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Yorkshire: Green Pioneers

Yorkshire remains at the cutting edge of the UK’s green energy boom, says exclusive research for NCE

Two years ago the Yorkshire and Humber region signalled its intent to be at the forefront of green energy technologies (NCE 15 March).

That intention is now rapidly becoming a reality: research compiled for NCE by construction intelligence service Glenigan shows that of the top 20 infrastructure projects awarded in the region in the last 12 months, four were green energy projects – bioethanol, biomass and wind farm schemes.

And the future is even greener – there are well in excess of £2bn of low carbon energy projects in the pipeline, with half of the top 20 projects focused on this sector. Regional development agency (RDA) Yorkshire Forward is the driver for this focus on green energy – and Leeds-based consultant Grontmij’s chief executive Lawrence Hughes is impressed: “Yorkshire’s Forward is doing a sterling job helping to keep the region buoyant in the recession. “They have been especially good at keeping work going where it will encourage development,” he says. He likens the RDA to the regional governments of Scotland and Northern Ireland with their quick thinking, quick reaction to opportunity and the availability of pump priming cash.

The RDA’s latest success is seeing Powerfuel Power’s Hatfield site in South Yorkshire shortlisted as a potential candidate for a proposed carbon capture and storage (CCS) demonstration project funded with European money. More than €250M (£250M) has been earmarked for the two-year scheme that is part of a European Commission to invest £1.25bn in carbon capture projects at five European sites, as well as £1.75bn earmarked for better international energy links. “This is great news for the region,” says Yorkshire Forward chief executive Tom Riordan.

“Yorkshire and Humber’s unique geography and experience of dealing with the environmental impacts of burning fossil fuels makes it an ideal candidate location to develop CCS.

“We have worked hard with a broad range of stakeholders over the past 18 months to build support for a region wide CCS network and demonstrate the region’s high state of readiness to exploit this opportunity. The possibility of bringing this level of European Union funding to the region could unlock considerable investment from the private sector, and other sources like the European Investment Bank, to implement the first phase of a network. “The prospect of beginning the construction of a network in the next two years would make a considerable contribution to pulling the region out of the current economic downturn,” says Riordan. “The future development and deployment of a CCS network could bring major economic and employment benefits to Yorkshire and Humber and establish the region as a major hub of a global low carbon economy.”

Yorkshire Forward is doing a sterling job helping to keep the region buoyant in the recession.

LawrenceHughes, chief executive, Grontmij

The CCS project involves liquefying the million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions produced each year in the region by burning fossil fuels and then pumping them out to depleted gas fields under the North Sea. Yorkshire Forward will be working with a small group of commercial partners, including Powerfuel Power, National Grid and the Department of Energy and Climate Change, to develop the business case. “We are also working with MP Rosie Winterton and MEPs to ensure that the proposed funding programme receives the required approval of the European Parliament and European Council,” adds Riordan.

Funding for the project still needs to be approved by the European Parliament and the process for applying for funding and the criteria for assessing bids are not yet clear. Yorkshire Forward is seeking clarification from the European Commission and working closely with stakeholders to ensure any investment brings maximum benefit to the region.

Yorkshire Forward is the Regional Development Agency behind the economic regeneration of Yorkshire and Humber. It aims to make a difference by investing in jobs, improving towns and cities, and supporting local businesses. Over the past year, Yorkshire Forward has created and safeguarded more than 25,456 jobs, assisted 35,165 people in skills, created 1,231 businesses and attracted over £1bn in investment.

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