor to safeguard the economy as the UK travels on the roadmap towards the end of COVID-19 restrictions. But today’s Build Back Better plan demonstrates that when the Conservatives go to the electorate at the end of this Parliament, they will be expecting to do so having established a more productive economy that leads in innovative industries, and is making strides towards a lower carbon energy system.
Strategic communications and insights consultancy Madano today announced that it has been chosen by Ceres Power for an integrated communications brief, advising the fuel cell technology firm on external communications, public affairs, digital and social media.
Ceres Power is an innovative fuel cell and engineering company based in Horsham, U.K., aiming to bring cleaner and cheaper energy to businesses, homes and vehicles. Last year, the company announced partnerships with Doosan, Bosch and AVL which will significantly scale-up the deployment of its solid oxide fuel cell technology in key markets around the world.
Madano will be working with Ceres Power to improve awareness among key stakeholders in the media, government and beyond of the company’s recent impressive progress and the contribution it can make towards achieving net-zero goals.
Michael Evans, Managing Partner, Madano, commented: “This is the latest in a series of exciting integrated comms briefs landed by our energy and environment practice, reflecting Madano’s desire to support companies who are shaping the future. Ceres Power is a groundbreaking energy technology company whose purpose dovetails with one of the consultancy’s main objectives – to sustain a clean, green planet by ensuring there is clean energy available throughout the world.”
Phil Caldwell, CEO, Ceres Power, added: “The growth opportunities for our business in 2021 are clear. Many countries have placed decarbonisation at the centre of their plans for economic recovery after COVID-19, and we’ve seen significant investment in hydrogen and industrial decarbonisation announced in Germany, South Korea, Japan and the UK, to name a few. Our partnership with Madano will help us to raise awareness among key audiences of the role our SteelCell® technology can play in driving decarbonisation forward globally.”
Madano is committed to building a better world through intelligent and creative communications. We work with clients who are seeking to solve some of the world’s major challenges through science, technology and engineering, helping them tell their story, make the right connections, change attitudes and influence behaviours. Established in 2004, Madano is an AVENIR GLOBAL company.
*Story first published on PR Week.