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Backing Britain: an interview with Louise Kingham

Release date:
1 August 2022
It’s been a busy first year in her role as UK head of country for bp, with a raft of new ways we’re working to support the economy, skills development, and the country’s path to net zero. Here, we ask Louise Kingham what’s got her most excited for the future 
🕒 5 min read | 📖 Feature

What does ‘backing Britain’ mean for bp?

In short, backing Britain is about using our skills and resources to keep providing the home-grown energy security the UK needs while helping the country to achieve its net zero ambitions. 

And that’s important to us because, first and foremost, the UK has been our home for more than a century. And we’re proud of that. Secondly, the diversity of projects and investments planned in the UK are a microcosm of bp’s strategy at work. We’re investing in high-quality oil and gas projects while working to lower emissions in the North Sea,  and we’ve got all these low carbon projects in wind, solar, carbon capture and storage, hydrogen, electric charging. And then we’ve got a successful retail network and convenience offer that we also want to grow.

What are you most excited about?

I love the diversity of our projects, but the most exciting are the groundbreaking ones, where we’ve got to create new markets. The work we’re doing in Teesside is a great example – we’ve got big decarbonization projects under way, including Net Zero Teesside Power, H2Teesside and HyGreen Teesside. Together, they are a real opportunity to breathe new life into a part of the UK that has experienced some tough times in the past few decades – these projects could help to create jobs and new markets and build out new local supply chains. They could be a real anchor for a lot of new employment and economic development in a greener economy. 

Clair Ridge platform in the UK North Sea

bp is planning to invest £1 billion in electric vehicle charging in the UK over the next 10, approximately tripling our charging points in the country

The site of Net Zero Teesside Power and bp’s H2Teesside green and blue hydrogen projects, where we aim to create the UK’s first carbon neutral hub

What is the biggest challenge to helping the UK achieve its net zero plans?

We’re excited by the opportunity to help the UK develop new sources of homegrown energy, but, collectively, we need to move much faster. bp’s targets are ambitious. And we’re making great headway, but a lot of the low carbon projects rely on multiple companies, governments, regulators and planners working together to meet a seriously tight timeline. 

What would help bp to go faster?

Some of the help is in the gift of others – it’s about understanding government thinking on the business models it wants to pursue so we can look at co-investment. It’s about finding ways to reduce the time it takes for planning and permitting without taking away the voice of the community. I think we need a more progressive regulatory environment – at the moment, it’s not fit for a rapidly evolving energy system. And the increasingly integrated low carbon world just adds complexity. Regulators have so much more to think about than they did 10 years ago – everyone is having to transform. The challenge is working it out while moving forward, together. 

Louise is interviewed by the media following the announcement that bp has been selected to develop Scotland’s first scalable green hydrogen production...

“We’re excited by the opportunity to help the UK develop new sources of homegrown energy, but, collectively, we need to move much faster.” 

Louise Kingham, bp head of country, UK

You joined bp in May 2021, having built a successful career as a CEO at organizations including the Energy Institute. What drew you to bp?

I spent three decades on the edge of the industry, pushing companies like bp to raise the bar on issues like safety, life-long learning and climate change. That was all about advocating for long-term change to the benefit of society. The decision to join bp was triggered by the new strategy that Bernard set out in 2020. There was a new sense of purpose and a desire to contribute to society by helping the world get to net zero – that’s something I feel passionate about. So, it seemed like a perfect opportunity for me to come to bp and see if I could help.

Were you worried that you might lose your voice in such a big company?

It was a consideration and something I talked to several people about before I joined. I had a lot of freedom to speak my mind in my other roles, partly because of the independence of the organizations I had led. But I was asked to come and be me – and so I am! 

Louise at the Teesside industrial site with bp CEO Bernard Looney (left) and Teesside Mayor Ben Houchen

Why would you encourage others to consider a career in bp right now?

For many years, I was the only woman around the business table, so I have always been passionate about encouraging people from all backgrounds to get involved in this industry. But what I would say specifically is that if you are passionate about helping to solve the biggest challenge facing society today, then there has never been a more exciting time to join the energy sector. We know the destination – net zero – but none of us knows exactly how we’re going to get there, so we’re going to need as much diversity of thought and creativity as possible to help us navigate that path. And why bp? Because we’re leading the charge, so why wouldn’t you want to be part of the winning team?

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