Local sourcing should be an energy goal too

In recent years, there's been a concerted move towards local sourcing in recognition that shorter supply chains are, overall, more environmentally, socially and economically sustainable. 

The achievements of the so-called 'Preston Model' illustrate some of the benefits of local sourcing (read this report) such as the £112.3m retained in the local economy through progressive procurement activities. 

The Chartered Institue of Purchasing and Supply (CIPS) says in this guide  that it "strongly believes that sustainable procurement is a powerful driver for delivering improved economic, environmental and social outcomes" and that "maximum effectiveness is gained by a truly holistic perspective".

And Lancashire Business View has its 'Bring Back A Billion' campaign to encourage greater local spend by Lancashire's 52,000+ businesses.

We tend to think of local sourcing in terms of goods and services - buying 'things' and less tangible knowledge, experience and labour from nearby suppliers. 

But what about energy? 

In truth, most of us probably don't give a second thought to where our energy comes from as long as the lights come on at the flick of a switch and the central heating fires-up on cold winter mornings. 

The fact is, however, that the electricity and gas we rely on so much often travels over very long distances to reach us. 

For instance, we import electricity from France via sub-sea cables across the bed of the English Channel. 

Most of our gas travels even further - over half the gas we use is now imported, of which the majority currently comes via pipeline from Norway and Holland. But an increasing quantity arrives in the form of liquefied gas (LNG)  transported in ships from as far away as Qatar in the Middle East. The tanker journey from the Qatari Port of Ras Laffan to the Isle of Grain in Kent is over 7,000 nautical miles.

Relying on gas from abroad, transported over vast distances like this, whether in pipes or ships, means fewer UK jobs (social impact),  higher carbon emissions (environmental impact) and greater costs of supply (economic impact). 

If we apply the thinking behind the Preston Model, the CIPS guidance, and the aims of the Lancashire Business View campaign, it's immediately obvious that we should be putting more emphasis on locally sourced energy.

In that regard, Lancashire is blessed. We have the right terrain in parts (hilly) to support wind generation, the two nuclear reactors at Heysham, a lengthy 137 mile coastline with the potential to support wave power, the prospect of harnessing tidal energy near Fleetwood, vast tracts of agricultural land that could support anaerobic digestion of food and farm waste to produce biogas, and, it appears, an abundance of natural gas in the ground just waiting to be extracted.

We need a joined-up strategy for making the most of the energy resources that are indigenous to Lancashire, especially now the Government has legislated for the transition to a net zero emissions economy by 2050.

According to the Committee on Climate Change, getting to net zero emissions is going to rely, to a large extent, on running our homes,  businesses, trains and HGVs on clean-burning hyrdogen in the future. And guess what? Here again Lancashire has a major advantage: all that gas locked away in the Bowland shale. 

That's because the most cost-effective way to produce hydrogen at large scale relies on natural gas as a feedstock. 

If we are going to switch to a hydrogen economy as part of our transition to net zero emissions, it would be absurd, wouldn't it, to rely on LNG from Qatar that has twice the pre-combustion emissions of our own shale gas?

Just like the local sourcing of things such as in-season food and manufactured goods, the local sourcing of energy should be a priority too.