Energy Minister Graham Stuart has told how the Humber holds the key to shaping the UK as the leader of the green industrial revolution, while providing a low cost power base in the next decade.
In Hull to hear of KCom’s Net Zero ambition, having become a key part of the newly formed Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, he outlined his vision for what could be achieved.
The regional MP, who represents Beverley and Holderness, championed the Energy Estuary’s role, celebrating the success of offshore wind as he made clear the importance of hydrogen and carbon capture, as policy is defined.
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Using the broadband provider’s pledge as a prime example of what was required from individuals, SMEs and large businesses the nation over, he said: “People need to lean in. There is an opportunity to lead the green industrial revolution if we lean in and develop the technology to drive down the cost curve now, so we can sell this solution ahead.
“With the likes of Phillips 66, Drax, Keadby and Saltend, we are the largest emitting industrial cluster in the UK. If you join the Humber with the Tees then you get to over 50 per cent of the total industrial emissions of the UK. If you want to move to Net Zero there is tougher stuff than electricity to get stuck into, all of the industry around this area. Solving this problem is huge and I want to do that.
“There are two key technologies, carbon capture and then hydrogen. No-one has the renewable potential we have got. If we capture all that we can have, in the 2030s, the cheapest, lowest cost and most competitive energy supplies in Europe. If we get that we can use the excess to produce hydrogen, with no emissions, and we have the most competitive clean hydrogen, and – alongside Norway – nearly all the storage. For every generation forward, we give ourselves the most competitive energy system in Europe, and it is enormously beneficial for our area in particular.”
Turning to the select gathering at KCom’s Carr Lane headquarters, he said: “We can give the jobs to students from Ron Dearing UTC in the sustainable space, people who want to be process engineers, as there are going to be so many good jobs in the green space and we can not only deliver here at home, by leaning in we can get ahead globally.
Humber champion at the cabinet table. Graham Stuart leaving Downing Street. (Image: Getty Images) “We have cut emissions by more than any other major economy on Earth since 1990. In 2012 40 per cent of electricity was generated from coal. Next year there will be none. No-one else has done that. We can be proud of what we have got and excited for the demands ahead.
“We can also provide a service to the rest of Europe, I can see hydrogen and CO2 pipelines running into Europe.”
The huge pipeline plan for the Humber, pulling huge power and decarbonisation projects together, is currently awaiting the framework and backing to proceed. Individual and collaborative schemes form a £15 billion portfolio with investors understood to be hungry to play a part.
“Not only do we do the right thing by the planet, we sell it to the world,” Mr Stuart said of getting it right. “We should do as much as we can realistically reach, and get back to where we should be, as a premier economic power in Europe, with the highest wages and a stable economic structure. That’s the project my new department has embarked on. There are lots of challenges ahead, but what an exciting agenda. It is probably the biggest economic opportunity this country has had in a long time. We are backed by geography, geology and where these industries are located. The fundamental things are set, we need to get policy right and get people enthusiastic.”
Elected in 2005, the Cumbrian who went to Cambridge to study before embarking on a career in publishing, said he approached the science and issue of climate change as a businessman. He heard the “theological” discussions and analysis at the United Nations COP 11 conference in Montreal, months after entering the House of Commons, having taken a position on the Environmental Audit Committee. He said the science has “become more and more consensual,” adding that after his early exposure in Canada “if it was a conspiracy it was the best one yet”. He said it needed to be treated like insurance, as a risk. “It is not free, not cheap, but it is affordable,” he said of the action needed.
And he told how it has been incredible to see the cost curve come down in offshore wind “off the coast of my constituency” where turbines installed with a strike price of £120 in 2015 are now emerging at £39.50 per MWH.
“We transformed the economies of offshore wind for the whole world,” he said of the Contracts for Difference subsidy auction scheme, adding that as Trade Minister he helped British companies win work in Taiwan on the back of the experience in the near North Sea.
Could that be an aperitif for what is to come with hydrogen and carbon capture and storage? Time will tell as the clock ticks on towards the 2030 vision.
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