ADEAL which safeguards 120 jobs at a Northumberland power station is a “glimmer of hope” in the continuing economic gloom, an MP says.
Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery said the sale of the Rio Tinto Alcan station at Lynemouth to power giant RWE is a bit of good news at a time when his constituency is experiencing alarming levels of both youth and adult unemployment.
RWE has confirmed it will continue to employ all of the existing workforce at the power station following the long-awaited acquisition.
It also described the purchase as a “viable business decision”.
The company said a decision on converting the 420-megawatt, coal-fired plant to biomass will be taken early next year, following detailed investigations into issues such as the energy market, the Government’s Energy Bill and the capital costs involved.
The station, which has supplied electricity to the nearby aluminium smelter since it opened in 1972, will now provide power solely for the National Grid. Following its acquisition by RWE, it will operate under the name Lynemouth Power Ltd, and will receive technical support from RWE npower.
Yesterday, Mr Lavery said the sale offered some respite for the area.
“Here we are at Christmas and we have some good news,” the MP said.
“I campaigned vigorously to keep both the smelter and power station at Lynemouth and we were not successful, but at least we have 120 jobs which are being safeguarded at the power station.
“Hopefully, they will have a lengthy future under RWE, which is a reputable, global company. This is a glimmer of hope at a time when we have massive unemployment problems in Wansbeck.”
Mr Lavery said he understood that the sale came with built-in Government support which would reward RWE for converting the plant to biomass and generating renewable energy.
A RWE spokeswoman said biomass conversion was the only real option for the long-term future of the plant, but a final decision would not be taken until the company was able to carry out detailed investigations.
“Biomass is an attractive future option for Lynemouth and we will be working very hard on this in 2013,” the spokeswoman said. “We have got another biomass plant in Essex, which is the biggest in Europe, and a lot of expertise in that technology.
“The Lynemouth power station will make a valuable contribution to the energy market and it was a viable, business decision to acquire it.”
Northumberland County Council leader Jeff Reid said: ”This RWE investment is excellent news for Lynemouth, particularly the 120 people whose jobs will be saved as a result.
“The council has been chairing a response group, bringing together the public, private and voluntary sectors to provide support for the redundant smelter employees.”