Cumbria’s Energy Coast has moved south says a leading politician, who has called for more muscle to be put behind a tidal energy project across Morecambe Bay.

Councillor Graham Vincent, portfolio holder for economy at South Lakeland District Council, demanded for more support for energy projects in the south of the county and the infrastructure to support them, following the collapse of the Moorside nuclear power station project.

He called for Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership to throw its weight behind the Northern Tidal Power Gateway scheme – which would see a power generating turbines and a transport link cross Morecambe Bay from Barrow to the north Lancashire coast and bring with its long-term renewable energy, jobs and economic growth.

Pointing to existing off-shore gas and wind developments – which includes the largest windfarm in the world in the form of the Walney Extension windfarm – battery storage in Barrow and a growing cluster of world leading companies in the energy sector, Coun Vincent described south Cumbria and Morecambe Bay as the new Energy Coast.

“South Cumbria is the location where energy innovation and delivery is taking place – the Energy Coast has moved south,” he said.

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

"Here in South Cumbria ambition is being delivered, but support is needed."

Coun Vincent said Cumbria LEP needed to hear the key messages coming from the National Infrastructure Commission – an independent body that provides the Government with impartial advice on major long-term infrastructure challenges.

It has recommended that one more nuclear power station is delivered after Hinkley Point C – the Horizon Nuclear Power project at Wylfa Newydd – before pausing for a decade to see how nuclear measures up against renewable energy and battery storage projects.

The demise of the £15 billion Moorside project, the associated £2.8bn upgrade to Cumbria’s electricity grid connection, along with the end of reprocessing at Sellafield, now demanded an urgent re-evaluation of where infrastructure improvements were needed, said Coun Vincent.

“In the light of these events a change in our strategic direction is urgently needed,” he said.

“Moorside has been a ‘jam tomorrow’ project for the past six or eight years.

"The scheme always assumed that funding for road, rail, housing, schools and so on, would be available to support the delivery of the project.”

Coun Vincent added that south Cumbria could contribute further to Cumbria’s energy ambitions if serious and determined commitment was given to the Northern Tidal Power Gateway.

The £8 billion project has the potential to 6,500GWh of electricity a year – enough to power around 1.5 million homes – and create 7,500 construction jobs.

Extending it across the Duddon Estuary could provide a further 100GWh a year, which could power a further 25,000 homes and provide a vital economic link across the Morecambe Bay region, says its backers.

“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,” added Coun Vincent.

Jo Lappin, chief executive of Cumbria LEP, said its focus was on the county’s wider energy sector, not just nuclear, and that the emerging Local Industrial Strategy for Cumbria was highly evidential.

“The county’s energy sector as a whole is flourishing and has the potential for high growth,” she said.

“Working with the Carbon Trust, Cumbria LEP is finalising its Energy Plan for the county, looking at developing low carbon, green or renewable energy projects, which will contribute to more sustainable economic growth.

"The final plan, which has been developed with partners, will be ready by the end of November and again is focused on all energy sources from the industrial to home and community schemes.”