Saturday, 7 August 2010

The A to Z of Aberdeen - E

E is for Energetica

Aberdeen's very own Local Development Agency quango ACSEF's flagship project is called "Energetica" and is a scheme to develop a "High-Tech-Corridor" between the Bridge of Don and Peterhead with the intention of "anchoring" the international Oil and Gas industry in Aberdeen and redefining the North East of Scotland as a "Renewables Hub".

ACSEF is an acronym for Aberdeen City and Shire Economic Future. Until last year it used to be an acronym for Aberdeen City and Shire Economic Forum. Before that, it was NESEF: the North East of Scotland Economic Forum. A moving target is difficult to hit.

There's much disquiet in Aberdeen about ACSEF and their involvement in driving the project for the comprehensive redevelopment of Union Terrace Gardens. Our favourite Aberdeen author John Aberdein wrote an open letter to concillors in the excellent citizen-journalist organ The Aberdeen Voice which sums up this disquiet perfectly. Well worth a read, so we recommend it.

Anyhow, what's all this Energetica stuff? What's it for? And what does it mean?

Let's have a look at what ACSEF say on their website (PDF):

The need [sic] for Energetica
There is no doubt that the aberdeen City and Shire economy is extremely successful. Headline indicators of economic performance, in terms of Gross Value Added and the level of average earnings, show it to be amongst the best performing areas in the UK. There are however genuine anxieties about the medium to long term competitive position of the region which need to be addressed now. The ‘tightness’ of the labour and housing markets, and land market generally, have created something of a constraint, a brake, on development. Additionally there are real concerns concerning the need to ‘anchor’ the oil and gas production base in the region as well as develop a relatively new technology base in the area. It is because of the need to address such concerns now, whilst there is some development time to address them, that the concept of Energetica has been developed.

Interesting. It's clear from this assertion that ACSEF considers 'success' to be the same thing as 'amount of money', and is lobbying for the release of greenfield development land as a way of ensuring that increasingly large amounts of 'success' can be made. There's more - much, much more in the Energetica 'leaflet' (PDF).

We thouroughly recommend that readers download the leaflet, print it out and keep it for the dark winter nights when everyone needs cheering up from time to time. It is quite astonishing that public money has been invested in the production of this self-satirising work of pompous cut-and-paste managementspeak buzzword grandiloquence. Side-splitting pencilneck lingo-bingo highlights include:

"Lifestyle Corridor"
"Stimulate synergies"
"Dynamic organisations"
"Private sector vision"
"Boasting world-class clusters"
"Creating structures at the leading edge"
"Challenging the current design perspective"
"Premises that reflect... aspirations and facilitate... business"
"Innovative world class business and recreational destination"

Digging through the bullschist, we see that, in effect, this entire exercise is both a plea by vested interests for development land to be released to construction companies and a sales brocure which sickeningly flatters potential buyers:

"These homes will reflect the responsible and caring approach of their owners, incorporating innovative solutions... reflecting the warm humanity found in the area."

Other highlights include plans for a "Hydrogen Highway", just as motor manufacturers worldwide begin to abandon plans for hydrogen-combustion engines and move towards the large-scale manufacture and marketing of electric vehicles.

Another is the stated intention to create "iconic", "landmark" buildings which will "anchor" the "corridor" at both ends.

In the context of this latter point, we had always thought that buildings became iconic landmarks over time and as a result of their evolving function within the context of their use by the community. A building will not be 'much loved' just because it's developer says it will be, honest.

Similarly, we have a queasy feeling about the entire concept of such a grand scheme as a means of securing a prosperous future for our region. We had always thought that endogenous (that is self-creating) economic growth and prosperity were a function of a well-educated and motivated workforce working in concert with innovation and entrepreneurship backed by easily-deployed capital (which is more than just money). It is not clear to us how what is essentially real-estate and road development scheme can provide these things, and all the literature that ACSEF have published does not address this key point.

Indeed, it looks like the whole Energetica strategy seems to be founded upon the premise "if you build it, they will come".

Ah! Yes! Now we can identify the source of that queasy feeling we mentioned: Energetica is a Cargo Cult.


Anonymous said...

Wow! A mind boggling but entirely apt analogy. I was unaware of this particular cult. Fact is stranger than fiction when held up against the Wicker Man for example.

Debra Storr said...

You missed the Trump Menie development as a major focus of the corridor with an iconic hotel tower ... (can't be bothered to dig out the Masterplan but I reckon a score for it of more than 100 in lingo-bingo)