DESNZ set to open second headquarters in Aberdeen

The UK Government will open a second headquarters for the Department of Energy Security and Net-Zero (DESNZ) in Aberdeen, bringing staff closer to Scotland’s oil and gas and offshore wind sectors.

DESNZ set to open second headquarters in Aberdeen

Pictured: The River Dee in Aberdeen

Ministers confirmed the decision today (12 December) and there is not yet an indication of when the location will be open and operational.

In a statement, the UK Government said the decision was taken to “further strengthen the Union” and to “place key decision-making roles in every corner of the UK”.

Also taken into account was £90m of funding from Westminster already promised for the development of a technology centre in Aberdeen, with a focus on reducing operational emissions from Scotland’s oil and gas production, plus the North Sea Transition Deal and Offshore Wind Sector Deal.

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said the decision“ demonstrates clearly the UK Government’s commitment to the North East of Scotland and to our oil and gas and renewables sectors”.

Jack added that both of these industries “have a vital role in ensuring our energy security and assisting with our transition to net-zero”.

Energy Minister Andrew Bowie reiterated this, stating: “An Aberdeen base puts those working in the Department closer to those working in the crucial oil gas and renewables industries – both the companies and the tens of thousands of their workers who play a vital role in our energy supply – and I am delighted to see this happen.”

Energy transition?

DESNZ was only created in February, when Prime Minister Rishi Sunak opted to split the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) into DESNZ and the new Department for Business and Trade.

DESNZ has, since its inception, towed the Government line on expanding the Conservative Party’s preferred technology options for the energy transition. The Party has historically shown little support for onshore wind and has only recently agreed to strategically scale solar. Instead, it favours offshore wind, nuclear and oil and gas.

Sunak and his team have increasingly sought to distance themselves from opposition parties by standing firmly behind plans to expand oil and gas production in the North Sea.

This is despite warnings from global bodies like the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the Government’s own climate advisors at the Climate Change Committee (CCC), who have urged Ministers to set a ‘presumption against exploration’ and set stronger climate stress tests.

The King’s Speech in November included a new Bill that will compel the Government to host a new oil and gas licencing round every year. Rounds have been held in most recent years in any case. This policy lays a trap for the Labour Party, which has promised to end new licensing if elected.

The Bill built on Sunak announcing the most recent oil and gas licensing round during Parliament’s summer break this year. More than 115 applications have since been received.

DESNZ’s party line is that more domestic oil and gas production protects the UK from imports which may be higher-cost and higher in embodied carbon. Yet these fossil fuels are a globally traded commodity. The UK has no right to keep the fuels it extracts in the North Sea and must instead trade internationally with the biggest bidders.

Moving on

The move to Aberdeen for DESNZ contributes to the UK Government’s plan to relocate 22,000 roles out of London. This target was previously set at 2030 but has today (12 December) been accelerated by three years, to 2027.

Some 16,000 roles have already been relocated, the Cabinet Office said in a statement.

Thousands more will be relocated in the near future. A new second headquarters for the Department of Business and Trade is planned for Darlington, while the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology will benefit from a second base in Greater Manchester.

Additionally, the Department for Work and Pensions and Ministry of Justice will create new roles in Wrexham, collectively exceeding 300 positions.

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