IN a debate about biomass power generation, Thurrock MP Jackie Doyle-Price praised Tilbury power station and its conversion from coal-fired to biomass and challenged the Government to do more to tackle EU directives and to worry more about Energy and less about climate change.
Jackie said, “I am proud to represent Tilbury, which is in my constituency and has what is currently the world’s largest dedicated biomass power station. The history of Tilbury is interesting, because the power station was until very recently coal-fired, and it has been generating sufficient power for the whole of Essex for the past 50 years. However, the large combustion plant directive finished off Tilbury as a coal-fired power station, and I know that my hon. Friend the Minister will be very aware of how much impact the directive is having on our power generation capability.
At its peak, Tilbury employed 750 people—today it employs 250, all in very highly skilled jobs—and it generated more than 1,000 MW, which is enough to power 1 million homes. In its 50 years of operation, it never breached its environmental licence. That prompts the question, although we implement EU directives with very good intentions, in terms of reducing emissions, when we look at the detail of the impact, are we really hitting the right things when we are looking at tackling climate change and environmentalism? I just put that out there. It is not unusual for the European Union to get things very badly wrong.
With over a third of our existing generating capacity due to close by the end of this decade, clearly, more investment in renewable and low-carbon technology is required—and quickly—so that, in future, we have a secure energy supply, a lower-carbon energy supply and an affordable energy supply. That is why we need to unlock the supply challenges quickly, because without increasing supply, the impact will be on price, and our most vulnerable consumers will be hit.
I know the Minister does not require too much encouragement in this regard, but I would like to highlight how much this issue illustrates what happens when Governments fail to fight our corner in Europe. I can see a situation coming down the track very quickly where we will be forced to buy more and more electricity from France, in particular, because the regulatory system has favoured nuclear over coal. We all want cleaner, greener energy, but we need to keep the lights on, and we need to make sure that people can afford to heat their homes. For our own energy security, therefore, we need to make the most of the potential of biomass as an energy source, given its generating potential, and given how much more of our domestic demand we will be able to supply.
It is telling that coal-fired power stations are being built in Germany, when we have made coal completely uneconomic in this country. When we are dealing with private investors and expecting them to invest billions of pounds so that we can keep our lights on, we must recognise that they are not in it for charity, and we must enable them to facilitate that investment in the best way we can. To put it bluntly, the Department has, hitherto, been not enough about energy and rather too much about climate change. I believe that really has to change.”