A new TUC report published today (Friday) demonstrates the potential for the UK region of Yorkshire and the 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 report 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. It will be launched today at an event at the TUC regional office in Leeds.

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 around 17 per cent 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 the Humber include steel, chemicals, refineries, cement works and glass works.

Humber Bridge Yorkshire (PD)

The White Rose Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) project planned for construction on land adjacent to the existing Drax Power Station lies at the heart of the region’s low carbon future, with the associated carbon dioxide pipeline providing the potential to capture carbon emissions from power stations and heavy industries such as steel and chemicals. Close to the region’s cluster of plants with high emissions, Yorkshire and the Humber’s coastline has suitable seabed geology for storage of carbon dioxide, making it an ideal location for the development of CCS technology.

White Rose, led by Capture Power Limited, recently made headlines when Drax announced that on conclusion of the current Front End Engineering and Design (FEED) study it would not invest further in the project (although it will continue to provide vital infrastructure support). Drax cited the impact on the firm of the government’s decisions to remove tax exemptions for renewable power. However, remaining consortium partners, Alstom and BOC, confirmed their commitment to developing the project and participating in the government’s CCS Commercialisation Programme.

As Strategies for a low-carbon industrial future in Yorkshire and the Humber sets out, it is vital that White Rose succeeds. While the ongoing commitment of Capture Power is very welcome, the uncertainty caused by government policy changes is increasingly worrying. Serious concerns also remain that other renewable power and low-carbon projects will be held back by a long list of government policy reversals on renewable energy and low-carbon technology.

White Rose stands alongside other major energy projects that could be an important part of the region’s future industry and jobs, 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. 25,000 jobs in the region depend on energy-intensive industries and could be protected through new technology investment, which could also create a significant number of new highly-skilled positions.

One of the key barriers identified by stakeholders contributing to the study is the lack of overall governance and responsibility at national and regional level for making the transition to low carbon industry. The strategy proposes that trade unions, businesses, local government and other stakeholders should develop a joint regional forum to drive progress. Local Enterprise Partnerships could play a key role in this approach.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

It is vital that the government champions White Rose in Yorkshire, as well as its sister plant for carbon capture and storage at Peterhead in Scotland. We have 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 recent record on productivity.

“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 undermining investment by reversing policies in support of renewable energy and low carbon technology.”

Chair of the Energy Intensive Users Group, Dr Laura Cohen said:

Our low carbon future depends on steel, chemicals, cement, glass and ceramics, as well as low carbon power stations.  Government must support a broad range of new technologies in the Yorkshire and the Humber low-carbon industrial zone as well as elsewhere in the UK so Britain can start making this a reality.

Chief Executive of the Carbon Capture and Storage Association Dr Luke Warren said:

This report highlights the critical role that the White Rose CCS project will play in creating a low-carbon industrial zone in Yorkshire and Humber. Together with the project at Peterhead in Scotland, the UK has the opportunity to lay down the infrastructure that will provide a long-term, sustainable future for carbon-emitting industries.

“We are in a critical period now for CCS in the UK, as the Government will decide early next year whether to proceed with the White Rose and Peterhead projects. If Ministers fail to see them through, it could severely set back the UK’s ability to meet climate change goals at least cost. And it would jeopardise the future of key industries.

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