UPDATED 1 Sept: The EI library in London is temporarily closed to the public, as a precautionary measure in light of the ongoing COVID-19 situation. The Knowledge Service will still be answering email queries via email , or via live chats during working hours (09:15-17:00 GMT). Our e-library is always open for members here: eLibrary , for full-text access to over 200 e-books and millions of articles. Thank you for your patience.
New Energy World magazine logo
New Energy World magazine logo
ISSN 2753-7757 (Online)

Shining a Spotlight on Energy People: Paul Walker CEng MEI


6 min read

Head and shoulders photo of Paul Walker, Electrical Technical Authority, Centrica Photo: P Walker
Paul Walker, Electrical Technical Authority, Centrica

Photo: P Walker

In our latest Spotlight on Energy People interview with Energy Institute (EI) members, Paul Walker CEng MEI, Electrical Technical Authority, Centrica, explains why even in the latter stages of his career he continues to expand his knowledge in a fascinating and wide-ranging career.

Q: How did you first become interested in energy? 
A: I grew up on a housing estate east of Kingston upon Hull called Bransholme, and developed a passion for electrical energy from an electronics kit that my parents bought for me as a Christmas present when I was a teenager. I was intrigued how things could work without any moving parts, and kept asking myself what is electricity and where does it come from? My journey had begun.


Q: Tell us a little about your current job and the industry? 
A: In my role, I ensure the safe design, installation, commissioning, operation and maintenance of all HV (high voltage) and LV (low voltage) electrical systems both on and offshore. I am the Technical Authority for Centrica’s electrical safety and environmental critical elements (SECEs). I have a team of three electrical engineers that support all areas of the business and regularly carry out audits to ensure compliance with company practices and standards. My role is contributing towards transitioning to net zero by making sure we use energy efficiently and not unnecessarily. I am also involved with looking at future hydrogen production and storage.


Q: Can you tell us about your career path – from early apprenticeship to becoming a Chartered Engineer with continuous development and a flexible approach to building professional status?
A: I started at BP Chemicals as an apprentice electrician in 1982, straight from school. I did a four-year indentured apprenticeship and achieved an HNC qualification. Then I worked for 10 years as a fully-qualified electrician, leading teams in maintenance, projects and commissioning. In 1996 I locked my tools away and moved into the design and drawing office as an instrument/electrical design engineer working for Chartered Engineers in both the projects and maintenance teams.


Three years later, I took over as I/E Design and Drawing Office Section Leader. Whilst in this role it was suggested to me to join an institution. I initially joined the Institute of Measurement and Control, obtaining IEng with the Engineering Council, but after attending meetings and events it became evident that this wasn’t the best institution for me, so I joined the then Institute of Electrical Engineers (IEE), which became The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) in 2006. If I had any advice for up-and-coming engineers, it is to seriously consider which institute is the best at that time in your career and don’t be afraid to change.


In 2003 I left the petrochemicals business and moved upstream, still with BP, into the North Sea oil and gas business, working for BP Exploration and Production as an electrical engineer. After having worked a total of 21 years at BP, I left and came to Centrica Energy Storage+ as Electrical Technical Authority in 2013.


Q: How long have you been a member of the Energy Institute, and what do you consider are the benefits of being a member?
A: In 2010, whilst working closely with a company in the Humber area, I was invited to join the committee of the local branch of the Energy Institute. As I had been working with some of its technical publications related to hazardous areas and electrical installations, I joined this institute while remaining a member of the IET. I am still a member of both institutions. I attended decommissioning training at 61 New Cavendish Street [the EI head office in London] in 2017 and am planning to do energy management training this month. The technical documents provided by the EI are invaluable and are a regular source of information and reference. And I often ring contacts that I have made since becoming a member, and we bounce ideas off each other.


Q: You mention that you participate in the EI Humber branch. Can you tell us more about branch activities, and why members should get involved? What have been your favourite events? 
A: I sit on the committee of the Humber branch. Branch activities include technical talks and industry visits, and also an annual dinner dance event. I have organised a few technical talks from industry specialists; for example, a Siemens wind turbine presentation and a static electricity technical presentation by one of the country’s leading experts in this field. I also arranged a visit to the heliport where I fly from when visiting our offshore installations. Being part of this ‘club’ has enabled me to network with like-minded professionals and share knowledge and experience. This network is available for advice and helps me understand what the rest of the industry is doing.


Q: You say that your role in net zero is to make sure that we use electricity efficiently. To what extent does industry use electricity efficiently in your opinion, and what are a few things that could be done to improve efficiency? 
A: My employer’s purpose is to energise a greener, fairer future and to make energy cleaner and more secure. The world of energy is changing fast, and we need to adapt and keep up with this pace and build an energy system fit for the future. In my opinion, one of the most simple things to consider, at all levels, is whether or not we need to use energy in the first place, and if so, whether we are using it efficiently. Everyone who uses energy should ask themselves that question. Hopefully I have an influence in my current role to help my employer ask the same questions.


Q: Finally, you mentioned that you are planning to attend an Energy Institute energy management course. Can you explain what you are hoping to accomplish with the course?
A: I have spent my 40-year-plus career designing, installing, maintaining and repairing electrical equipment and installations without really considering the effect on the planet. I think that the world is changing, and what with the introduction of social media and more extensive global reporting, the country’s view, and to some extent the world’s view, is changing. I want to be part of this and use my experience and knowledge to help drive this. Even though I’m at the latter stages of my career I am still wanting to learn new skills and attending the EI training courses is part of my ongoing journey.


You can find more information about EI Membership and the Shining a Spotlight on Energy People series here.