Supporting the energy transition on the road to net-zero

October 8, 2021

With an impressive career spanning over 25 years at Siemens and more latterly Siemens Energy, Wesley Tivnen tells us about his new role as decarbonisation lead for the UK and Ireland.

It’s hard to believe that way back in 1996 at the ripe old age of 17, I started my career as an apprentice at Siemens in Newcastle. Having now been with the business for over 25 years, I’ve enjoyed many great roles and had the opportunity to work on projects that have taken me to places near and far including Baghdad, South Korea, and Berlin to name but a few.

(That distinct smell of warm machine oil from the factory in Berlin is still firmly etched on my mind!)

It’s fair to say that starting my career as an apprentice provided a great foundation in the business and taught me many lessons I’ve since taken into subsequent
roles. Learning about different technology, providing technical and commercial support to teams out in the field, building customer relationships, developing new business opportunities, and securing some great friendships along the way have been some of my many highlights. Full of opportunity and never a company to let you stand still, I have also been lucky enough to have had several operational, project management and leadership roles before landing my latest challenge as Decarbonisation Lead for UK and Ireland.

And as a new chapter dawns, I’m incredibly excited about this role. Why? Well, the energy transition is an increasingly big focus, not just in the UK but globally,
as we work towards net zero and limit the worst effects of climate change. So, knowing my new role focuses on moving to a more sustainable energy supply is something I’m super passionate about.

For Siemens Energy decarbonisation is about two challenges that go hand-in-hand. Firstly, helping to meet increasing global energy demands: we need more energy to power homes, businesses, industry, and infrastructure.

And, secondly, we know demand for reliable energy will continue to grow over the next 50 years – it is estimated that around 800 million people still don’t have access to a reliable electricity supply. But, at the same time we need to meet this need sustainably. In a nutshell we need to keep the lights on, but in a way that emits less and eventually no carbon.

In the UK, the Government has placed a huge focus on achieving net-zero by 2050 – with some important interim targets en route – and we aim to support this in every way we can. Not just by developing new technology, such as our work on alternative fuels like green hydrogen or working with partners on CCUS (carbon capture, utilisation, and storage) but also to practice what we preach. This means minimising our own carbon footprint by transforming our business operations and processes.

Being involved early on presents an incredible opportunity to make a positive difference to our future energy sector. I love the idea of being able to help a market grow and become successful, so this is just one of the reasons the current role appealed to me.

In fact, my dream for the next five years is to be part of getting our first UK green hydrogen projects up and running and then seeing the industry scaling quickly.

To give an idea of the potential, the Government’s recently published Hydrogen Strategy estimates that 20 to 35 per cent of the UK’s energy demand could be met by hydrogen by 2050, making it a key market for Siemens Energy and our customers.

Collaboration will be critical to my new role, working not only across our own organisation but with partners, Government, and customers; as will identifying key short-term and long-term opportunities for different parts of the business.

As I’ve mentioned, hydrogen – zero carbon, green hydrogen in particular – will play a significant role in achieving net-zero. However, we’re already seeing the challenges of establishing new markets. We must grow supply and demand in parallel. This will need the support of Government to help get projects off the ground to produce the hydrogen as well as supporting users to overcome the current economic challenge of using it.

Otherwise, we end up in a chicken and egg situation where we don’t have supply to meet growing demand or the growing demand to warrant supply, which we’re already seeing inhibit the growth of some companies at the forefront of the transition.

As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day and it’s because of that we must face the reality that the road to net
-zero is going to take time. We talk about the ‘energy transition’ because it’s exactly that. A transition that is different depending on where you are in the world and one also linked to other factors, like the availability of finance, Government support and available technologies.

It’s not simply a case of just switching off the lights and cutting the cord on fossil fuels, rather we must move gradually to cleaner and greener energy sources. The good news is, as a business we have a wide portfolio of products and solutions to help bridge the gap, including our electrolyser technology, which produces green hydrogen.

But anything is possible and at Siemens Energy our ethos is to be bold in our vision and to lead the change we want to see in the world. It’s summed up in our company vision, which is ‘let’s make tomorrow different, today.’ Our current Keadby 2 project, a combined-cycle gas turbine power station being built in Lincolnshire for customer SSE, is the first-time application of Siemens Energy’s most efficient SGT5-9000HL gas turbine which demonstrates just what’s possible. By helping further decarbonise the UK electricity system and provide reliable energy, this project supports the integration of more renewable energy onto the grid.

We’re taking an active role in supporting the COP26 climate change conference by lending our voice to
the conversation and taking part in many discussions on decarbonisation, future technologies, and societal topics. And, on a personal level, by urging our Government to show the leadership required to deliver on the commitments made in Paris in 2015, I’m hopeful the Glasgow conference will build upon Paris and help ensure we succeed in avoiding the worst effects of climate change.

So, while it’s clear there is a long road ahead, I firmly believe that with the right resources, support, and mindset, we can deliver the change we want to see.
It’s certainly been a long time since that first day as an apprentice back in 1996, but I believe by leading with humility, empowering, and nurturing others to reach their potential (whilst having fun along the way), we can achieve our vision of a more sustainable tomorrow.

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