Dawning of a New Era for the North; Mining and Marine Engineering Helped Shape the North East Story and It Is from These Two Bedrocks That Much of Our Future Prosperity Could Be Carved, Writes PETER McCUSKER

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Byline: PETER McCUSKER

FROM the Durham coalfields to the shipyards and oil rig fabricators and on to the renewables industry, the North East's role in the UK's energy industry is unrivalled.

Two hundred years ago North East coal left the region's rivers, on ships built nearby, to help fuel a global industrial revolution and provide jobs for hundreds of thousands of people in the area.

More recently the first North Sea oil rig was constructed on Tyneside, using the skills passed down through generations of shipyard workers, and almost three-quarters of its 400 rigs originate from the region.

And now we stand at the dawning of another potential golden energy era for the North East - one which could create 40,000 jobs over the coming years.

Over PS200bn is set to be invested in the UK oil and gas, offshore wind and emerging energy industries over the next decade, as well as several hundred billion more across the globe.

The challenge for the region's businesses, stakeholders, politicians and advisers is to ensure the region can make the most of this opportunity.

But Government indecision is said to be holding back renewable investment and competition from Scotland and Humberside is proving fierce.

And more needs to be done to encourage youngsters into careers in engineering and related disciplines.

Alex Dawson, chairman of Energi Coast, the recently-established body created to drive the region's offshore wind industry forward, said: "There is no denying the role the region's industrial heritage has played in the continuing growth and global success of the North East energy sector supply chain.

"In particular, on the back of the shipbuilding and heavy engineering revolutions of the 19th and 20th Centuries, the region established its world-renowned oil and gas supply chain, which continues to lead the way through its technology, innovation and skilled workforce.

"As the ship-building industry offered the foundation for the oil and gas sector, the region's hydrocarbon supply chain has provided a springboard for the establishment of a supply chain for the emerging offshore renewables sector."

Andrew Davison, a partner at Newcastle law firm Muckle, who heads its energy team, said: "This region has a history of building things using metal, and inventing things.

"These skills go back to Victorian times and have proved to be ideal for the offshore oil and gas industry and are potentially ideal for the offshore wind industry.

"For example, the skills that were used by the teams who previously designed the ships for which the region was famous, the intricate pipework and so on, are now designing complex structures for the offshore oil and gas industry.

"These skills have survived in the region and are being passed on to new generations. …