Archive for Energy

‘Help Teesside lead the world’ – Tom’s appeal to Government

Tom has called on the Government to invest in Carbon Capture and Utilisation (CCU) technology in Teesside as a way to boost investment and job creation in the region.

Tom pointed to the recent success of Carbon Clean Solutions in India which has created technology to capture the CO2 created by an industrial plant and use it to make Baking Soda, on a commercial basis, i.e. without Government subsidy.

The UK Government controversially cancelled a project to help get the industry off the ground in the UK in 2015, which was due to fund starter projects in Teesside, despite warnings that the move could cost thousands of jobs. Last year, a Parliamentary Advisory Group on Carbon Capture and Storage called for greater Government support for the industry and claimed early investment in the technology could save consumers billions.

Tom said:

The Government must act to support CCS and CCU technology now. Teesside in particular could benefit as our area’s industry provides the perfect environment in which to build a commercially viable Carbon Capture sector.

I have written to Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to ask for a meeting to discuss how this could benefit Teesside and what the Government can do to get this industry going.

Carbon Clean in India have shown that with determination and innovation this can be done. The Government cannot afford to pass up this opportunity which would cut pollution, cut bills, create jobs and bring much needed investment to our area.

I believe the Government can and should help Teesside to lead the world in this relatively new technology.

Hinkley Point deal shows Britain has less control after Brexit

The Hinkley Point C (HPC) nuclear power plant in Somerset will be built by a French state-owned energy company and funded in part by a Chinese state-owned group.

EDF, which is 85% owned by the French government, is expected to give the final go-ahead to the project following a board meeting later today. HPC will also receive one third of its funding from the Chinese state owned CGN group.

The plant when finished will supply 7% of the UK’s electricity and provide over 9,000 permanent jobs.

The HPC development was the subject of the EU competition investigation in 2014, and was only approved following representations from the UK government.

Tom Blenkinsop, MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, and member of the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee, said:

The success of this vital project will now rely on Chinese and French government money, over which we will have less influence due to Brexit.

My constituents who voted for Brexit did so because they wanted more control. We are now dependent on governments we hold little sway over for our energy security, that’s not the greater control leave voters wanted.

The fact that the Chinese government has secured a foothold in our energy infrastructure and could massively influence our energy future, should worry those who were concerned about the sway even other democratic countries had over our internal affairs.

In order to secure foreign investment post-Brexit we will have to give more and more. The last government jeopardised the British steel industry to encourage Chinese investment in the UK, I worry what we might have to give up next.

HPC is scheduled to go online in 2025 and is predicted to provide over 30,000 jobs before then.

Dumping by Government of CCS funding “could now bring about black-outs” warns Tom Blenkinsop MP

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (26th February 2016) warned that UK energy experts were now predicting that the cancellation of funding for Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) projects alongside new power generation plants by the Government could “now lead to possible power shortages and danger of blackouts”.

Tom’s comments came following the release of a study by the respected UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) who in a report published today stated that “importing gas will have a severely limited role to play in the UK’s energy mix in the next two decades without the development of technology to capture and store carbon dioxide”.

Tom said:
“Their report makes sobering reading. They argue that the proposal by the Government that the UK simply imports more gas for power generation as a bridge between today’s needs and new nuclear power stations coming on line is fatally flawed if CCS is not used from the outset. Their report shows that, without CCS, the UK will only be able to use 10% more gas in 2050 than it did in 2010 if legally binding climate change targets are to be met.

“This will a severe limitation to companies wishing to generate power from gas in the long term, and it poses a question mark over the future for the UK’s domestic heating, for which gas is the primary fuel.

“The report says that if all coal-fired power generation is to be removed by 2025, and we are no longer supporting the development of CCS, policy makers must think long and hard about how best to replace that capacity as without CCS, gas can play only a modest role between now and 2020 if we are not to break international climate change agreements.

“My view is that this just shows how short sighted the government were to announce to the Stock Exchange that they were no longer to support CCS development, like the plants proposed on Teesside. If gas is limited, both by climate change agreements and by delays due to the widespread opposition to UK fracking, this, taken together with previous cut backs to renewable energy generation and delays in the building of new nuclear plants, means that power shortages in the future are well-nigh inevitable.

“There is an answer if the government had the vision, and it is a simple one. Simply get the Teesside CCS plans out on the table again, and then sit down with the Tees Energy and Chemical Process leaders to discuss how best and how quickly to get CCS up and running before the lights go out.”

Local Labour MPs call on government to step up support for CCS project on Teesside

Labour MPs for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Tom Blenkinsop, and Redcar’s Anna Turley have today (18th November) called on the Government to step up its support for the Carbon Capture and Storage project on Teesside.

Ahead of the Spending Review and the Autumn Statement on 25th November, Tom and Anna have sent a joint letter to the Chancellor George Osborne asking him to ‘reassess the level of support and funding available to Teesside Collective’s CCS project in light of the closure of the steelworks in Redcar and the 700 announced job losses at Boulby Potash’.

Tom said:
“Over the past couple of months the local economy of Teesside and East Cleveland have suffered  tremendous blows, firstly the steelworks and latterly with the potash mine at Boulby. Now is not the time to be protecting the failing Northern Powerhouse minister by sending up Lord Heseltine to deflect some of the criticism.

“The industrial CCS project put forward by Teesside Collective offers a huge opportunity to not only protect remaining key industries, but to grow and become a global leader in this technology – and that will bring jobs.

“So far, the government has invested £1m into this project; that is a pittance when compared to other governments. For example, in Canada, government’s there have invested over $600m in a CCS project by Royal Dutch Shell. There is a real risk that the UK will be left behind on this technology and the government urgently needs to step up the funding being provided to the project on Teesside and that will attract private investment that will lead to more jobs for local people.”

Anna added:
“The carbon capture and storage project offers huge potential for Teesside’s economy and is exactly the kind of investment we need to drive our recovery from the loss of the steelworks and job cuts in other local industries. It will not only help create new jobs but ensure our existing core industries remain viable and make Teesside a world leader in clean energy. This is an ideal project for new Tees Valley Inward Investment Initiative and it is imperative the government recognise the crucial importance of this project.”

‘Double whammy’ for Teesside as reports circulate of npower call centre closure

Commenting on reports that energy giant, npower, is closing its Teesside based call centre with the loss of over 500 jobs has been branded a ‘double whammy’ by Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop today (27th November 2013).

Tom said:
“With recent reports that npower is about to close the call centre on Trenchard Avenue – which employs 549 workers. This followed the company saying official that a “major review of sites, operations and people across the UK was underway.”

“It is quite simply outrageous that these jobs look set to be outsourced abroad whilst simultaneously UK customers will face a hike in their energy bills this coming weekend – on average adding £139 to the annual dual fuel bill. It is a double whammy for Teesside and local communities. For the affected workers and their families this is the worst Christmas present that they could ever have expected and it is a disgrace that this information is coming to light before staff have even been told.

“The ripples from such job losses will also hit other business across Teesside through the loss of 500 pay packets which would otherwise have been traded with local companies and shops.

“The area is already suffering crippling long-term unemployment – most stark is amongst women where, since May 2010, it has increased by 144% in my constituency and over 200% in Stockton South, where the call centre is based.

“To make this worse, the company is an incredibly profitable one. Last year it saw profits rise by £77m to £390m. Whilst much of this increase is down to successive price rises, part of it has to be down to the loyal efforts of the local staff – who have been rewarded with a kick in the teeth for their dedication.”

Tom has submitted Parliamentary Questions asking what steps the Government are taking to support call centres on Teesside and what discussions have taken place with npower.

ONS figures show the ‘true scale of the winter NHS crisis’

Commenting on figures released today (26th November 2013) by the Office of National Statistics figures showing a 29% increase in excess winter deaths last year local Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, said:

“These figures are truly astonishing and they have revealed the true scale of last year’s winter crisis in the NHS. In the North East alone, the amount of people dying unnecessarily last winter almost doubled on the previous year up, from 860 to 1,700 – an increase of 840.

“We’re on the brink of another cold winter and we are hearing reports that A&Es are already in crisis. The Government’s severe cuts to elderly care mean support is being withdrawn from homes and hundreds of thousands of older people are turning to hospitals for support.

“Many of these unnecessary excess deaths are caused by people living in homes that are too cold. This winter, David Cameron’s failure to stand up to the energy companies will leave too many people forced to choose between heating and eating. Ministers need to take urgent action and back Labour’s plans to freeze energy bills.”

Over 20,000 households living in fuel poverty across Teesside

Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop yesterday (6th June 2013) highlighted the extremely concerning levels of fuel poverty across his constituency as he revealed almost 18% of households in Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland are struggling with energy bills.

Latest figures show there are 7,278 households in fuel poverty in Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, which is 17.7% of all households. Figures from other areas of Teesside are just as damaging. In Redcar, 7,469 households are in fuel poverty (19.1% of all households) and in Stockton South 6,743 households in fuel poverty (15.5% of all households).

Tom raised his concerns during topical questions to Energy and Climate Change ministers.

Tom said:
“Energy bills are soaring and there are warnings that more people are being pushed into fuel poverty. But the Government, which can afford a £3 billion tax giveaway for the highest paid people in the country, has chosen to slash the budget for helping fuel poor households and leave some of the most vulnerable people in the country out in the cold.

“In my constituency there are over 7,000 households living in fuel poverty and the story is the same across Teesside. Since this Government came to power, the average family’s energy bill has gone up by more than £300 a year. This Tory-led Government is out-of-touch, out-of-date and puts the interests of the big energy companies ahead of ordinary families and pensioners struggling with soaring energy bills.

Labour & Co-operative candidate for Redcar, Anna Turley, added:
“At a time when families are facing record fuel bills and energy companies are enjoying huge profits, government needs to step in and support families. But the Government’s energy policy is hurting, not helping.

“The budget for helping fuel poor households with their energy bills has been slashed and with the end of Warm Front, the Government’s failure to ensure that the energy companies meet their obligations on energy efficiency, and serious question marks over whether anyone will actually want to take out the Green Deal, the number of people getting help to insulate their homes has plummeted.

“Labour is prepared to stand up to powerful vested interests in the energy industry. Our plans would provide real help now, as well as reform the way our energy market works for the long-term.”

Labour’s plan includes:

  • Forcing energy companies to pool the power they generate and to make it available to any retailer, in an attempt to open the market and to put downward pressure on prices.
  • Abolish Ofgem and create a tough new energy watchdog with a statutory duty to monitor wholesale and retail energy prices, and the power to force energy suppliers to pass on price cuts when the cost of wholesale energy falls.
  • Requiring energy companies to put all over-75s on their cheapest tariff, which could save as many as four million pensioners as much as £200 a year from their annual energy bills.

Probe into alleged price-fixing by oil companies welcomed

  • ‘A move that could benefit Teesside’s key industries and hard pressed motorists’

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop and Anna Turley, Labour & Co-operative candidate for Redcar, today (May 15th 2013) welcomed the news that  European Commission fraud investigators have raided the offices of leading oil companies over possible price manipulation as a move that could be a boost for Teesside’s core industries and for local motorists.

Anna said:
“We learned today that the European Commission has carried out surprise inspections at several major oil companies including Shell, BP and Statoil over possible price manipulation in breach of EU anti-trust rules

“There were concerns raised earlier this year by the Petrol Retailers Association (PRA) about an 8p increase in wholesale prices between December and February that ‘could not be explained by new geo-political issues or other economic factors’.

“I also hear that along with the PRA, big fuel users like airline easyJet have said they will provide evidence to Europe to back up their investigation. I would hope that local Teesside chemical companies can do the same.

“Obviously we have to wait for the outcome of this probe, but Labour previously warned that opaque over-the-counter deals and relying on price reporting agencies left the market vulnerable to abuse. If there has been price fixing, then this will have had a huge impact on core chemical companies on Teesside who have to use bought-in oil and gas as the core feedstock for their finished products.”

Tom said:
“The steel industry is also a big energy user, and given the cost pressures that both Tata Steel and SSI have to face, any move that could bring down high prices that may be fixed by a cartel is doubly welcome. It could also help the motorist, like many of my East Cleveland constituents; who have to make long journeys to and from work or even to the shops. Understandably, they often feel they have been ripped off at the petrol pumps.

“This move also highlights the idleness of the present government in this matter.  In the past the government have been asked to step in to see that UK bodies like the Competition Commission intervene, but these calls were ignored. Labour tabled amendments in Parliament last year calling for commodities like oil to be part of the Financial Conduct Authority’s regulatory net, but Ministers refused to act. They must explain why they complacently failed to do so.

“The fact that Europe has been the agency to seek fairness for Teesside industry is also ironic given the hostility of many Conservative Government Ministers towards Europe. Any move to stop collusion and drive down prices can only be good for these companies who have previously been at the mercy of the energy companies.”

Tom raises concerns over fuel poverty in rural areas

In a Westminster Hall debate that took place yesterday (16th April 2013) Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Tom Blenkinsop, raised the issue of gas connectivity and its impact on fuel costs in rural areas.

Tom said:
“The lack of gas connectivity in the rural parts of East Cleveland has been raised by several of my constituents, especially those living in outlying houses or small ex-farm buildings. The lack of gas connectivity, I believe, has a big role to play in rural poverty as the additional costs of energy and fuel faced by rural households are almost certainly a major factor as the cost of heating oil is approximately twice that of heating a home by gas.

“It is little wonder that on average the cost to a rural household in ensuring an adequate standard of warmth was £346 more than for an urban household and is almost twice as likely to be fuel poor as one with gas central heating.

“With such a clear relationship between gas connectivity and fuel poverty, there are significant benefits in trying to increase connectivity. The Government should be working to ensure that alternative fuels are as affordable as possible to off-gas grid households, and to concentrate efforts to increase the energy efficiency of rural households. At the very least, a minister should assume lead responsibility for the off-gas grid sector.

“Energy bills are becoming extremely difficult for many of my constituents both rural and urban but it is frustrating to know that simple actions could help ease the burden.”

‘Cost of living crisis is growing under Cameron’

Local Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop has today (10th April 2013) warned that the ‘cost of living is a crisis that is growing under David Cameron’s leadership’ as figures revealed by energy comparison site, uSwitch, showed that more than five million households are in debt to their energy supplier after falling behind with payments.

Collectively, Britons are estimated to owe £637m to energy firms – £159m more than last year’s projections – and 20% of bill payers surveyed by the website are in debt to their energy supplier, this figure is up from 14% when similar research was carried out last year.

According to the website, the average annual household energy bill has risen by almost £100 in the space of a year and the typical bill now stands at £1,353 a year, which is around £830 higher than it was in 2004.

Tom said:
“These figures will not come as a surprise to many of my constituents who are struggling with recent energy price hikes whilst their wages remain stagnant but inflation rises. The numbers are soaring and should be a clear indication to the Prime Minister that people are struggling to meet the costs of their basic bills.

“I dread to think where people will turn as their debts mount up. In hard times, it is no wonder people turn to payday lenders and loansharks, but often they just engulf people in more debt that they cannot pay at often extortionate interest rates of over 1,000%.

“The public want a simple and affordable scheme so they can improve their home and cut their energy bills, yet the Government’s flagship policy, the Green Deal, is complex and costly. The sky high interest rates associated with the scheme mean consumers could end up paying more in interest payments more on charges than for the energy efficiency measures themselves.

“To make sure people are paying a fair price for the energy they use, we need a radical overhaul of the energy market. We need to open up the market so that there is more competition – breaking the dominance of the ‘Big Six’ energy companies – and protecting vulnerable customers from being ripped off.”