North East Business group calls for Government Green Energy plan

The North East of England Chamber of Commerce has set out an argument for the government to set a "comprehensive and funded" strategy to build a Green Energy sector.

The group highlighted a number of industries and companies in the North East who are primely placed to help the region build an environmentally friendly global energy sector.

Author of the report, Rachel Anderson, told ITV News: "We’re on the cusp of a huge opportunity here. We’ve got the right mix of geography. We’ve got the right technologies. We’ve got the right geology here as well, but we’ve also got a really long history of skills and technology here.

"We’ve got real expertise in nuclear particularly here, but also in power generation going into industry and we really need to harness that, but really get that investment going to bring it forward and we need the government to put the right policy in place to do that."

In a detailed report sent to the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy, the Chamber set out clearly where and how the North East could use new and developing technologies to attract substantial investment. 

The information and case studies within the document were presented in a Chamber COP 26 themed-webinar on Monday.

One of the case studies was Northumbrian Water, which was the first water company in the UK to use 100 per cent of its sewage sludge to generate renewable energy through its green power stations at Howdon and Bran Sands, and to have England's largest hydroelectric plant of its kind at Kielder.

Paul Robinson from the Howdon site said: "This site processes 18,000 cubic meters of sludge a week, which equates to 600 tankers across the North East. From the biogas production we get out of this process, we inject into the national grid and that serves a population of 1.1 million people from this site alone."

The sludge is sent to centrifuges where it is diluted and heated to kill pathogens. It is then mixed and broken down in digester tanks, before moving into large gas bags to extract biogas. The biogas is cleaned and then sent to the National Grid.

Tony Rutherford of Northumbrian Water said: "We were the first water company to deal with all of our waste water sludges in house, where we actually treat that sewage sludge now and produce green energy from it. Rather than it just being seen as a waste product, actually embracing that and doing something with it, which is great for the environment too and for our customers."

The Chamber's view is that the Energy Sector has a key role to play in the Levelling up agenda with a wealth of opportunity in new and existing technology providing jobs and growth. 

To support this and other opportunities the business organisation wants to see investment in developing skills for the energy sector and business supply chains.

In response to the Chamber's appeal, a spokesperson from the Government's Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said:

“Through our Energy White Paper, we are committed to building a secure, home-grown energy sector to reduce Britain’s dependency on fossil fuels and our exposure to volatile global gas prices.

“The North East of England is fully capturing the economic benefits of this transition, with three major offshore wind manufacturing investments announced in the region this year alone, bringing jobs and investment to our industrial heartlands.”