Graham Vincent, Portfolio Holder for Economy on South Lakeland District Council, believes the south of Cumbria can become the new 'energy coast'

THE demise of the Moorside project, coupled with the ending of fuel reprocessing at Sellafield, calls for an urgent re-evaluation of where Cumbria’s energy contribution will come from.

The National Grid has now abandoned its scheme intended to carry power from a Moorside generator to the national network. The projected cost for this scheme was estimated at £2.8 billion

In a major report, the Government's Infrastructure Advisory Commission has advised government that after Hinkley Point it should only invest in one further nuclear power station and that power station is most likely to be Wylfa in North Wales. The report goes on to recommend that the Government pursues renewable energy schemes that will deliver electricity more cheaply.

These are key messages as major infrastructure investment decisions for Cumbria are being and some have already been made. In the light of above events a change in our strategic direction is urgently needed.

We must ensure these strategic decisions are based on latest data and not historical attachment, and ensure that investment supports the areas of real growth.

The Moorside scheme always assumed that funding for road, rail, housing, schools etc would be available to support the delivery of the project.

Unsurprisingly there is a discernible lack of Government enthusiasm for the Moorside project. This is evidenced by the absence of a dedicated headline project in the government's Nuclear Deal and recent publicity around out of control budget management at the Nuclear Decommissioning Agency show that a nuclear Cumbria is not in favour at present.

Moorside has been a 'jam tomorrow' project for the past six or eight years. It cannot now hold the pole position in a county that proudly wears 'The Energy Coast’ as a brand label.

South Cumbria is the location where energy innovation and delivery is taking place. ‘Energy Coast’ has moved south

In Morecambe Bay there is the well-established offshore gas extraction that will continue to deliver for some years to come.

That gas is ‘cleaned’, compressed and then held in the new 1.5 billion cubic metre storage facility at Rampside, Barrow.

Clean, safe renewable energy is now provided from the giant offshore Walney wind farm, currently the biggest wind farm in the world. This is serviced and maintained from Barrow and is a huge private sector investment.

The large battery storage project, again in Barrow, is providing 49mw of storage capacity, currently the biggest in the UK. The battery is charged with surplus energy from the grid and discharged when supply is inconsistent. The interventions take less than a second to make, and ensures a constant power supply to the consumer.

Smaller, but no less important, are the commercial successes of Gilbert Gilkes' water-powered turbine manufacturers, and Mardix with its innovative critical power systems. These firms are market leaders.

This is the private sector delivering today but working with extremely poor infrastructure that does not help with recruitment or encourage further investment.

What else might a new 'Energy Coast’ deliver? It could bring electricity produced from tidal energy, one of the most reliable energy sources in the world, free from ongoing legacy hazards and as far as can be determined an endless source of power for conversion to electricity

The Northern Tidal Power Gateway is a significant project that would provide 3,600 megawatts of electricity, facilitate a major link road between Barrow and the north Lancashire coast and could deliver control of rising sea levels to prevent flooding in the Morecambe Bay region

This project would supply clean, green, sustainable electricity for more than 100 years and has none of the expensive legacy drawbacks that nuclear power stations leave behind.

The Northern Tidal Power Gateway would require serious and determined commitment from LEPs on both sides of the Morecambe Bay to deliver such a project but it is undeniably worth delivering.

Here in south Cumbria ambition is being delivered. High-tech businesses are delivering the Government priorities to meet energy demand and much more could be delivered.

Cumbria should become the North West’s 'economic engine'.