As the Cadent Network Director for our East Network, I am ultimately responsible for the four million homes and businesses connected to the gas distribution network across East Anglia, the East Midlands and South Yorkshire.
My job is to look after our network of over 50,000km of gas distribution pipes across the Cadent East region, ensuring everyone connected to gas for heating, cooking and business uses enjoys a safe and secure flow of gas, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Much of the work Cadent does goes unnoticed – and rightly so. I don’t want you to have to think about the network of gas pipes under your feet. Usually most people only come across Cadent (which you might have heard of under our old name, National Grid Gas Distribution) when there is something happening in the network; either a gas leak, or we are digging up a road to repair and improve the gas distribution system.
However, as the UK starts to emerge from the worst of COVID19, and we start to face the potential of one of the largest recessions in any of our lifetimes, I want to stake a claim for Cadent to play a role in delivering the economic recovery which our country desperately needs. For once, I do want you to think about the gas pipes under your feet.
In our East Network, Cadent employs about 2,500 staff and contractors. These people are responsible for operating, maintaining, repairing and upgrading a network which guarantees, for most people reading this, that when you switch on your central heating your home becomes warm. And when you turn your hot tap on, hot water comes out.
We take people of all ages and backgrounds, from school leaving apprentices at age 16, through to graduates, people looking to retrain and ex-service personnel.
I joined what is now Cadent as an apprentice after leaving school, and looking back, what I reflect on the most is the opportunities working in the gas industry gives. The industry took me, a recent school leaver, equipped me with key skills, supported me to study engineering in my 20s, and then attend university in my 40s, and helped me enjoy a successful and rewarding career.
This is the kind of opportunity I want people from across East Anglia, the East Midlands and South Yorkshire to enjoy.
But the gas industry faces a challenge. With the move towards Net Zero carbon emissions – a move I, and Cadent, support – decisions now need to be made about the future of the gas network.
Cadent’s vision is one where we transport green gases like hydrogen and biomethane to homes and businesses, meaning the Cadent East network plays a major role in creating a better and cleaner environment for everyone. That is a vision where the thousands of jobs Cadent offers across South Yorkshire, the East Midlands and East Anglia are protected – and the next generation have a chance to enjoy the career opportunities I, and many others, have.
However to get to that vision, and to support our country’s recovery from COVID19, politicians, civil society and the gas industry need to keep working together to agree what a Net Zero emissions UK actually looks like – and what role the gas distribution network has in that future.
Cadent’s East Network is ready to play its part. Be it injecting environmentally friendly biomethane in East Anglia, supporting biogas fuelled vehicles in the East Midlands or assisting the development of a hydrogen strategy for South Yorkshire, we are already at the cutting edge of developing next generation gas technologies – and we stand ready to do much more, when we get certainty from Government about their future energy plans.
So let’s have the gas distribution network play a real role in supporting the COVID19 economic recovery, whilst making sure the next generations have the chance to enjoy the thousands of great career opportunities our industry offers across East Anglia, the East Midlands and South Yorkshire. And let’s do that whilst building a cleaner, greener planet.