The North of England could become an energy supergiant post-Brexit, exporting energy to Europe and reducing our dependency on Russia, a major new study concludes.
The report from IPPR North’s Northern Energy Taskforce – which looks at the future of the energy sector – says the North has the potential to become a world-leader in green energy, if the right powers are transferred post-Brexit.
But it warns that a failure to adapt could see the North and the wider UK economy suffer from becoming reliant on Russian gas and polluting energy sources.
The report urges government to give the North more powers as part of its industrial strategy – its blueprint for the UK’s economy as we leave the EU.
Mayors, set to be created in big cities outside London on 4 May, can play a key role – driving the roll-out of home insulation, for instance.
The study adds that the “uncertainty” around Brexit means the UK government must set out a “framework” for how to meet the commitment to remove carbon from the economy by 2050.
Darren Baxter, researcher at IPPR North and the report author, said: “As we leave the EU, we must do all we can to be a world-leader and create tomorrow’s green jobs. The North has fantastic potential to become the engine powering the UK economy, and if the government gives the North real powers, it could become a world-leader on green technology.
“But a failure to adapt would see all parts of the UK becoming much more dependent on foreign imports of energy. This would hugely undermine the vote to ’take back control’.
“The North led the first industrial revolution and has the potential to power a renewable revolution too.”
Richard Evans, North Energy sector lead at KPMG and Taskforce member, said:
“With the right policy environment, the energy – particularly low carbon – assets and skills clustered in the North can be exploited to give the area an economic advantage in a global growth sector. The rationale for investment to this end is compelling in the context of the UK economy’s North/South productivity gap and subsequent requirement for rebalancing, as well as the potential it offers in support of the country’s export agenda.
“There’s no doubt energy can be a critical strand of the economic renaissance represented by the Northern Powerhouse vision and I hope this report provides a useful role in highlighting the importance of the sector.”
Sir John Harman, chair of the Northern Energy Taskforce and former head of the Environment Agency, said: The North of England is already leading in many ways, but there is still huge untapped potential.
“The government’s industrial strategy is welcome but needs to spell out in detail what a plan for the North’s renewable energy sector looks like. Our report does exactly that. Government must now show it takes the North’s untapped potential seriously.”
Paul Hamer, WYG’s Chief Executive and Taskforce member, said: “A significant amount of the UK’s electricity is already generated in the North, and the region hosts a highly skilled workforce in the energy sector that we export all over the world. Businesses have got an important role to play in moving this agenda forward, driving services, collaboration and innovation, and informing the government’s industrial strategy.”