Cumbria has an important role to play in aiding Britain’s push to cut greenhouse gases to zero by 2050.

That is the conclusion of John Grainger, executive director of Britain’s Energy Coast Business Cluster (BECBC), after the Government’s Committee on Climate Change published its Net Zero Plan in a bid to end its contribution to global warming within 30 years.

Mr Grainger told in-Cumbria that there were clear contributions the county could make in terms of nuclear and renewable energy generation, as well as grasping the nettle when it comes to reducing its carbon footprint, with the Lake District National Park ideally placed to blaze a trail.

Warning that it would be “all too easy to put this off for the next generation to deal with”, he said: “Action is required right now – this is on our watch.

“And although nuclear only seems to get a cursory nod or two, there is an important role that we can play in Cumbria to set the standard, and indeed the intent.” 

“Decarbonising the power sector is an area where Cumbria can contribute. Nuclear fits the bill as it aligns with climate change policies and the low carbon agenda by producing a high level of renewable energy.

“It is also an important component of any future energy mix where we look to be self-sufficient and a net exporter, thus being a significant factor in preserving our energy security. Not only that, but if the financial model can be agreed and cost reductions can be delivered then nuclear power would certainly be part of that energy mix to such an extent where the UK could potentially reach net zero by 2045.”

However, he warned: “But we are a little while from getting to the start line. The UK Government currently has to look at overseas partners to help fill that nuclear energy gap, bearing in mind that generation capacity will reduce in the current fleet by 2030, and assess whether the Regulated Asset Base (RAB) funding model is the most appropriate scheme.”

The Government is yet to publish its findings on the suitability of the RAB model as a way of supporting new nuclear power stations. The model was its preferred way of supporting the £15 billion Moorside power station in Cumbria but is believed to have scared off Korean utility Kepco, which was set to take over the economy-boosting project from Toshiba.

While Toshiba ultimately pulled the plug on the project – which would have created thousands of jobs and generated around seven per cent of the nation’s energy needs – BECBC, MPs and business leaders are continuing to push for some sort of nuclear development at the Moorside site, which is adjacent to Sellafield.

Mr Grainger also stressed the role of renewable energy developments, including existing windfarms, and the potential for a tidal lagoon off the West Cumbria coast, but said there needed to be an “overhaul” of the grid connections in the county to cope with any increase.

On reducing the county’s carbon footprint, Mr Grainger said environmental management within the Lake District National Park was “paramount”. Praising innovative schemes, including hydroelectric projects and peatland management, he called for greater focus on transport.

“The challenge for the future will be how to install and manage an integrated transport scheme that will allow for gateways at the north and south of the park, to take conventional motorised transport off the roads – at least until we are in a position to have a situation where we have ubiquitous battery powered vehicles within the Park.”

Mr Grainger also said he expected “increased pressure” from the next generation to bring forward the 2050 date. The pressure has been reflected in the ballot box in the recent local council elections across Cumbria, which saw four Green Party candidates elected.

Meanwhile, Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association has also stressed the role of nuclear power in meeting the target.

According to the NIA, nuclear avoided 20.63 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2018, which is the equivalent of taking 9.31 million cars off the road.

“Nuclear has long provided the UK with clean, reliable, secure electricity, and it will be needed to help meet the increased demand from the electrification of heat and transport,” he said.

“Just as this report is a timely wake up call to government and society, it is also an important reminder that reducing our reliance on high emission fuels to generate power is the priority. Clean electricity sources need to work together, not pit themselves against each other, if we are to meet 2050 ambitions.”

The Government is set to respond "in due course" to the report.