HARTLEPOOL was today at the centre of a major debate over the future for renewable energy.
Two of the town’s biggest industries have been highlighted in a Government-backed report.
The Government advisory group, the Committee on Climate Change, is urging more investment in the nuclear industry but a slowdown of the pace of offshore wind farm development, saying it was too aggressive and too costly.
That double-edged sword brought mixed comments from experts in the two industries which have some of the biggest influences on Hartlepool’s economy.
PD Ports are the owners of Hartlepool’s dockland which could become a centre of excellence for wind farm technology and already boasts expertise in the field thanks to companies such as JDR Cables and Heerema.
PD Ports’ managing director of bulks, ports and logistics, Jerry Hopkinson, said: “We can create a world-class industry in the UK. It is a fantastic opportunity that I am sure the Government will take on board.”
Mr Hopkinson said ageing coal-fired power stations would close before too long and that would create a gap in the market.
“This country has a genuine opportunity to bridge that gap from a number of resources.”
He said the facilities in the Tees Valley, and Hartlepool in particular, were still very much at the centre of talks to get major companies into the area.
Mr Hopkinson added: “We are carrying on. This has no effect on our plans.” Maria McCaffery, the chief executive of RenewableUK, the trade body for the UK wind industry, said: “An unambitious target could scare off investors just when they have pledged so much commitment in establishing UK factories.”
Meanwhile, Hartlepool’s nuclear energy experts welcomed the Government report.
Energy giants EDF are considering a new nuclear power station for Hartlepool, creating 450 permanent jobs and 3,000 temporary posts during the five-year building programme.
A spokesman for EDF said: “EDF Energy has consistently argued that diverse energy sources, including renewables and nuclear, are needed.
“The UK must address climate change at a cost that consumers and businesses can afford. The CCC has said that safe nuclear power, the lowest cost, large scale, low carbon electricity source, is a key element. We agree.” The Committee on Climate Change said nuclear power was the most cost-effective way of providing low-carbon electricity well into the 2020s, calling for around 14 new nuclear plants to be built by the end of the next decade.
The committee’s chief executive David Kennedy suggested the Government should be flexible on its plans for offshore wind this decade, but commitments should be made to continue investment in offshore wind in the 2020s because of the importance it will play in the UK’s long term energy mix.
The review recommends 40 per cent of electricity coming from renewables, 40 per cent from nuclear, 15 per cent from fossil fuels with the technology to capture and store carbon emissions, and less than 10 per cent from unabated gas fired plants.