A plan to establish the UK’s first low-carbon industrial hub, encompassing the existing energy cluster at Ellesmere Port in Cheshire, has received a share of £8m from UK Research and Innovation.
Industry-led body Net Zero North West, which is leading the plan, has secured around £365,000 from the Government’s UKRI, which it will combine with other sources of funding for individual projects that would make up the cluster.
For example, last October, the Government awarded the Cheshire Energy Hub – part of Net Zero North – £700,000 to help deliver a low-carbon smart energy system at Ellesmere Port, touted as a blueprint for creating cheaper, cleaner energy for power, heating and transport across the UK.
The latest funding is part of the Government’s £170m Industrial Decarbonisation Challenge and money has also been awarded to consortia delivering low-carbon cluster strategies in South Wales, the West Midlands, Tees Valley, Humber and Scotland.
Net Zero North West is chaired by Siemens’ UK chief executive Carl Ennis and its members include a range of industrial and energy companies such as Peel Environmental L&P, CF Fertilisers, Encirc, Essar Oil UK, INOVYN, the North West Business Leadership Team, Siemens, Storengy and Tata Chemicals Europe.
The group is drawing up an investment, technology and infrastructure blueprint to drive the region’s net zero transition and its low-carbon recovery from the pandemic.
The North West has the highest concentration of advanced manufacturing and chemicals production sites in the UK, the group claims, and the region is already home to a range of clean growth projects intended to help the UK meet its carbon emission targets.
Such projects include the HyNet North West hydrogen and carbon capture, use and storage (CCUS) scheme; the Mersey Tidal hydropower scheme; a £500m smart energy grid at Ellesmere Port, and the UK’s first waste plastic to hydrogen facility at Protos in Cheshir, led by Peel Environmental L&P, part of local landowner Peel Group.
The cluster is expected to create 33,000 jobs, unlock £4bn of additional investment and result in more carbon savings than the annual carbon emissions of all North West homes, according to Net Zero North West.
Ennis said: “Across renewables, hydrogen, CCUS, nuclear and smart grids, our region is in a truly unique position to become a world leader in clean growth.
“Our cluster is already delivering on the ground and paving the way towards a net zero future, which will protect the manufacturing jobs that have made this region thrive and create a sustainable pipeline of new high value green jobs for our region.
“With the Prime Minister recently laying out his ten-point plan for a green industrial revolution, this new roadmap funding is a timely vote of confidence in our ability to deliver industrial decarbonisation in the North West and make a significant and rapid contribution to the UK’s net zero emission targets.”
The funding has been awarded to Net Zero North West in a consortium with Peel L&P Environmental, the North West Business Leadership Team, Cadent, SP Energy Networks, Progressive Energy, Uniper UK and Engie, and it is also supported by the Cheshire and Warrington local enterprise partnership, the region’s Growth Platform and the University of Chester.
The first phase of the so-called ‘Cluster Plan’ began in June 2020 and the consortium is now progressing the project to phase two, which will start early this year and be delivered over a two-year period.
The Cluster Plan will recommend the technologies, infrastructure changes and investment necessary to transition the North West, working with North East Wales, to net zero carbon by 2040.