By 2020 approximately 42 GW of generating capacity from “conventional” sources (coal and gas fired power stations and nuclear) is scheduled to close. No doubt some of the scheduled closures will be put back, but even assuming that to be the case, we face a series of decisions and choices which need to be made soon.
There has been talk of a new power station at Heysham for many years. However, the commissioning of a new nuclear power station will take years, so isn’t the answer in the (relatively) short term – whatever your views on nuclear.
Much of the capacity is going to have to come from renewals or alternative sources. The most visible of these is wind power, but locally two new(ish) forms of generation are starting to appear – biomass (waste) and solar power. Whilst the current low oil price may mean some projects are delayed, in the long run, I think we will see much more of these locally. Increasingly, we are seeing our commercial and cultural clients using or considering using waste products for generating energy both for their own use and to put into the grid. Interestingly, we are also seeing banks starting to lend capital for these projects based on some very attractive projected rates of return.
We are all familiar with solar panels on house roofs, however until quite recently it was thought that we didn’t get enough sun around here to make commercial solar farming viable. That has changed (sadly not because our weather has got better) due to improvements in technology but more particularly, a sharp reduction in the cost of solar panels. The result – we are dealing with a number of firms who are seeking options in the area for potential solar farms. I was even told of a potential project in southern Scotland!
So don’t be surprised if we see more applications for these sorts of projects on a local level to try to help solve a national problem.
By David Park, partner at Oglethorpe Sturton and Gillibrand and a director of Lancaster and Morecambe District Chamber of Commerce