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Fuelling the Northern Powerhouse

New Energy Centre At University Science Park

Ellesmere Port’s university science park

The Northern Powerhouse has been quite the topic of conversation recently, with messages from central government declaring that we should “take control” of our own transport networks and infrastructure. These messages come at a time when leaders, including the newly-elected Mayor Andy Burnham, agreed to form a ‘Council of the North’ in order to push forward major infrastructure projects across the region.

My question would be however, is there any need for a further body, or can we simply collaborate and innovate better between businesses, local enterprise partnerships, and authorities in the North of England?

Innovation in Energy

Let’s take the energy industry. One of the key challenges the North faces is that it relies heavily upon national policy, even though a great deal of low-carbon power is generated here. Only recently, we have started to see things turning in the right direction. Technological advances funded by local growth schemes and enterprise partnerships, have made decentralised energy technologies, such as solar PV and energy storage increasingly important, allowing communities to have more say on how energy is produced in their area.

Lessons from Ellesmere Port

Last week for example, Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry opened up a multi-million-pound centre at Ellesmere Port’s University Science Park which will promote the development and exploitation of technologies for the energy market.  If we are to properly fuel the Northern Powerhouse and schemes such as the above, further collaboration will be needed between different sectors (and their subsequent partners) that make up the energy industry as a whole.

This will in turn help us tackle wider issues such as energy security and climate change which are high on the Government’s ‘National Policy’ agenda. There is no need for another model or administrative body to help ‘tailor’ or ‘inform’ national policy. We already have the assets, business networks and institutions in place to get developments on the ground and start reaping the results.

Collaboration

The main challenge lies in how we utilise the North’s assets. Energy businesses across the North will need to collaborate and jointly fund their projects in order to see the greatest results. Collaborating locally would mean that each asset would be unique to the local partnership area, allowing investment to be controlled and developments monitored more closely. It also presents an opportunity to ensure cross-sector collaboration and expertise for local planning and decision-making. If local councils feel that their constituents, communities, and the surrounding environment are getting the best outcome, it will be difficult to turn down planning applications.

It is time to embrace the North and all its assets, with the Northern Powerhouse acting as a key function to integrate the sum of all its parts.

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