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A wealth of power in our hands

PUBLISHED: 11:10 27 June 2008 | UPDATED: 20:43 05 July 2010

A £100bn green energy plan could create at least 24,000 new jobs in the East if the region rises to the challenge of providing more power through renewable energy, a leading environmentalist figure said last night.

A £100bn green energy plan could create at least 24,000 new jobs in the East if the region rises to the challenge of providing more power through renewable energy, a leading environmentalist figure said last night.

The government yesterday revealed proposals to build thousands of turbines across the UK as part of its strategy to provide 15pc of energy through renewable sources by 2020.

Norwich-based company Renewables East, a key player in boosting green power, is convinced this region is well-placed to deliver 20pc of energy through renewable sources by 2020.

This would spark economic activity of more than £1bn a year across the region and create thousands of new jobs, according to Renewables East managing director James Beal.

He said: “Delivering 20pc of our energy from renewables in the East of England will create a further 70,000 jobs to the economy, of which at least 24,000 should be based in the region.

“This is a colossal challenge, but the impact of high fossil fuel prices, energy security and climate change, aren't going to go away. We need a concerted effort to deliver a substantial increase in renewable options; not just electricity from on and offshore wind…”

Mr Beal said the East was already producing 9pc of the electricity it uses from renewable energy and point to solar power and biomass energy as other viable sources.

He added: “We are particularly keen on producing renewable natural gas from organic residues and feeding that into the gas network. Not only is this growth in non-polluting, clean and renewable energy the right thing to do, but the rewards for our region are huge.”

Prime Minister Gordon Brown yesterday described the strategy to slash carbon emissions as a “green revolution in the making” and predicted a total of 160,000 new jobs would be created across the country.

The plans will see measures such as 7,000 new wind turbines - 4,000 on shore and 3,000 off shore - and a renewed drive to encourage energy efficiency, for example through schemes to insulate homes.

Mr Brown said the measures would put the UK at the forefront of the wind industry, turning the North Sea into the equivalent for wind power to what the Gulf of Arabia is to the oil industry.

The strategy says there will be “minimal impact” on energy bills in the short term from the drive to renewables, but they may increase by 2020.

The government's strategy was widely welcomed by environmental groups, but leaders at the CBI said the target was neither pragmatic nor cost-effective and would cost the UK an additional £5 billion a year, much of which would fall on businesses and households.

Earlier this month, plans were announced to build as many as 1,000 turbines off the north Norfolk coast as part of a huge programme of offshore development.

Proposals to vastly increase the number of onshore turbines are also likely to face criticism from local communities.

Robin Burkitt, of the Norfolk branch of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England, said onshore turbines created a dilemma between damaging the countryside and meeting renewable energy targets.

He added: “Our conclusion in Norfolk is that wind speeds are so low… we don't believe they (turbines) are a worthwhile use of resources.”

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