Presidents’ reflections 100 – A century of energy professionalism


Courtesy of Energy Institute (EI)

1. In May 1978, I chaired the AGM which saw  members sensibly approve the motion that the  name of the Institute of Fuel be changed to the  Institute of Energy, despite strong resistance  from the “old guard” members of Council. My  period in office coincided with the “Winter of  Discontent” and the run-up to the May 1979  election, which saw Mrs Thatcher win and start  the process of privatising the energy industries.  As President I attended over 10 dinners and  fought hard not to put on weight; my predecessor  had put on two stones whilst in office.  Prof Ian Fells CBE CEng FEI, InstE President 1978-79

2. The period of my presidency was an interesting  time because, following the name change  from the Institute of Fuel to the Institute of Energy  in 1978, talks were taking place with similar  energy-related bodies with a view to creating a  larger, more comprehensive Institute for the energy  industry. This was slow work and it was not  until 2003 that the EI was formed as a result of  the merger with the IP. Professor Alan  Williams CBE CEng FEI, InstE President  1982-1983

3. My presidency covered the period just after the  Institute’s focus and name changed from fuel to  energy. The wider scope was matched by an expansion  in the fundamental science base, which  was moving from empirical experiments to computational  fluid dynamics. On reflection, I regret  that national policy has not kept pace with the Institute’s  expertise, and the UK still wastes about  half of the energy in fuels by neglecting large scale  and domestic scale combined heat and power  technology. Prof Jim Swithenbank CEng FEI,  InstE President 1986-87

4. I was honoured to serve twice as President of  the IP and in particular to have secured approval  from members for the merger with the InstE to  create the present EI which is now the home for  individuals and companies involved in all aspects  of energy. With the efforts of countless volunteers  staffing committees and help from the  highly dedicated staff, it is the prime source for  unbiased expertise on HSE, shared knowledge,  standards and advice, which is of huge value to  members, politicians and all those concerned  with the future of energy, both economically  and technically. Dr Pierre Jungels CBE CEng  HonFEI, IP President 1986-88, 2002-04

5. The InstE encouraged all energy sectors to cooperate  with each other and academia to develop  expertise and technology from which they  and society might benefit. The main focus was  on the clean, efficient and economic use of fossil  fuels. Emerging technologies and the potential  role of renewable energy were also important.  Another high priority was cooperation with  other institutes to attract young people towards  engineering and provide expert guidance on energy  to Government. The EI has made significant  progress in all these respects. Long may it continue.  Dr Guy Masdin, InstE President 1987-1988

6. I was the first President with a background in  renewable energy, and the Melchett Medal was  awarded to a windpower pioneer in my time.  Renewables contribute to mainstream grid connection  today, though with continuing confusion  about performance and costs. But in various forms,  renewables will be a permanent feature of the energy  scene, and for the future the EI should position  itself as the preferred source for impartial fact-based  information on this sector. Prof Brian Brinkworth  CEng FEI, InstE President 1989-1990

7. The period of my presidency was a time of  considerable change with the privatisation of the  coal industry, which impacted on the professional  bodies associated with energy. We looked  to share or even merge with other professional  bodies to secure funding whilst maintaining the  professional standards of the Institute, but no  synergies could be found. Revenue was sourced  from enlarging our conference and exhibition  activities. I had great fears that the Institute  would disappear altogether but was delighted  that actions of later Presidents and the Chief Executive  resulted in a continuing professional  body with high standards and global presence.  Douglas Willis FEI, InstE President 1990-1991

8. My term as President of the IP coincided with  the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq in 1990. At a very  tense Annual Dinner that year, when the military  liberation of Kuwait was imminent, the Institute  was addressed by the then Foreign Secretary,  Douglas Hurd, and the Kuwaiti Minister of Oil.  The occasion reminded us all that oil and politics  are never very far apart. It is important that the  EI, like its predecessors continues to educate our  members in the realities of the political forces  that will affect the worldwide energy scene.  Basil Butler CBE FEI, IP President 1990-1992

9. 1992-93 was a defining year for the InstE,  largely through the establishment of a Projects  and Marketing Committee, which generated  substantial revenue and helped establish energy  management as an essential and rewarding discipline.  The government commissioned very well  attended launch seminars. Worthy of note were  the Committee’s two rules: no formal meeting  should exceed 30 minutes and indecision was unacceptable.  Hence the excellent results. Michael  Roberts OBE CEng FEI, InstE President 1992-  1993

10. In 1993 the Institute was at a turning point.  There was a need for change from focusing on  the practice of the use of fossil fuels to reflecting  the increased awareness of environmental concerns,  including local pollution and climate  change. The Institute also needed to modernise  its internal procedures to improve its status as  an engineering learned society. It is pleasing to  see the strong and influential body which has  been built on those foundations. Prof James  Harrison CEng FEI, InstE President 1993-1994

11. The IP's role in generating and sustaining industry  technical standards was a key obsession,  as well as providing platforms for industry leaders  to present their views on longer term industry  issues. A wonderful opportunity to work with  many different colleagues and to influence public  policy. Sir David Varney FEI, IP President  1994-1996

12. Over many years, and in many roles as Chairman  of London Electricity, Deputy Chairman of  the Electricity Council and Founding Chairman  of the National Grid Group, as well as with construction  companies such as 24/7 Electricity and  Costain, I have taken a keen interest in the activities  of the EI which has played a key role in  promoting good engineering practice and the  restructuring of the energy industries and markets.  I wish the EI continuing success.  David Jefferies CBE CEng FEI, InstE President  1994-1996

13. As President of the IP, I recall the privilege of  chairing the Council of a world-class membership  organisation for the oil and gas sector.  Training, industry standards and health and  safety were all high on the agenda. The EI continues  these themes with a wider spectrum of  activity around the entire energy business and  an increased international outlook. It is a key  contributor to the world’s most exciting and  dynamic industry. Chris Moorhouse FEI, IP  President 1998-2000

14. Over the years, the EI in its various incarnations  has been providing an immensely important  forum for a wide debate on energy  issues. The EI can and should play a major and  expert role in this continuously crucial public discussion.  It also offers a vital system for the development  and qualification of energy  professionals at a time when both initial and lifelong  learning have never been more important.  Dick Coldwell FEI, InstE President 1999-2000

15. The turn of the century was challenging for  the InstE. It wasn’t large enough to provide the  range of services its membership needed, particularly  in a world of changing media technology.  It was therefore opportune that, facing the same  issues, the IP agreed to merge in order to create  the EI. Covering a much larger and wider range  of professionals, the EI continues to serve us and  society well in a continuously challenging energy  environment. Having jointly led this work as  InstE President, I feel particularly proud of what  we have achieved. John Blackhall CEng FEI,  InstE President 2002-2003

16. A good industry association is dedicated to  the interests of its members, has 'clout' in influencing  policy makers and is run by a few very  able people. All of this and more I found in the  EI. Well done and continued success. Sir John  Collins FEI, EI President 2005-2007

17. The EI has always played an important role  in helping the industry to raise its overall skills  levels and that is no less important today than it  was when I was its President. Perhaps even  more important than it was then, at a time  when energy has increasingly become a political  football, is its role in ensuring that the debate  remains focused on scientific fact and supportable  data rather than political rhetoric and commercial  interests. Sir Roy Gardner HonFEI, EI  President 2007-2009

18. Energy made the modern world. As a  learned society, the EI has a proud history of supporting  the phenomenal technological developments  of our energy era. The knowledge, skill  and passion of the EI members and those like  them are equally essential to our energy future.  James Smith CBE HonFEI, EI President 2009-2011.

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