THE energy potential buried deep under the North Sea is vast almost beyond comprehension.

Under the UK-owned part alone, there is said to be 23 trillion tonnes of coal – enough to keep the country’s lights on for generations to come.

The UK Coal Authority has issued Five Quarter conditional licences to begin Deep Gas Winning across an area containing six billion tonnes of coal, including two billion off the North-East coast.

Despite Britain’s generations of mining, three-quarters of its coal reserves are still underground – mostly under the North Sea.

In fact, Five Quarter CEO Harry Bradbury says there is more energy stored off the North-East coast than the North Sea gas industry has yet produced since its inception, several decades ago.

“All of us would like to see a low-carbon future,” Dr Bradbury says.

“Renewables are part of the mix. We’re big fans of renewable.

“But we’ve also got to be realistic about where we are and where we’re going to be.

“Wind and solar power still represents just a few per cent of the total energy mix.

“From a national point of view, you’ve still got to think about nuclear, coal and gas.”