Plea to Government to place North at heart of green energy revolution

Northern England could become a powerhouse to revolutionise green energy, a leading think tank has found, were it afforded a 'just transition' to avoid the mistakes of the past.

Joshua Emden IPPR report author

Communities in the North of England have been disproportionately affected by a number of closures and job losses in the carbon energy sector, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has warned in its latest report, home as it is to the largest number of coal and gas power stations in the whole of the country.

A further 28,000 jobs are at risk in northern coal, oil and gas industries over the next 12 years, the report concludes, but with Government support and power, clean energy could fuel a new era for prosperity, alongside a potential to create 46,000 new jobs by 2030.

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“The Government must learn from the mistakes of the past and ensure that this time there is a just transition into the low carbon energy sector and beyond, for workers in the North of England who have powered the UK for decades,” said Josh Emden, research fellow at IPPR and co-author of the report.

“The good news is that the opportunity is there for the North of England to become a powerhouse for the UK once again, provided the Government takes the critical policy action needed.”

Mr Emden said coalfield communities across Yorkshire are still reeling from the impact of mass closures in the 1980s, alongside those at Kellingley Colliery which closed in 2015, bringing to an end the UK’s deep mining industry.

But there are opportunities in the region to capitalise on new industries, he added, citing growth and innovations in off-shore wind developments in the Humber region, biomass research in York and East Riding, and trials underway at Drax power station to capture emissions.

“Some changes are already happening,” he added. “To continue to grow, there needs to be support. Not just in terms of technologies, but in providing skills in these industries, and making sure that the potentially negative impacts are mitigated and opportunities capitalised on. To avoid the mistakes of the past, we need to ensure there is a plan in place.”

The IPPR report calls for support for energy workers to access well paid, skilled jobs in the sector, ensuring the North can lead the way in tackling climate change.

Uncertainty over Brexit must be addressed, it concludes, alongside improvements to education and skills systems and a long-term policy for decarbonisation.

“We know that decarbonising the economy is an urgent necessity if we are to limit the impacts of global warming,” said Luke Murphy, associate director at IPPR and co-author of the report.

“What the UK needs now is for Government to commit to long-term policy for decarbonisation, where communities are protected from decline and supported to thrive through mechanisms like the industrial strategy and an improved skills system, so that we can realise a new era of prosperity for the communities that quite literally power the powerhouse.”