The Cheshire Energy Hub has been awarded more than £700,000 of government funding to deliver what will be the first smart energy blueprint in the UK. The plan is for the project to deliver the E-Port Net-Zero blueprint, setting out a 10-year roadmap for a cost-effective transition to net zero which could result in £100 million being invested in the region by 2025. The model created could go on to be applied nationally and exported internationally.
The blueprint will define a local low carbon smart energy system for the Energy Innovation District (EID), the area in the North West surrounding the industrial area of Ellesmere Port in Cheshire, which could deliver cheaper and cleaner energy for power, heating, and transport. This blueprint will ensure a supply of secure, low-carbon and low-cost energy which will help unlock supply chain and global investment opportunities.
Established by the Cheshire Energy Hub the new district will boost innovation in the energy industry. The Hub represents the sub-region on Net-Zero North West, the new industry-led industrial cluster which is aiming to develop the UK’s first low carbon industrial cluster by 2030.
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Being one of the UK’s largest industrial clusters, the area around Ellesmere Port consumes around 5% of the nation’s energy. The area includes some of the UK’s largest manufacturers including oil refining, glass, nuclear, chemical production, and automotive as well as large-scale energy assets and research and development destinations.
Largely due to the dominance of these energy-intensive companies West Cheshire is the fourth largest CO2 emitter in the UK. Understanding the danger involved in continuing as they were, Cheshire West & Chester Council declared a climate emergency last year with its main priority to drive industrial decarbonisation in the Energy Innovation District (EID).
Spearheaded by the Cheshire Energy Hub, the EID brings together energy users, network owners, innovators and partners, including EA Technology, Energy Systems Catapult, Ikigai, Peel L&P Environmental and ScottishPower Energy Networks (SPEN) and Cheshire & Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), Cheshire West and Chester Council and the University of Chester.
Energy intensive industries sit alongside low-carbon energy generation within the EID, including Peel L&P Environmental’s strategic energy hub, Protos. Previous research conducted by Amion Consulting for Peel L&P estimated a potential 33,000 jobs could be created in the region with the creation of a local energy system.
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.”
The total project will cost £930k, with the government’s Local Growth Fund contributing 77% of the funding, and the rest coming from local private sector partners.
Working in partnership with EA Technology, Energy Systems Catapult, Ikigai, Peel L&P Environmental and Scottish Power Energy Networks (SPEN), current and future energy generation in the area will be investigated, including renewables as well as research being conducted into how electric vehicles (EVs) and new fuels like hydrogen could change the energy market.
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 are 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 something that can be led centrally. To decarbonise successfully, in a timely and cost-effective way, we need to be looking at local solutions that set out the various projects and enable informed capital investment decisions to be made. Investors don’t want to look at piecemeal initiatives, they want to see a joined-up approach to decarbonisation. 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.”
The Energy Innovation District is looking to work with the government on various issues which include developing heat networks that can support local communities and business as well as providing an electrical micro-grid that connects electricity generating assets directly to large industrial users to provide secure, low carbon and lower cost electricity. They would also like to see hydrogen being promoted, along with carbon capture and storage, as a means of decarbonising the gas network. On top of that they will seek to work with the government to provide a network of charging and hydrogen refuelling stations to encourage the uptake of electric vehicles and to stimulate the deployment of innovative energy technology as well as developing a skilled workforce through work with the University of Chester, local colleges and the Cheshire Energy Hub Graduate Programme
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. Developing and investing in clean, green energy solutions now will provide sustained benefits to the UK economy. We’re leading the way when it comes to developing the green recovery and excited to be helping play a crucial role in the net-zero transition for the Ellesmere Port area. By working together, we can develop a better future, quicker.”