FOR decades, Yorkshire has been Britain’s engine room, meeting the country’s electricity needs from the region’s rich coalfields and the power stations that dot the andscape.
The economic challenges that have dogged UK mining and environmental concerns over the burning of fossil fuels have conspired to put that position under threat.
But that long history in energy production allied to new technologies also holds the key to a bright future that could create thousands of skilled long-term jobs.
This region has been identified as having huge potential in the emerging technology of carbon capture and storage (CCS) which could see gases harmful to the environment captured at source and stored under the North Sea.
It has been estimated that CCS could create 4,000 skilled jobs in Yorkshire and one of the world’s most significant schemes, the White Rose Project centred on the Drax power station site, is already under development.
The European Union has already promised White Rose 300 million euros it is time for the UK Government to commit to the project too by committing the £1 billion set aside eight years go to back this technology.
People have talked about the energy estuary and I think they are right to have that vision. The amount of investment we are seeing in energy, not just in renewables like offshore wind but in biomass as well, I think that really should give the people of Hull and HumbersideEnergy Secretary Ed Davey, speaking in March 2014
The geography of the Humber gives it huge potential to be to the offshore wind industry what Aberdeen is to North Sea oil.
Significant steps have already been taken with the confirmation that Siemens will open a turbine assembly plant and blade manufacturing centre on the North Bank and the go-ahead for the Dogger and Hornsea is a further boost.
More than anything, it is long term certainty that the energy sector craves. That means the next Government must be clear about the role it wants offshore wind to play in the UK’s energy mix and be cautious about further electricity market reforms .
It must also continue to support investment in education and skills in the area to ensure local people are properly equipped to take advantage of the skilled jobs heading their way.
The emerging fracking industry could bring valuable jobs and income to Yorkshire but there is considerable concern about the potential environmental impact. Addressing those concerns throught transparent regulation should be a priority for the next Government.
To many in Yorkshire, the biggest environmental issue they face is the threat of flooding.
The current Government’s approach to flood defences has been questioned by two cross-party committees of MPs with questions raised over strategy, intelligence, engagement with communities and balancing investment in capital projects with maintenance of existing defences.
The next administration should see flood defences as infrastructure every bit as important as new roads and railways and the budgets for maintaining these structures should not be seen as an easy picking when it comes to finding savings in Whitehall budgets.
A further threat to our environment is the pollution of Yorkshire’s beaches. Working in partnership. councils, the Environment Agency, Yorkshire Water and others made big improvements in the quality of Yorkshire’s coastal waters.
But when Staithes beach is being de-designated as a bathing beach bnecause of persitent pollution issues and with the European Union tightening the rules on water quality it is clear these prize assets, both for local communities and the legions of visitors who head to Yorkshire each year, need further protection.
IN FULL: OUR YORKSHIRE MANIFESTO...