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Saturday, 22 November 2014

Is Cumbria ready for the challenge ahead?

CUMBRIA’S MPs give their views on the key energy issues which have a huge impact on how the county operates. However Sir Tony Cunningham, MP for Workington, remained sceptical about onshore winding, saying “We don’t want any more - we’ve got enough.” This raises questions about whether the energy and tourism industries can work in harmony, which according to most of Cumbria’s MPs, shouldn’t be a problem.

Can the Lake District/tourism industry work in harmony with the energy industry?

Jamie Reed:

OF course it can. Not only has it always done so, but the energy industry, nuclear in particular has always provided a massive tourism base for the tourist industry, whether through drawing people to the area, through hotel stays, through providing employment that provides ‘local’ tourism as a consequence of disposable income.

The two have always worked in more than harmony, there’s actually a huge boon for the tourism industry in the continued development of energy industries.

Tony Cunningham:

IT always has. We have had a nuclear industry in this part of the world since the 1950s. I hope it will continue to do so.

John Woodcock:

I DON’T think there’s any fundamental reason why the development and expansion of clean, green energy in Cumbria can’t sit very comfortably with our hard-won status as a world-leading tourist destination.

Rightly, any development in the national park itself, or the areas immediately around it, would be heavily regulated and there needs to be every possible effort to minimise the impact on the landscape of electricity distribution lines, but we have many decades of experience in Cumbria of ma naging these competing demands. Our fantastic countryside and the high quality of life that its vicinity helps provide can also be a key draw in attracting and retaining the high-skilled employees that the area needs to develop its full potential in the energy and other high-tech sectors.

Tim Farron:

THE energy sector could offer us the opportunity to expand the tourism industry by working to host major conferences at venues like the University of Cumbria in Ambleside. This would be a major boost to the tourism sector and be an ideal tie-in between the two industries.

John Stevenson:

I SEE absolutely no reason why not. In fact I actually think it’s in the interests of Cumbria that they do work together.

Rory Stewart:

OUR tourism and energy industries must work in tandem. Cumbria as a county is uniquely diverse, in that we have a highly developed ‘energy coast’, with impressive industrial infrastructure and output, and a pristine landscape that draws millions of tourists a year. The relationship between the two must be symbiotic, but in Penrith and the Border, our landscape is what pays many of our bills. It allowed Cumbria’s economy to remain afloat during the recession. Tourism in Cumbria generates billions of pounds, and protecting our landscape will protect our economy. Onshore wind turbines are not the silver bullet to address our energy needs, and short-sighted decisions on energy generation will only damage the long-term value of our fells. So, as ever it is a question of balance; continue to do what the West Coast does best, and protect our unbelievably beautiful landscape at the same time.

Have we looked far enough into alternative energy sources, such as hydro/tidal energy? Can the Solway Coast be used more for this?

Jamie Reed:

I THINK that theoretically this can be the case, but these are local decisions and should always be made with the interests of the locality at heart and only after a forensic study of the environmental, economic and social consequences of such developments. We can and should do more.

The model for everything we are trying to achieve is the Silicon Valley in California. What was once a nuclear weapons testing ground is now the by-word for modernity, opportunity and progress.

Cumbria can be such a place. Cumbria should be such a place.

Tony Cunningham:

WE have. There was a study that proves that tidal energy made economic sense. Research has already been done that proves Solway can be used. Windfarms work when the wind blows. We don’t know whether the wind is going to blow or not, but we know the tide is going to come in and out. But I also think we could use rivers on a small scale.

John Woodcock:

I’M not a technical expert, but we should obviously look closely at any serious proposals for tidal energy schemes, whether those are in Morecambe Bay or on the Solway coast, providing these can be achieved without seriously negative environmental impacts on these sensitive areas.

The positive experience of Baywind in Furness, Britain’s first community-owned windfarm, should pave the way for other community-owned or micro generation schemes, whether that’s wind, hydro or solar power. Offshore wind is a huge potential growth area for our region, creating significant numbers of jobs locally as well as contributing to UK energy security.

I am confident that there will be further significant investment in this area: it is excellent news that the Walney Extension project, adding a further 660MW of offshore capacity, has been given government approval, securing hundreds of jobs.

Tim Farron:

I AM always keen to look into new, alternative forms of energy to power Britain. Any new forms of energy need to be based on solid evidence-based policy and I would be particularly open to forms of energy that deliver cost-savings for consumers over a longer period of time.

I have long supported the idea of harnessing tidal energy from Morecambe Bay and we need to look at the possibilities on the Solway Coast.

There’s always further that we can go and I think we all have a stake in finding these solutions – politicians, energy companies, environmentalists – even consumers take the initiative when there are innovative and cost-saving solutions available: I have constituents who install their own solar panels, for example.

If one household can use innovative and sustainable solutions, surely as a society, we can widen their use – it’s good for the environment, for consumers, and for industry.

John Stevenson:

I THINK we should always be looking out for alternative energy sources in any form. For example we’re looking at shale gas, but also tidal. We must look at energy sources beyond what we have and Cumbria should be at the forefront of that.

Rory Stewart:

WAVE and tidal stream technologies are still being developed but my instinct is that we should focus ever harder on hydro and tidal power. I have been lucky enough to be involved in a pilot hydro project on the Eden, which looks very promising. The Solway Coast is not my constituency, but my sense is that is has potential for renewal energy development from tidal power, but again, we need to make sure that it is the right decision made at the right time for the people of Cumbria.

Would you welcome a new nuclear build and are you confident that Cumbrian businesses will be able to benefit from this?

Jamie Reed:

I HELPED to establish the new nuclear energy policies under the last government which the current government has kept, working with No.10 and others. I’ve also been closely involved with the new nuclear build proposals for Moorside for almost a decade.

A huge amount of work from a lot of local partners has gone into bringing the project to its current point, but there is still more work to do.

I’m entirely confident that Cumbrian businesses will be able to benefit from this development, that’s part of the rationale for the entire project.

Tony Cunningham:

YES I would. When Gordon Brown was prime minister he visited Sellafield and I was sat next to him when he said a new power station in West Cumbria would create up to 10,000 jobs.

At Lillyhall we have an energy facility which trains young people. We have a construction facility training people in construction skills, and a university technical college is being built. All training local people for jobs if there was a new nuclear power station.

John Woodcock:

I WOULD strongly welcome proposals for new nuclear build. Nuclear power will be an essential role in Britain’s energy mix, sitting alongside renewable generation and the responsible use of fossil fuels, in coming decades, providing the generating capacity that we need safely, securely, cleanly and sustainably.

The turmoil in Ukraine shows the degree to which we need energy security for the UK, not leaving us reliant on imported fuel from unstable regions, with potential for being held politically to ransom for the continuation of the supply – nuclear, along with schemes such as the gas extraction being undertaken locally by Centrica, is a vital part of ensuring that security.

It is excellent news that progress is being made towards construction of the three new reactors at Moorside, which form part of a tranche of industrial investment in Cumbria that rivals the London Olympics in scale.

We need to do everything possible to ensure that both Cumbrian businesses and individuals share the benefit of this massive programme of investment, which is why I am organising a conference and report on how this can be secured.

Tim Farron:

WELL paid jobs is something everyone should welcome. I hope that the supply chain will be as local as possible.

John Stevenson:

WE are a nuclear county and therefore I believe we would welcome a new nuclear build. It’s a potential game changer; for businesses to be part of the supply chain, and also an opportunity for the people of Cumbria to have good quality jobs.

And most importantly it’s an opportunity to skill up the next generation in an area of jobs and skills.

Rory Stewart:

I BELIEVE nuclear power should be part of our energy mix in Britain. We need to look at nuclear in decarbonising the UK’s energy supplies. And that includes looking at nuclear builds in West Cumbria. But we need to ensure that communities are very closely consulted on this process, and that safety is central to the whole discussion. I support the views of Dieter Helm, the Professor of Climate Science at Oxford, who has shown that one could achieve a significant reduction in carbon emissions by converting our existing coal-fired stations to gas. (The new discoveries of shale gas in the US and Europe answer many of the concerns people had, even eighteen months ago, about energy supply and energy security, and Cumbria is already doing an enormous amount to generate non-carbon emitting energy).

What are the main energy concerns raised by your constituents?

Jamie Reed:

ENERGY is a massive issue. From the types of electricity generation we have in the UK, to security of supply, to climate change, to planning for power lines or wind turbines or more, but the biggest concern raised by constituents is with regard to energy prices.

Tony Cunningham:

WITHOUT a shadow of doubt, onshore wind and its proliferation. We don’t want any more – we’ve got enough.

John Woodcock:

BILLS, put simply. The 37 per cent increase in gas and electricity costs over the past three years is eight times the increase in wages. We need to take steps urgently to tackle this, including freezing bills, but also need to plan long-term to ensure that costs don’t rise further because we lack sufficient generating capacity to meet future needs and have to rely on expensive imported energy, subject to the fluctuations of global energy markets and international politics. Here in Cumbria, we can create jobs and skills today building the capacity that Britain will need tomorrow.

Tim Farron:

MY constituents are proud to live in one of the most beautiful parts of the world – the natural environment in my patch is one of its biggest assets and my constituents often push me to make sure that any energy solutions that are up for discussion don’t hurt our local natural environment.

John Stevenson:

I THINK what we want is a security of supply of all energy sources. We want to ensure there is competition in the industry, and investment. If we have these we’ll have a domestic market with competitive prices.

Rory Stewart:

THE main issues with me are the cost of energy especially for our ageing population; the cost of fuel; and energy security. There is strong opposition to wind turbines in Penrith and the Border. We are a constituency that depends on tourism more than anything for our income. Tourism depends on defending the landscape of the Lake District and the Pennines, and wind turbines have been very damaging to landscape tourism. I feel communities should have a bigger say in determining what things look like around them.

Is Cumbria ‘up for the challenge’ of dealing with energy issues such as climate change? Is it a good opportunity for the county?

Jamie Reed:

IT’S an Olympic-sized opportunity. New nuclear developments help to address a holy trinity of policy problems: our energy supplies, our environment and our economy.

West Cumbria is certainly up for the challenge and I believe the rest of the county is beginning to understand what is at stake, what is on the table and what is to be gained.

We can make ourselves the UK heart of a growing global industry with huge potential and long term benefits.

It’s the best opportunity facing the county, it hasn’t happened by accident and if we get it right, we can look forward to a prosperous, secure future.

I’m convinced we can do this. We have to embrace the future and shape our destiny: our best days are ahead of us.

Tony Cunningham:

WEST Cumbria is. It is ‘up to the challenge’ and is ideally placed to deal with it.

John Woodcock:

THE challenges that Britain faces in terms of securing energy supply and moving to less polluting forms of generation are very real and need to be urgently faced up to – but they do represent a genuine opportunity for Cumbria. We are fortunate in that the expertise we have locally and the sectors which are growing fit very well with meeting those challenges: nuclear, wind and gas extraction are all sources of energy that help to make Britain self-sufficient in terms of energy, cutting costs and ensuring we are not reliant on energy from unstable areas, whether that is in the Middle East or the former Soviet Union.

Exploiting Cumbria’s energy sources can also help Britain cut its carbon emissions, meeting our international obligations and stemming catastrophic climate change.

We need to be vociferous, as a county, in making that case, and pro-active in ensuring that we can provide the necessary skills, workforce and infrastructure.

And I am looking forward to examining how we can best benefit locally from the developments that are taking place in the area at the economic development opportunities conference Jamie Reed MP and I have called for June 27.

Tim Farron:

CLIMATE change is one of the most important challenges that we face in the modern age. I actually think that Cumbria is doing well to fight climate change and support sustainable development – but climate change is an international problem and has to have an international solution.

John Stevenson:

I CERTAINLY think we have a unique opportunity to be involved in the development of the nuclear industry, as well as in the renewable industry.

A strong nuclear industry and a strong renewable industry helps with climate change.

Rory Stewart:

Cumbria's residents and businesses are already in my experience dealing brilliantly and imaginatively with energy issues. They are enormously engaged, thoughtful and energetic. I believe we are excellently placed to showcase a variety of approaches to energy challenges: looking at harnessing hydro-power and geothermal power, looking at uses and woods, and piloting ways in which platforms for community debate can be strengthened, and of course looking at a mix of smaller energy-producing projects such as along the Eden, or in the Solway.

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