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Zero-carbon engineers - Nick Harvey

Our engineers and the expertise they bring to work every day is at the heart of the ESO’s role, balancing supply and demand for electricity second by second.  

 They are also preparing Britain’s grid to be able to run on purely zero-carbon electricity by 2025 – transforming how we operate to harness cleaner energy.  

 Network Development Manager Nick Harvey shares why he became an engineer and what excites and inspires him about the future. 

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How did your career in Engineering begin? 

I fell into engineering, but it utilised my strengths. I was always good at Science and Maths at school, so it was natural for me to choose a vocation that used those skills and that I found complimented my interests. 

I applied and was successful in attaining a sponsorship with Western Power Distribution and studied Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Nottingham University.  Through study and gaining adequate qualifications, I had a role waiting for me. 

Who has inspired you in the engineering field? 

I don’t have one specific person in mind.  What I try to do is learn about and learn from different people’s journeys, challenges and achievements - family, friends, and historical figures from the arts, politics, science and sport, each have their own story and each one in some way is inspiring and uplifting for me. 

Can you tell us about your career path? 

I started working on low voltage distribution systems at WPD, being responsible for switchgear changes and then progressed onto working on primary plants (33kV, 66kV and 132kV).  From there I chose to move to working in their control room. 

I loved working in the control room, however the role had limitations. I recognised that to grow my development and improve my prospects of progression that I needed to do something different. 

After a short role in system design I felt it was time for a change of scenery and a new role and I applied for a position at National Grid. 

The role I went into fitted my experience and aspirations – Year ahead Operational Planning.  Successive moves took me to various long-term planning roles before a switch into my current Network Development role. 

Looking back, I sometimes reflect on how my career has progressively moved further away from the plant physically supplying consumers. 

What excites you about the future of engineering? 

The future is really exciting. I’m lucky enough to be facilitating and making a difference in respect of climate change and supporting the energy transition.  Scenarios are shaped by government policy and my team works to ensure we can meet the challenge of net-zero carbon operation of the electricity system.  It’s important to not lose sight of the difference we’re making in the ESO. 

In particular, the offshore wind challenge is amazing. There are huge volumes of turbines being installed offshore and that power is harnessed and brought onshore allowing us to use that clean energy. 

The associated challenges are how do we do this in an efficient and affordable way whilst also respecting the communities we serve through being considerate of the environmental issues being raised. 

The future network development opportunities extend beyond GB, we’re an island but we’re electrically connected to Europe.  These connections will increase meaning we can trade that green electricity for the benefit of consumers. 

Over the 30-year span of my career, it’s great to see the level of diversity increasing massively in engineering.  I have seen more diversity not just in the ESO, but at industry events too. It’s vital that engineering is a profession which is open to all. 

However, specifically in terms of ethnic diversity at the range of leadership levels there is still more to do.  I see some positive steps and lots of dialogue which I’m keen to see turn into action.