A group of British industry, university, and local government leaders have launched a new collaboration to establish a Low Carbon Industrial Cluster in the North West of England intended to serve as a world-first example to others in the UK and around the world.
Led by Richard Carter, Chairman of the North West Business Leadership Team (NWBLT) and Managing Director of BASF for UK, the group of industry, university, and local government leaders intend to secure “game-changing” investment in the future of clean growth in the North West of England. The group is made up of private and public sector partners from across the Liverpool City Region, Cheshire and Warrington, and Greater Manchester.
“This collaboration represents one of the most vibrant clusters in the UK with a wide range of energy-intensive industry partners,” said Richard Carter, Chairman of the NWBLT. “We are already home to a number of existing complementary initiatives that, when brought together, represent a game-changing opportunity. We believe, with appropriate Government support, that this will result in the North West meeting the challenge of becoming the UK’s first low carbon industrial cluster by 2030.”
The North West of England is already home to “one of the most vibrant clusters in the UK,” according to a letter sent to Sir Mark Walport, Chief Executive of the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), which is supporting the UK Government in building net-zero carbon clusters, an ambition announced at the COP24 climate talks in Poland in December. The region boasts a range of energy-intensive industries and has already begun addressing many of the challenges involved in industrial decarbonization. In his letter to Sir Walport, Richard Carter highlighted the North West region’s “long tradition in manufacturing” which has been served for long years by the Port of Liverpool. “The last 40 years has seen the North West build on its traditional strengths in chemicals, textiles, shipping and engineering and diversify into modern high technology sectors including ICT, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, aerospace, and telecommunications,” Carter continued.
The North West’s ambition to build a world-first low carbon industrial cluster will therefore be focused first of all on being powered by renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, smart grids, tidal energy, and small module nuclear power. The region will also seek to enable the development of a hydrogen economy to existing and developing industries and will also further decarbonize the sector through the deployment of carbon capture utilization and storage technology.
The hope is that, by 2030, the cluster will reduce carbon emissions by tens of millions of tons per year and create at least 33,000 new jobs, setting the region on a trajectory to meet 2050 emissions targets while simultaneously growing employment.
“Innovation will be key to the success of this plan and the region is also supported by a network of experts in the field of industrial decarbonisation, from our major Universities and from the private sector,” explained David Parkin of Progressive Energy, which has been instrumental in bringing partners together. “The joint response sets out the decarbonisation challenge for the region, a proposed delivery model, and in excess of £500 million of prospective investment from the private sector.”
“We are rightly planning for the long term and a zero carbon future, and we are taking urgent action now,” added Steve Rotheram, Mayor of the Liverpool City Region. “In the Liverpool City Region our low carbon sector is already worth £2 billion a year to our economy, while employing 22,000 people and we stand ready to play a key role in creating the UK’s first low carbon cluster. Just a fortnight ago, I launched our own £10 million Green Investment Fund, which will back renewable energy projects and support my ambition for a zero-carbon city region by 2040.”
One of the key projects envisioned for the North West Low Carbon Industrial Cluster is the development of large-scale smart grids. Initially devised by the Cheshire Energy Hub to promote a multi-vector approach to support incumbent industry and to encourage inward investment, the Energy innovation District “brings together a large number of strategically vital energy-intensive manufacturers and energy supply chain companies,” writes Mark Walport, “with the aim of developing a multi-vector energy trading platform, which will use the existing public networks for distribution, whilst simultaneously driving investment in new low or zero carbon generation.”
Included in the plans is the Mersey Tidal project, which seeks to develop a multi-gigawatt tidal energy production facility to harness the tidal power of the River Mersey and Liverpool Bay. The project is currently at the full business case production stage and is projecting delivery of first power in 2029.