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BECBC responds to the UK Government Energy Security Strategy

Britain’s Energy Coast Business Cluster (BECBC) welcomes the British Energy Security Strategy issued today. With clear aims for a spread of energy supply across nuclear, wind, solar and hydrogen supported through the transition to net zero by a temporary increase in domestic oil and gas the strategy delivers what businesses in energy industry have been asking for-a clear direction and intention from government.

For some time the triple focus of sustainability in the energy market of net zero, energy security and energy affordability has been skewed with energy and affordability losing out to net zero in profile and attention. The impact of that has been brought to the forefront by the tragic events in Ukraine, an area some of our members have colleagues, family and friends in. This strategy addresses that imbalance and shows that we can deliver all three equally if we work together with secure national energy supply delivering affordable energy for the UK based on clean energy. The balance where nuclear power provides a baseline of energy provision with an increase in wind, solar and hydrogen is an important one. We should also be clear that this is a long-term strategy which will not provide immediate relief on energy affordability, we are unfortunately paying the price for these long-term plans being kicked into the grass in previous decades. The strategy is essential to ensuring we are not in the same position in future decades.

BECBC was born from the nuclear industry supply chain, though we now represent a much wider membership sector base, and the increase in commitment to nuclear power from one a decade to one a year is one the nuclear sector will welcome. For our members this means increased work which will provide some of the additional jobs referred to in the strategy. Additional quality jobs are just one strand of the social value which can be delivered through this strategy helping to support the Government’s levelling up agenda if work is placed in areas where there are high deprivation figures. There are areas of the country, including Cumbria, where the increase in work for the energy sector could deliver change for communities where high deprivation figures have persisted. The idea of onshore windfarms delivering cheaper energy to local communities has to be a consideration for communities with fuel poverty but also solves an issue for the windfarm producers whose struggle to show local social value has led to the strong opposition we’ve seen to these developments in the past.

So what does the strategy mean for Cumbria as an area? Our industrial heritage in coastal areas combined with a deep knowledge in the local supply chain of the quality, health and safety and social value requirements of the energy industry which I’ve spoken about previously should mean Cumbria is well placed to help deliver on the strategy but we cannot sit back and wait for investors to come to us. That’s why our work alongside MP’s, councils and third sector organisations as part of the Invest in Cumbria Alliance is so important. Cumbria needs to have a clear voice at the national table shouting about all that we have to offer and crucially what local communities here are looking for from those investors to support their social license to operate. With Sizewell C in Suffolk currently in negotiation and the profile for Wylfa indicating that is likely to be the next site for new nuclear how do we position Cumbria, with Moorside and Fellside as potential sites, as the next one in the roll out?

Our industrial coast is power hungry and includes the long-term national mission at Sellafield. Having these sites gives us an opportunity to take an area wide approach such as that described in the Cumbria Nuclear Prospectus but across the wider clean energy sector. There is room at Moorside for Small Modular Reactors alongside Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP) meaning Cumbria could deliver the first SMR in the UK, which has a local ready made customer base in the industry here, while also being at the forefront of first of a kind technology as it has been historically. The area also has a city well placed on the motorway which could welcome a SMR factory providing a SMR arc in the new Cumberland local authority. While SMRs have government support what they need are guaranteed customers to attract the private investment delivery of this strategy relies upon. In addition we have the National Nuclear Lab with their work on High Temperature Gas Reactors, seen by many as the best chance to create hydrogen. While it’s referred to in the strategy alongside existing power sources we need to be aware that hydrogen production is at a different stage to the nuclear, wind and solar it’s listed with. Cumbria has the ability and historic track record to deliver on these first of a kind projects.

Nuclear regions are working collaboratively through organisations such as the North West Nuclear Arc to ensure the regional voices are heard at a national level and I thank Ruth Sellick, our Deputy Chair, for representing our members in this space. This is a perfect way to support and inform the new Great British Nuclear organisation to ensure the regional capability and experience are part of the planning.

We need to do more though. We need to work collaboratively across the full energy sector. For too long there has been a gap between green energy and clean energy, now we must work together to deliver on the vision the government has outlined today and the energy supply chain here in Cumbria stands ready to deliver for UK PLC as it has in the past.