Hannah Hero

Reflections On a Year in Industry with Heat UK

23 July 2020

After a year’s industrial placement with the team, Vattenfall Heat UK bids a fond farewell to Bristol University industrial placement students Lina Drozd and Hannah Spurgeon. Here, Hannah reflects on the last 12 months working with Vattenfall Heat UK.

Why Vattenfall Heat UK?

I have always been interested in the energy sector, and as an engineering student, domestic heating was of particular interest to me when looking into industrial placement opportunities. That interest stemmed from the innovation and change required in the UK domestic heating market to break the cycle of fossil fuel reliant heating infrastructure. With my ambition to participate in driving the UK towards becoming more environmentally conscious, working for Vattenfall Heat UK seemed an ideal opportunity. 

Thrown into the deep end

In my first few days, I found myself in the middle of a fast-paced process where I was producing schematics and pricing up infrastructure. I found myself asking copious amounts of questions. Despite researching heat networks prior to my placement I had definitely not grasped all the commercial, delivery and design decisions that we needed to make. There are huge complexities around implementing low-carbon heat network infrastructure that is commercially viable and operating as efficiently as possible to best serve our end customers.

I quickly realised the importance of commercial implications in making engineering decisions, and the task we had before us in shifting the market’s way of thinking about domestic heat away from the previous ‘norms’.

However daunting this was, one of the most crucial aspects that helped me deliver value was aided in being treated exactly like any other member of the team (with the obvious understanding that I had minimal knowledge and experience). This allowed me to feel like I could make suggestions and bring value to conversations and projects alike. 

Inspiring moments 

Conference in Amsterdam / Groningen 

Being allowed the opportunity to attend a company conference in Amsterdam was a privilege I feel lucky to have had. The experience allowed me to meet people from all over the business and go on some spectacular site visits. Exploring the opportunities that Vattenfall are working on that weren’t necessarily within heat networks was fascinating and inspiring. I was able to see Vattenfall’s work from a higher-level perspective and comprehend how the ‘fossil-free within a generation’ goal is actually coming to fruition, working towards solving the de-carbonisation of infrastructure and power through technological innovation.

Zero carbon heat in the West of England

I had opportunities to attend many events, seminars and workshops over the course of my time at Vattenfall Heat UK. An example of which was a sponsored event in Bristol (a city which holds a special place in my heart as it is where I will be returning in October to complete my degree). I had the chance to help facilitate this event in partnership with Buro Happold and local society Zero West. Sitting at tables with people from across all sectors - from infrastructure lawyers to local councillors - and having conversations around the most effective routes to decarbonising the west of England was inspiring and eye-opening. Especially so when considering the range of players and investment which will have to come forward in order to enable a truly low carbon future.

Emilia Melville

Related reading: Zero Carbon Heat in the West of England by 2030?

On Tuesday 26th November 2019 Buro Happold and Zero West ran a Vattenfall-sponsored event, looking at how to decarbonise heat in the West of England region.

Read more

Winning Midlothian Project

After my first few weeks of working within the company, a highly exciting project came to the market - the chance to partner with Midlothian council. An Energy-from-Waste low-carbon heat source coupled with a brand new development with a substantial heat load was an undeniable opportunity to the company. This was my first ever experience of ‘bidding’, and the feeling of accomplishment within the team on the day of securing the right to partner with the council was pretty amazing. To have continued working on the project has been a tremendous learning curve for me, and I can’t wait to one day head back up to Scotland and see the low carbon heating projects I was part of.

The team 

It is hard not to mention the inspiration the team have brought to my time at Vattenfall. Every day there is an honest passion and drive to solve problems and having a diverse and intelligent team of people to be surrounded by was, without a doubt, one of the best features of the placement.
 
I had the opportunity to work across different teams in the business as well. I worked on concept designs and proposals for various projects with the Bid team, gave input to the Management team in modelling the businesses resources over the coming years and worked with the Partnerships team to analyse various markets to pursue in the future. Being able to span such a variety of work has been crucial in the development of my skills.

To that end, I have definitely felt my confidence and ability to speak up for myself in meetings increase, thanks to being able to work alongside highly experienced people who have been able to impart so much knowledge on me.

This placement has involved lots of hard work, and I have learnt how to more effectively manage my time, priorities and set achievable deadlines. I have also become more aware of the challenges that lie ahead in my career to enable a climate smarter energy ecosystem.

Lina enters the Uppsala facility

Related reading: From Sea to Sewage: A Cycle of Heat

Work placement student Lina Drozd reflects upon how real the possibility of a carbon neutral future really is.

Read more

12 Months On

The challenge to meet our 2050 targets and the effects this could have to our planet is intimidating, but I’m excited to continue with my degree and prepare myself to be a part of achieving (and hopefully surpassing) our climate goals to make the planet a better place for the future.

I should note the immense gratitude I feel towards the whole team at Vattenfall Heat UK for the experience I have had over the course of the past 12 months! My year with Vattenfall has taught me a lot about the real world of working within the clean energy sector. I also leave feeling more aware of what I enjoy, my skills, weaknesses and how I perform best. Reflecting on the year, I will take my experiences into the future and they will without a doubt affect the way I continue to grow and shape how I spend my professional life. 

Hannah Spurgeon

Written by

Hannah Spurgeon, Industrial Placement Student, University of Bristol

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