Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Great Energy Opportunities for Region

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Great Energy Opportunities for Region

Article excerpt

Byline: IAN HANLEY

THE United Kingdom's energy supply faces significant challenges in the near future.

Over the next decade, a third of UK electricity generation capacity will be decommissioned. With indigenous North Sea oil and gas resources depleting, we will become more reliant on imports. The UK is running short of capacity quickly.

At the same time we need to create a low-carbon energy supply system that satisfies the UK's commitment to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by at least a third by 2020, with the long-term goal of an 80% reduction by 2050. In short, a fundamental step change and a very different picture to what we have today.

The North has a great opportunity to be at the forefront of these developments. Power and heavy industry account for 50% of the overall required CO2 emission cuts, so the need to convert to a lowcarbon economy presents enormous opportunities to develop and commercialise new energygeneration technologies. This will create vast market opportunities, driving economic growth and providing employment.

Nowhere is this more apparent than here in the North East. On the banks of the Tyne we see the impressive capacity to support the oil industry, becoming a leading industrial centre to supply the offshore wind sector. In Blyth, we have the UK's leading centre for research and testing of wind turbines. And across the North our strength in advanced manufacturing and engineering can offer technological and commercial solutions to the challenge of the lowcarbon economy.

The investment by Clipper Wind Power - to design the world's largest wind turbine - is testament to this region's attractiveness as a place to invest for the future.

In theory, the need to replace a huge proportion of energy infrastructure, coupled with the UK's liberalised energy market, should be instigating a surge in investment in energy generation. But this is not yet the case.

Economic uncertainty, delays in the planning and regulatory system, an uncertain price for carbon and a lack of finance and skills can deter developers. So there's a lot more work to be done before we can begin to have confidence that this opportunity can be seized. …

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