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Executive opinion

The only certainty is change As ECA Today passes its fi rst year mark, ECA group chief

executive offi cer Steve Bratt refl ects on the extraordinary events of the past 12 months and their impact on our industry


t is exactly one year since we launched issue one of ECA Today at the Electrical Industry Conference 2010 – and what a year of change it has been. Firstly, the fi rst coalition government since the World

War Two and some of the most severe public spending cuts since those imposed by another Liberal-Conservative coalition in the early 1920s. The longer-term impact of those cuts on building services contractors is, of course, still to be determined. Without forewarning, the political landscape of the

Middle East changed forever. In other parts of the world, fl oods, fi res and earthquakes caused the destruction of large areas of Australia and New Zealand, and a tsunami caused what can only be described as the annihilation of vast areas of Japan. So what influence will these events

have on the ECA and its members? Well, clearly we all live and work in a global economy, and as we now know from increasing oil and energy prices, for example, events thousands of miles away can impact signifi cantly on our already fragile operating environment. However, they can also provide opportunities for those contractors that are willing to innovate.

report are applied to the UK’s new build programme’. This is good news for those contractors involved in such build projects. We also have a need to create a ‘smart grid’ to ensure

The growing demand for energy places a signifi cant

strain on an already stretched energy network

that we are able to meet future demand, and to enable the smart home revolution that government are talking about. But who will pay for this? Ultimately, energy users of course. Therefore, whatever happens to Feed-in Tariffs, the Green Deal, the Renewable Heat Incentive or any of the many carbon reduction initiatives, we can rest assured that energy prices will be remaining high, and they will feature more prominently on both business and consumers minds as time progresses. Therefore, contractors need to be seen as solution providers, and to be able to demonstrate that they can add value for customers by reducing their energy bills. This is not just about wind turbines and wave power. Renewables are, of course, part of the answer. However, for now it is more about effi cient lighting systems, effective controls, voltage optimisation, and so on. In other words, things that electrical

contractors know about or can easily learn about. There is a wealth of information available to ECA members in this area, and I would encourage you to utilise it.

Energy increase Energy is a key part of our everyday lives. As the population grows, and the number of appliances we own increases, demand for energy also increases. On the other hand, the security and certainty of our energy requirements is not increasing. Therefore, the growing demand for energy places a signifi cant strain on an already stretched energy network. So we turn to nuclear energy, something that is highly topical at the moment, and not for good reasons. However, despite the tragedy of Fukushima, it is unlikely that there will be any changes to the UK government’s plans to build new nuclear power stations. After Fukushima, the energy minister, Chris Huhne, called on the HSE Chief Nuclear Inspector for a ‘thorough report on the implications of the situation in Japan and the lessons to be learned’. However, the outcome of this review seems preordained, and Huhne has said that he ‘wants to ensure that any lessons learned from the

About the author

Steve Bratt Steve Bratt was appointed group chief executive offi cer of the ECA in October 2010. He joined the ECA as chief operating offi cer in 2007, and became deputy CEO in February 2010.

Material effects All of the world turmoil we have experienced over the last year is also having an impact on the demand for raw materials, which are already stretched as a result of the growth of new world economies like China and India. This is impacting on metals, such as copper and steel which, of course, drive installation costs up at a time when clients want prices to be going down. We are concerned about the volatility of material prices

and are engaging with government for the possible re- introduction of fl uctuation clauses, to protect contractors from the potentially signifi cant negative effects of events outside of their control. It is, perhaps, not surprising that this suggestion is not being received with open arms; however it is an important subject and one that will receive attention in the coming months. Watch this space!

May 2011 ECA Today 15

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