Many readers will have read about plans for a new type of power station on the Hatfield Colliery site. The Don Valley Power Project. It is impressive. £5billion of investment in jobs and growth. 900MW of electricity - enough to power 1million homes. But this is a power station with a difference. A coal fired station, using the latest technology to remove 90% of the carbon created and storing it safely under the North Sea.
It would store 5million tonnes of Co2 each year, so 1 million homes served, while preventing the worst effects of the pollution power stations produce. Climate change in future decades is a huge threat. Britain – and every country – is finding new technologies to produce cleaner energy, cleaner transport, clear industry and warmer homes.
That is why wind power tripled during the Labour Government. It was why the Labour Government introduced feed-in tariffs to enable people to install solar and sell their electricity to the grid.
And it is why Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) has become a vital technology, so that coal and gas power stations across the world can keep producing electricity without polluting our planet in the way they did in decades past.
As local MPs, we’re not privy to the details of every other CCS project vying for Government support. But you can imagine how astonished we were that a scheme which the European Union judged the best around, failed to make the shortlist for UK Government support.
Doncaster’s MPs met the Secretary of State to press him on the reasons why Doncaster was excluded. His answers were vague.
Had he judged the benefit each scheme would bring to jobs and growth? It seems not.
The Government mention “affordability” – yet this scheme not only produces electricity, it uses the carbon to recover oil from under sea. 3-8billion barrels of oil making the scheme more affordable; and extending the life of our North Sea oil fields by a decade or more.
The Government suggested value for the taxpayer may be a reason. The real problem here is not the cost of the electricity the Don Valley project would sell, it appears to be the very size of the project. This is a big scheme. So Government would face a cost. But we believe there is a cost to failing to see the bigger picture.
The future of our energy needs lies in thinking big. Putting British coal to a clean use; solar panels on homes; super-insulated homes and smart meters to cut domestic bills; communities buying power together; electric cars.
These are new ways of thinking. New ways of powering our economy, warming homes for less and new ways of generating clean jobs and growth we badly need here in South Yorkshire and beyond.
As Doncaster MPs, we’re not sure the Government sees this bigger picture. Sees the potential and the skills South Yorkshire offers.
We celebrate the coal and steel making that built South Yorkshire. Now we need to lend the strengths of those industries to meet the challenge of this energy revolution. To manufacture the offshore wind turbines – from the blades to the foundations; to help farmers, communities and schools generate their own energy; and to be at the forefront of the next generation of energy technology, such as CCS.
We hope the Don Valley Power Project can still succeed. That’s why we backed it in Government and fought to secure €180million to develop the project.
Ministers can still help to secure a future for Hatfield Colliery and help to regenerate industry from here to the Humber.
Our plea to the Government is to see the potential of our region to help meet our energy needs tomorrow; and not leave this region or the UK in a backwater, while other countries race ahead in the low carbon energy race.
This article first appeared in the Doncaster Free Press on 3 January.