UK National Grid boss frets about infrastructure issues

The Chief Executive Officer of the UK National Grid has told a gathering of power sector executives that the industry needs to do much more to communicate with the general public, and address a growing skills shortage.

Steve Holliday was speaking at Marketforce’s “The Future of Utilities” when he made his comments.

The National Grid chief said that Scotland was ahead of the rest of the UK when it came to consulting with the public and creating a sympathetic understanding for the essential need for development of the country’s power networks.

“Scotland has made a lot more progress. To Alex Salmond’s credit, there is a dialogue at a more advanced stage there about infrastructure than we have down south at the moment. Public acceptability is a huge issue.”

“We’ve not really articulated as an industry or a government the need case of what clean energy is all about and why we need to build a new network. So the construction of lines is very difficult. We need the public to understand this is important if we are to enjoy the benefits of power into the future.”

Despite what he called ‘problematic guidelines’, Mr Holliday was more positive about the changes to the planning bill in recent years and said that bill regulation and available finance had made the process easier.

However he was less optimistic about the skills shortage present in the country, and pointed out the alarming lack of graduates in science, engineering and maths.

“I worry about skills enormously. The average age of our workforce is 44. The average of physical work is 48. Half will retire over the next decade.”

“We have had to import a frightening number from the EU for 75 per cent of the skilled work. That can’t be right. We need 2,500 engineers in the next six years. We need to get kids to keep up physics at A-Level.”

“The UK is so much far behind our friends on the continent and it’s something we should all be concerned about.”

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