North Ready to Power into Crucial New Role; Focus British Gas Owner Centrica's Announcement That It Is to Build a Pounds 1bn "Clean" Coal-Fired Plant on Teesside Could Bolster the Region's Claims as the Alternative Energy Industry's Own Silicon Valley, as Nigel Stirling Reports
Byline: Nigel Stirling
SIR Nicholas Stern's climate review this month has thrown the spotlight on the North-East's alternative energy credentials.
The region is already home to what potentially will be Europe's largest biodiesel plant at Seal Sands, near Billingham.
And earlier this year, plans were revealed for one of the UK's largest biomass renewable energy projects when SembCorp Utilities proposed a pounds 60m wood-burning power station at Wilton on Teesside.
Yesterday's announcement by Centrica that it is to build a coal-fired power plant - the UK's first since Drax in 1974 - that will emit one-sixth of the carbon of a traditional coal plant and one-third of a gas-fired station, further enhanced the region's environmental credentials.
Downstream environmental benefits come from the plant's "integrated gasification combined cycle" which produces and separates hydrogen and carbon dioxide as part of electricity generation.
The generation of hydrogen could be a boon for the fledgling fuel cell industry currently being promoted by the region's economic development and renewable fuel agencies.
Teesside has a longstanding and extensive hydrogen storage infrastructure to service its petrochemical and process industries.
One NorthEast energy specialist Andrew Williamson said: "Centrica's announcement is the icing on the cake for the hydrogen fuel cell industry. The storage and pipeline capability in the Teesside petrochemical industrial community was the hook to get Centrica to set up here and will be an attraction to fuel cell manufacturers looking at the North-East."
Renew Tees Valley has been working for two years with coal-fired power development company Progressive Energy, which will work up plans for the Centrica plant in the next two years. Renew's chief executive Dr Dermot Roddy said the plant could create the "next Silicon Valley" for makers of hydrogen-powered fuel cells in the North-East. …