Prospect delegates backed an important motion on the future of the UK’s energy industry at its conference in Birmingham.
The motion, proposed by the union’s national executive committee, calls for:
- an energy commission to set the long-term direction of the industry
- investment in a national skills programme, and
- more spending on energy research.
Opening the debate on behalf of the NEC, Gary Swift (Magnox Nuclear) said: “The energy sector is undergoing major changes. The way we produce, distribute and store energy has all changed.”
He pointed out that 95% of those who replied to a Prospect survey on energy last year supported a balanced energy policy.
A majority of respondents also wanted Prospect to campaign for active steps to mitigate the effect of Brexit on energy, including securing a close association with Euratom – the European atomic energy community.
Members also raised the skills crisis facing the industry as many highly skilled staff reach retirement.
Gary said the motion represented: “A balanced sustainable energy policy for us and for future generations.”
Trevor Sperring (EDF) said Prospect should promote nuclear as part of UK energy policy, support new nuclear new build, campaign for more research into nuclear and make sure the UK has the skilled engineers and professionals it needs to support this work.
Celia Hutchinson (BECTU Media City and North west branch) argued that the UK should move away from nuclear power and transfer skilled roles to the renewables sector. “It is about the future of energy in the UK and what we are saying about it,” she said.
Neil Thomson (Scottish and Southern Energy) also supported the motion saying there was a lack of public debate on energy policy. Where there was debate, it mainly focused on the cost to consumers.
“The debate does not address the fundamentals of a balanced energy policy, for example voltage control,” he said.
Thomson backed the establishment of an independent energy commission that would focus on long term policy and the integration of renewables into existing transmission infrastructure.
“The security of a vital utility to modern society is too important to sit in the hands of politicians,” Thomson concluded.
Morag Livingstone (BECTU writers, producers and directors) recently made a film about the industrial dispute at the Grangemouth refinery in 2013. She highlighted the issue of the public and private ownership in the energy industry, in particular the recent sale of the North Sea Forties pipeline.
Gary Swift emphasised that the motion was about a balanced and coherent energy policy involving both nuclear and renewables alongside other types of energy generation.