A new TUC report demonstrates the potential for the UK region of Yorkshire and Humber to become the leading low-carbon industrial zone in Europe. However, government policy reversals on support for renewable energy and low carbon technology are putting the new low carbon zone at risk, says the TUC. The White Rose Carbon Capture and Storage project based at Drax, Yorkshire, Europe’s largest power station, lies at the heart of the region’s low carbon future, capturing carbon emission from power stations and heavy industries such as steel and chemicals.
Yet there is a wider opportunity for the region to act as a hub for the government’s 2050 Roadmaps for the decarbonisation of all the UK’s foundation industries: not just steel, chemicals and cement for which CCS technology is an immediate requirement, but also glass industries, ceramics, petrochemicals and metals for whom low carbon action plans are an urgent necessity. Whilst CCS is less relevant for these industries, other elements of the 2050 Roadmaps would secure their transition.
This report also advances the broader case for investment in the electrification of heat used by industry; fuel switching on site; waste heat recovery; and renewed efforts to promote materials recovery and recycling in the region, a high priority for glass manufacture, for example.
Strategies for a low carbon industrial future in Yorkshire and the Humber results from a partnership between trade unions and industry, with support from the European Commission.
The report shows that Yorkshire and the Humber is the prime region for a low-carbon industrial zone because it is a UK centre for both energy generation and energy intensive industries. It has three coal power stations, five gas power stations and a combined heat and power station. It produces 17 per cent (2010) of all the UK’s electricity and is a net exporter of energy to industries in neighbouring northern regions. Energy intensive industries in Yorkshire and Humber include steel, chemicals, refineries, cement works and glass works.
Close to the region’s cluster of plants with high emissions, Yorkshire and Humber’s coastline has suitable seabed geology for storage of carbon dioxide.
White Rose, led by Capture Power Ltd and supported by a consortium of Alstom, Drax and BOC, recently made headlines when Drax announced that on conclusion of the current design study it would not invest further in the project. However, Drax remains committed to the project through infrastructure support thereby enabling construction of the White Rose plant.
Drax cited the impact on the firm of the government’s decisions to remove tax exemptions for renewable power. However the TUC says that it is vital that White Rose succeeds, although other projects will be held back by a long list of government policy reversals on renewable energy and low carbon technology.
White Rose stands alongside the other great energy projects that signal the region’s future, including the massive offshore wind power developments at Westermost Rough, and the UK’s first major onshore wind turbine manufacturing plant led by Siemens at Green Port Hull.
One of the key barriers identified by stakeholders contributing to the regional strategy is the lack of overall governance and responsibility at national and regional level for facilitating the transition to low carbon industry. The strategy proposes that trade unions, business, local government and other stakeholders should therefore take a proactive approach to developing a joint regional forum to drive progress. Many stakeholders suggested that Local Enterprise Partnerships could play a key role in this strategy.
The report shows that the UK has a golden opportunity to build a clean energy powerhouse in the North of England. This will help secure the future of Britain’s energy-intensive industries and the jobs they provide. And it will help improve Britain’s poor record on productivity.
But it is vital that the government champions White Rose and its sister CCS plant at Peterhead, Scotland. Trade unions and businesses are working together on strategies to make Britain a global leader in clean energy and green jobs. But the government is disrupting progress and undermining investment by reversing policies in support of renewable energy and low carbon technology.
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