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Defining energy

Report Segment: Energy Definition

What do we mean by an energy sector? It cuts across several other sectors including engineering; mining; utilities and logistics. However, energy on its own, does not describe a product, process or activity; it is more a group of sectors which collectively can be said to make up the energy supply and demand chain. Of course, energy is not a new sector. Ever since people organised themselves into economic units, the consumption or production of energy has been a key concern. The industrial revolution brought energy production to the fore and showed how the mass generation of power could create a step change in productivity. More recently, there has been wide concern about sustainable sources of energy and this has brought about a refocusing on low carbon production and renewable energy, along with a kind of rebranding. Energy is now promoted as a sector which has a distinct set of skills characteristics. But if we scratch beneath the surface, one quickly finds the skills required for the sector are actually the traditional engineering and other skills which have always been important to a production oriented economy.

For example, in the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) consultation response report “Meeting the Low Carbon Skills Challenge” (December 2010), it concurs that: “Many of the skills needed to make the transition to a green economy will not be new. For example, we already know that Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) skills will be needed at all levels, in key energy and advanced manufacturing sectors and more widely across the economy, to lower carbon emissions and make better use of resources….” (page 5).

In this report, the term ‘energy sector’ is used throughout and refers to companies directly involved in energy sub sectors such as bio-fuel; nuclear or wind power, as well as those companies in the energy sector supply chain.