Make the North a clean energy hub, urges leading think-tank

Power plant using renewable solar energy.
Power plant using renewable solar energy.
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A new deal is needed to enable the North of England to be at the centre of the clean energy sector, a leading think-tank has said.

The Institute for Public Policy Research has published a report calling on the Government to ensure that northern workers are at the heart of the UK’s transition to a low-carbon economy.

The organisation demands a ‘Just Transition Commission’, which it says would kick-start the North’s low carbon revolution.

The plan would create a body to ensure that energy workers in the region continue to have secure livelihoods as Britain moves away from traditional energy production towards cleaner technologies.

The proposals draw inspiration from a Scottish initiative and would be led by regional representatives including metro mayors, Local Enterprise Partnerships, local authorities, communities, businesses and trade unions.

The think-tank urged Ministers to take action to ensure that decarbonisation is properly managed or “risk repeating the mistakes of the past” that created widespread unemployment across the North.

Sarah Longlands, Director of IPPR North said: “The North of England has the potential to be the powerhouse behind a much-needed clean energy revolution.

“But this opportunity is not a foregone conclusion. We need policymakers to step up and devolve power to the North through the creation of a Just Transition Commission, so that the people of the North can demonstrate just how powerful our potential is”.

Josh Emden, Research Fellow at IPPR and co-author of the report, added: “Reducing our carbon emissions is one of the biggest challenges that we face today in the UK, but without radical action we put our natural environment, and Northern energy jobs at risk.

“Putting the principle of a ‘just transition’ at the heart of Government climate policy at all levels is vital. Not least if we’re to make the most of the low carbon transition and ensure the benefits are fairly and widely shared.”

Responding to the proposals, a spokesperson for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: “The UK is a world leader in low-carbon energy, and to build on this record we have placed clean growth at the heart of our modern Industrial Strategy.

“Our offshore wind sector deal will create more opportunities for investment, bringing together local agencies, industry and academia to help the North of England take advantage of its huge potential to create more green jobs.”

Alongside the Just Transition Commission proposal, the think-tank also puts forward a comprehensive package of recommendations including a Just Transition Fund for the region, re-using assets from carbon-based energy generation to fuel the clean energy revolution, and wage subsidies for workers who may be unemployed as a result of transition.

As part of the report, IPPR spoke to workers who had benefited from similar schemes during periods of industrial upheaval.

Billy Gundry, who is a 54-year-old Operations Manager from Selby in North Yorkshire, left school in 1981 and went straight into the mines.

He said pit closure in the region were “devastating for the community and for jobs”.

But he added: “If local and national government provide people with support, and if you let them know that their skills are valued you really can achieve a just transition.”