Study targets £1bn investment for Cheshire’s journey to net zero

Ged Barlow

An investment blueprint has been developed which could see £1bn spent on low carbon projects, in Cheshire and nearly three million tonnes of CO 2 saved by 2030.

A partnership between the Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and the Cheshire Energy Hub, ‘Invest Net Zero Cheshire’ has identified a portfolio of opportunities across renewable generation, hydrogen, carbon capture, energy storage and smart grids which offer long term, sustainable investment opportunities in net zero.

Cheshire is one of UK’s power houses, featuring major manufacturing employers, including oil refining, glass manufacture, nuclear enrichment, chemical production and automotive. This concentration of industry means the area around Ellesmere Port consumes around five per cent of the UK’s energy, with Cheshire West and Chester the fourth largest carbon emitter in the country and a climate emergency declared locally.

The Cheshire & Warrington LEP and some local private sector partners contributed the funding for a study that lasted 10 months, involving more than 40 stakeholders and 150 hours of interviews.

The outcome was a net zero investment plan, setting out immediately investable projects which will create jobs and inclusive growth in the area and deliver value to industry energy users and investors.

The findings of the study were presented at a recent webinar where Ged Barlow, chair of the Cheshire Energy Hub, said: “As we recover from the COVID-19 global pandemic and look ahead to the UK’s presidency of the United Nations climate conference, COP 26, the green industrial revolution is more critical than it has ever been.

“Decarbonising industry is a vital part of the jigsaw and we must act quickly to reduce carbon emissions, safeguard industry and protect jobs.”

He added: “We have developed a roadmap to reaching net zero emissions in Cheshire by 2030 which could unlock £1bn of capital investment and save nearly three million tonnes of carbon. Our unrivalled range of projects collectively offer long term sustainable investment opportunities and demonstrates why Cheshire is the prime location to invest in net zero.”

Clare Hayward, chair of the Cheshire & Warrington LEP said: “We want to make Cheshire and Warrington the most sustainable place in the UK and reach net zero emissions by 2030, which isn’t that far away. To do this we need an integrated, collaborative and bold approach.

“Investors don’t want to see piecemeal initiatives, they want to see a joined up approach to decarbonisation. There is no better place to invest. We have the vision, a clear path to investment and the eco system needed to deliver.”

Claire O’Neill, former UK Clean Growth Minister, World Business Council for Sustainable Development managing director and Ikigai Capital non-executive director, delivered the keynote address at the event, saying: “Cheshire & Warrington are in a leadership position in the UK when it comes to decarbonisation and it’s great to see such first class thinking and impressive collaboration.

“It’s right that we should be moving away from conversations about government subsidies to discussions about how we can create the right funding structures to attract investment into local net zero projects. Invest Net Zero Cheshire could be a global exemplar of how to deliver investment into clean growth.”

The study involved understanding industrial energy users’ existing and future energy demands. From this, a portfolio of projects was identified and shortlisted, based on their potential to reduce carbon emissions.

The consortium then engaged in a bankability review exercise to structure each solution for private sector-led funding. This joint technical/financial approach produced an investible roadmap for reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2030.

Ikigai Capital is now going to market to understand the appetite from potential investors to fund the pipeline of projects.

The consortium, led by The Cheshire Energy Hub, comprised technical advisors the Energy Systems Catapult (energy systems analysis), EA Technology (understanding future electricity network needs), Ikigai Capital (bankability and business case advisor), Peel NRE, part of Peel L&P (owner and developer of Protos at the heart of the project zone) and SP Energy Networks (local DNO), and was supported by many other local stakeholders.