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Awards 2024
John Grainger

Clean and Green- don’t write it off!

The announcement that Labour is "standing down" their flagship £28 billion" project brought groans of dismay across industry and consumers/voters alike. But the aspiration for clean and green projects is far from dead. As always you have to look towards the small print to understand what is really being said. Every major scheme going forward has to be costed either by Treasury or in this instance, the advisers to the Shadow Chancellor, and this is the case in respect of the 28billion price tag. The two areas that Labour have consistently targeted without imposing a higher income tax or corporate tax regime is the issue of non-doms paying UK tax and also the windfall taxing of oil and gas companies making excessive profits as a result of high fuel costs. But these two areas themselves can't pay for all of the big infrastructure schemes being mooted; particularly in a first Parliament. The NHS is always going to be the first priority of any incoming Labour Government. Decarbonising remains very high on the agenda; but the first casualty of the so-called U turn is actually the home insulation scheme which would be scaled back. The backdrop of reaching decarbonising or net zero targets by 2035 and 2050 is two to five Parliamentary election periods away, so prioritising and delivering real change will be a priority. As far as major projects the cost overruns of both HS2 and Hinckley Point make Treasury nervous about taking such projects on to the balance sheet.

But all is not lost. The adverse publicity around the true cost of gigawatt reactors is counterbalanced by the different model offered by the Small Modular Reactor programme. The announcement this week by Community Power Company, one of our own, of a multi SMR reactor scheme at North Tees is ample proof of that. The Westinghouse 300 reactors are a scaled down version of the AP 1000 reactors that were originally proposed for the now cancelled Moorside project. But the major difference is the movement away from reinforcing the nations supply, to that of servicing the latent demand. So rather than supplementing the national grid, SMRs are a localised and dedicated supply source to heavy industry users.

So what are the opportunities for Cumberland and the BECBC members in the supply chain? Many of our companies are engaged at Hinckley Point and are in pole position for Sizewell C, so proximity is not really an issue. The North Tees project is though, only 2 hours away across the A66, so in business opportunity terms, very close by. We are delighted that Community Power has secured this project. It also demonstrates the " alternative routes to market" model whereby the scheme is funded by the private sector, including substantial overseas private investment. This aligns with the aspirations of GB Nuclear without pressure on the public purse. So, the necessary components for this alternative route to the market are land, capability, technology, private capital funding, and community demand. It is a ten-year scheme and could be a great demonstrator for subsequent projects. Is there an opportunity for Cumberland? Well, we have to change our approach, whereby we can attract a heavy user/s of power. These projects alone would bring jobs and deliver social value. Any excess of power generated by SMRs could be sent to the grid, which by then will have a capacity upgrade, to handle these schemes as well as offshore and onshore wind. One of Cumberlands greatest assets is the Port of Workington which has tri -modal transport links which need to be maximised.

So as I say, don't write off clean and green, far from it. This was never jam tomorrow, rather putting in place a strategy that will both diversify and sustain our economy and community, with all of the proper credentials, and make the area into a major decarbonised exemplar in the period 2035 through to 2050.

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