Funding for region’s UK-first smart energy blueprint

Philip Cox
X The Business Desk

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The Cheshire Energy Hub has been awarded more than £700,000 of Local Growth Funding from the Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).

The funding is for an early-stage project with the potential to create thousands of jobs as the region becomes a centre of excellence for the low carbon revolution.

It is one of nine energy projects identified by the LEP and will deliver the E-Port Net Zero blueprint, a plan which could see £100m invested in the region by 2025.

The project will define a local low carbon smart energy system for the Energy Innovation District – an area surrounding the industrial heartland of Ellesmere Port in Cheshire – which could deliver cheaper and cleaner energy for power, heating and transport.

This UK-first project will set out a 10-year roadmap for a cost-effective transition to net zero carbon, creating a model that could be applied nationally and exported internationally.

The total project will cost £930,000, with the Local Growth Fund contributing nearly 80% of the total, with the remainder coming from local private sector partners.

The area around Ellesmere Port is one of the UK’s largest industrial clusters and consumes around five per cent of the UK’s energy.

The area includes some of the UK’s largest manufacturers such as oil refining, glass, nuclear, chemical production, and automotive.

West Cheshire is the fourth largest CO2 emitter in the UK, largely due to the dominance of these energy-intensive companies. This led Cheshire West & Chester Council to declare a climate emergency last year with its main priority to drive industrial decarbonisation in the Energy Innovation District (EID).

Philip Cox, chief executive of Cheshire and Warrington LEP, said: “The low carbon agenda is one of the great challenges of our time, not just for our sub-region, but the whole economy.

“We see a huge opportunity for Ellesmere Port to become a leading player in the low carbon sector, so it is incredibly exciting to be working with our partners at the Cheshire Energy Hub on this enabling project which could identify a roadmap for more than £100m of capital investment, the creation of 33,000 jobs, and significantly reducing carbon emissions.”

Ged Barlow, chair of the Cheshire Energy Hub, said: “Reaching net zero emissions is going to require a significant amount of investment in new technologies and infrastructure to decarbonise power, heating and transport.

“In the area around Ellesmere Port alone we’re looking at £100m by 2025.

“But for these investments to be made there needs to be a holistic plan which looks at the whole energy system.

“This isn’t just about developing a timely and cost effective roadmap for decarbonisation in Cheshire. This is about safeguarding and growing the jobs that have made this region thrive.

“The E-Port smart energy system will be the first of its kind in the UK and will develop a model which can be rolled out nationally and exported overseas. This funding is an important step forward and demonstrates how Cheshire, and the North West, is leading the way on the net zero agenda.”

Working in partnership with EA Technology, Energy Systems Catapult, Ikigai, Peel L&P Environmental and Scottish Power Energy Networks (SPEN), the E-Port Net Zero blueprint will look at current and future energy generation in the area, including renewables, and how future energy uses, like electric vehicles, and new fuels like hydrogen, could change the energy market.

Myles Kitcher, managing director, Peel L&P Environmental, said: “Our strategic energy and resource hub, Protos, sits at the heart of the E-Port area and our aim is to deliver low-carbon energy generated on site directly to industrial and domestic customers through the E-Port energy system.

“This could see costs substantially reduce, save thousands of tonnes of carbon emissions every year, and help businesses meet their sustainability objectives.”

Liam O’Sullivan, SP Manweb director at SP Energy Networks, said: “Investment in low carbon, clean energy will be vital to achieving wider net zero emissions targets so we’re proud to be involved in the innovative E-Port blueprint project.

“It demonstrates a strong example of collaborative working between network operators, local authorities and key commercial partners which, if adopted more widely, has the potential to not only accelerate the transition to net zero, but also support the UK’s green economic recovery.”

Spearheaded by the Cheshire Energy Hub, the EID brings together energy users, network owners, innovators and partners – including EA Technology, Burns & McDonnell, Urenco, Cadent Gas, SP Energy Networks and Peel L&P Environmental – working alongside Cheshire & Warrington LEP, Cheshire West and Chester Council and the University of Chester.

Previous research by Amion Consulting for Peel L&P estimated a potential 33,000 jobs could be generated in the region with the creation of a local energy system.