Christine Gaskell, chair of Cheshire and Warrington’s Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), has outlined plans for the region to host the world’s first zero carbon industry cluster. Her ambitions were declared at the Cheshire and Warrington Energy breakfast at MIPIM 2019, and centre around the region’s Energy Innovation District (EID). The EID already boasts industry heavyweights as members, including Urenco, Tata, EA Technology, Essar Oil, SP Energy Networks, and Peel Environmental.
She said: “Our very realisable aspiration is to make Cheshire and Warrington a global leader in low and zero carbon technologies and our Energy Innovation District will make that possible. The government has £170m to spend on low carbon industrial clusters and it wants this to happen by 2030 and zero carbon clusters by 2040.
“Industry in Ellesmere Port and Runcorn uses 5 per cent of the UK’s energy and we believe we have the technology and capability to make it a zero carbon area within 20 years.
“Imagine the impact that will have on the region and the opportunities it will present for new investors and to export our know-how and experience across the world.”
Fellow panellist at the Energy breakfast and chair of the Cheshire Energy Hub, Ged Barlow, confirmed Gaskell’s plans: “We are determined to deliver this quickly because the EID is an opportunity to deliver a new energy system for Cheshire and Warrington and the wider North West and reduce energy costs by up to 50 per cent, generate £7bn of private capital investment, create more than 33,000 full-time jobs and give Cheshire and Warrington the opportunity to showcase ourselves as tech leaders.
“We have the holy trinity of investment propositions, demonstrable government support, a great depth of expertise to deliver on the ambition and a public sector working hand in hand with the private sector.”
He went on to add that since plans for the EID were announced last year, £200k of funding had been secured from Innovate UK. “The feasibility study is a significant step forward and with the government putting money in, they can see that this project has momentum and has the potential to have a huge impact. The study will help us create the outline business case and unlock further significant funding from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund and Innovate UK, as well as help leverage private sector investment. In the last 12 months, we have seen an uplift in enquiries and the scheme is very much on the investment map now.”
The zero carbon cluster will generate enough gas to power up to one thousand ‘green’ HGVs and buses each year. The gas will be derived from up to 175,000 tonnes of bio-resources, including scrap wood and refuse. The construction of the facility would create over 500 jobs and would entail an investment of £150m.
North West industrial head of Avison Young, Andy Pexton, said: “The lack of easily available clean energy is becoming more and more of an issue for industrial industries. We need to address this and ensure we’re adding value by proving defensible energy sources and helping companies ensure they’ve got the clean energy provision they need in place to secure sustainable growth.
“There is huge potential here, energy needs are changing and future proofing is vital. This is an area that is evolving incredibly rapidly and we need fundamentals, such as labour force, in place to enable us to deliver sustainable clean energy sources.”