Humber Renewables champion Kurt Christensen reflects on top green award as 2024’s stars sought

With the 2024 Humber Renewables Awards now launched, David Laister caught up with 2023 champion Kurt Christensen, a man who carved a second career in the sector for which his continuing ambassadorial activity saw him crowned.

By Dave Laister

Kurt Christensen, centre, is presented with his Humber Renewables Champion award by Andy Sykes of Siemens Gamesa, right, with host Ben Hanlin, left.
Kurt Christensen, centre, is presented with his Humber Renewables Champion award by Andy Sykes of Siemens Gamesa, right, with host Ben Hanlin, left.

What has a multi-billion pound emerging green energy industry got to do with the price of fish? A question many on Grimsby’s bustling Monday morning market may have pondered as the larger-than-life auctioneer emerged at the helm of one of the town’s first businesses dedicated to offshore wind.

On the face of it, it doesn’t tally. But take the skin off and there’s plenty to link the two beyond the quaysides they share. Urgency, and willingness to go the extra mile or 200, has been at the heart. The immediacy of action, with the cost of having a vessel laid up in port – or a turbine down because of it – and a 24/7 approach ensuring a Friday afternoon problem isn’t left until Monday to fix – are traits that have served Grimsby, the Humber and ‘Sir’ Kurt well in both.

Having acted as an agent to manage trawlers alongside the sales of seafood species, he is a very well connected man, with a contacts book the envy of many. “Yes” was the answer, with the follow-up of “now what’s the question?” to many a query in those nascent days down dock.

“I’d never been involved in shipping before, but I learned very quickly,” he recalled, looking back at the first steps into the industry back in 2006, overseeing construction vessels deployed on the area’s first wind farm, Lynn and Inner Dowsing. “I’d had 50 years of looking after trawlers, but never these big boats. The first one came in, I looked at it, and thought ‘don’t be scared’. All it is, is a trawler, a very big trawler. We treated it the same, when it came in, it was repairs, crew change, fuel and grub, and then back out. Even in the settling, we treated every vessel the same as a trawler; working 24/7 and jobs done as safely as possible. They said they’d never seen anything like it.”

An early introduction to Siemens, the turbine manufacturer of choice for virtually all the farms now served off the Humber, had paved the way, and as Danish Consul in the area, he was a useful ally.

The Humber Renewables Awards
The Humber Renewables Awards

“I realised from the first introduction to Siemens when they were looking at crew transfer vessels and people doing bits and pieces, and when they started talking about what they were going to do, and what they needed, that it was going to be big.

Wind Power Support was launched providing all the services a huge business needs, but doesn’t have the knowledge to acquire, in a new location. He helped finish the fit out and mobilisation of the first service operation vessel with C-Bed, then a converted roll-on roll-off ferry – not the purpose built red giants frequently moored below the Dock Tower now.

His firm went on to build three crew transfer vessels to aid delivery, having launched a first as a tool runner, seeing a gap in the service offering. Operations in Harwich, Hartlepool, Ramsgate, Lowestoft and Liverpool followed, with his Wind Power Support business having a presence in each port, all controlled from Grimsby.

“To see how much has been put into the Humber is fabulous, and for me it was fantastic,” he said. “On a personal note, at that time of my life – the back end of my fifties – every day I got up and learned something and met someone new, solved some problems and earned some money. It didn’t get better than that for me, it was a fascinating time.”

And it still is. More than a decade on, he is now on the board of Humber Marine and Renewables and cuts a familiar figure at industry events across the UK.

“Gardening doesn’t sit well with me, I don’t play golf or watch football. I still have the interest. I have so many phone numbers, so many contacts and there are so many situations I have seen before. The sector is also full of people I consider friends. It is very sociable. People who I have met have moved here, lived here and stayed here. This area, Grimsby, might have a funny name, and the Humber might not be romantic, but people come and stay.

“When I first started in 2006/7, if I walked into any school in Grimsby and asked the kids what they wanted to do when they leave school, the answer would be ‘I don’t know’. You go into a school now and they want to be a turbine technician, the skipper of a crew transfer vessel or work at the airport with the helicopters. Everything has changed.

“Now, following renewables, with the Net Zero agenda, the likes of Phillips 66 and other huge employers are changing the way they work. So many are taking on apprentices, which is what I wanted to see. It is making up for the total destruction of the fishing industry.”

It was that industry that brought Kurt’s father from Denmark in 1957. When he was four they crossed the North Sea, initially settling in Hessle, where they lived for four years, before moving to the South Bank. They’d followed the fish trade, with his father skipper of a seine netter, and well aware of the pull of the processing and merchanting power that remains today.

Mr Christensen started in the industry as an errand boy on the docks, and by 18 was auctioning fish, a role he continued in for half a century. The latter years saw him conducting sales after a 4am start, before turning his attention to turbines at his office looking down the Royal Dock.

“When I first started I couldn’t get people to understand what was happening,” he said of the industry’s infancy. He worked with Grimsby Fish Dock Enterprises – operator of the dock that first hosted vessel sailings – and the local authority, to launch Grimsby Renewables Partnership. It set out on a successful mission to spread awareness, break down barriers, open doors and ultimately help SMEs feed into the sector, eventually merging with Team Humber Marine Alliance in 2022.

“If I could have done it myself, I would, but it didn’t take even a year to realise this was huge on a global scale, not just for the Humber, not just for Grimsby,” Mr Christensen said. “To be a part of it for as long as I was, was fantastic.”

A quote he lives by – “There is no limit to what a man can do so long as he does not care a straw who gets the credit” – has been attributed to journalist and novelist Charles Edward Montague, with similar iterations from US presidents Harry Truman and Ronald Regan. And while he certainly doesn’t seek the limelight, so many others have been quick to ensure he has had it. From the first UK chair of Orsted, Brent Cheshire, the wider business community and his native royal family, accolades and praise had been bestowed well ahead of the Humber Renewables Champion title.

Already knighted by his native Denmark for his work in fishing, a first class knighthood followed for the way he helped foster relations in offshore wind. And that has been his mark. A convener, collaborator, ambassador, lobbyist and, undoubtedly, a champion. “I’m just so pleased to have been a part of it all,” he said. “My main passion, my main concern, has been Grimsby, but I care about the Humber, and the more businesses we can get going and benefiting from wind, the better. The merger was important, it was a job well done by Andrew Oliver (past chair) and others. The industry is competitive, vicious almost, and we were losing influence to the North East and East of England. There are some very hard-working and talented people on the board, led by Iain Butterworth now – who has a tremendous appetite for what can be done – and I’m pleased to be a part of it.”

Entries for the 2024 Humber Renewables Awards are now open, with 10 categories available for nomination. Winners to be unveiled at a gala dinner at Hull’s Doubletree by Hilton Hotel on May 2, capping two days of exhibiting and networking as the finale to the Offshore Wind Connections conference. For full details visit The deadline is Sunday, March 17.

This year’s categories for the Humber Renewables Awards:

Humber Renewables Small Business of the Year (under 50 employees)

Sponsored by Orsted

This category will recognise those who have spotted an opportunity in the renewables market. The winner will be able to demonstrate fast growth, a healthy profit and a solid plan for the future. It could be a company set up solely to work in green energy or a traditional business which has branched out. One of the reasons Siemens Gamesa decided to invest in Hull was because of the great engineering and maritime infrastructure the Humber already has. Enter here.

Last year’s winner: RSUK Group

Humber Renewables Medium / Large Business of the Year (over 50 employees)

Running a major company is tough in any field but in an evolving sector like renewable energy it has complexities beyond most. Businesses have to be instantly adaptable, on top of the latest technology and ready to make the most of opportunities offered by the Government’s regularly updating green agenda. This award’s winner will be a regional firm with at least 50 employees and bold ambitions to become even bigger. Judges will be looking at past financial performance and recruitment in the past year. Enter here.

Last year’s winner: Associated British Ports

Best Renewable Energy Project or Installation

This prize is for the game-changers that are making it happen. Judges will be looking for a winning project that produces clean power, is built to the highest of standards and encapsulates the area’s expertise. The category is open to schemes of any scale, from multi-million pound developments to micro-generation programmes. It could be won by a firm focused on renewables or a company, public sector organisation or educational establishment which has done its bit to reduce our carbon footprint. Enter here.

Last year’s winner: Pillswood Project from Harmony Energy

Excellence in Renewable Skills and Training

Multinational green energy companies may have their eyes on the region and feet on the ground but success in bringing them here means nothing if they cannot find qualified employees. Getting the training right for any potential workforce is vital and this award will celebrate those organisations which have done most to create a much-needed skills base. The category is open to employers, specialist centres and education providers. Enter here.

Last year’s winner: RES

Renewables Education

This category will reward the educators who have done most to promote the value of clean power and understand the opportunities it brings. It could be as part of an energy qualification or learning programme run by a university of college, or a one-off project at a primary or secondary school. Entries will be able to demonstrate what the aims of the project were, how they were achieved and any feedback from students. Submissions may also include details of whether, and how, the project was supported by industry. Enter here.

Last year’s winner: East Riding of Yorkshire Council / Dogger Bank Wind Farm

Green Innovation

Green energy is now cheaper than its fossil fuel equivalents and this is down to innovation. This award will reward firms of any size that go out of their way to be more efficient and are not afraid to come up with novel approaches. Judges will be looking to see how innovation has made a real difference. That could be developing a different business model, refining existing technology to make it leaner and more effective, or introducing a new solution. This award is not just open to energy firms. Companies in the recycling sphere, or those reducing consumption are welcome, as are businesses where inventive methods have seen carbon footprints reduced. Enter here.

Last year’s winner: Cellform Hydrogen

Diversity and Inclusion Award

It isn’t just the field of work that needs to evolve to ensure peak performance, but the workforce too. Engineering and maritime disciplines have been some of the narrower fields when it comes to balance but thanks to some great initiatives, many at a local level, that is changing. We want to celebrate that success, acknowledge effort and reward the results. Enter here.

Last year’s winner: Generation Net Zero

Engaging The Community / Community Project

This category will recognise a renewable energy project that has the community at its heart. This could either be through raising public awareness of renewable energy needs or involving a local community in a project. Or this could be a renewables project driven by a local community or organisation, or one that is to the benefit of one. Going the extra mile in support of major initiatives is welcome too, ensuring the Humber and its hinterland reaps what it deserves from hosting such industrial endeavour. Enter here.

Last year’s winner: HFR Solutions CIC

Humber Renewables Woman of the Year

Sponsored by RWE Renewables Ltd

This award aims to recognise and celebrate women working in the energy sector who go above and beyond business-as-usual. This may be someone who has consistently demonstrated outstanding leadership, has contributed significantly to the expansion and improvement of the power sector or it could be a young role model who is destined to shape the future of renewable energy, having been acclaimed by peers or the wider industry. Enter here.

Last year’s winner: Claire Swannick, RWE

Humber Renewables Apprentice of the Year

Green collar jobs are the envy of many, providing a clear contribution to a better world, with highly skilled on-task learning the backbone of career starts. It is an industry at the heart of levelling-up and perceived vocational and academic differences were swept away on an early tide when it came to getting ahead in renewables. We want to celebrate the success of those engaged in an apprenticeship programme. Enter here

Last year’s winner: Ria Matthews

Humber Renewables Champion 2024

The winner of this award will have a passionate focus on promoting the renewables industry in this region. It could be an individual, public sector body or company – the key is a real focus on making the Humber the Energy Estuary. They will have tirelessly campaigned to promote green power. A worthy winner would be anyone who has helped attract new investment, encouraged Government support of the ambition or paved the way for more jobs. It could also be an organisation or person who has ensured the reputation stretches beyond the region. Judges will be looking for candidates whose aim was not just to further their own business, but to create opportunities for all. This is a special award, bestowed by the panel.

Last year’s winner: Kurt Christensen, Wind Power Support.