Energy district plan in pipeline
ABID to transform a stretch of north Cheshire from Runcorn to Ellesmere Port into the nation’s first ‘Energy Innovation District’ with the creation of 37,000 jobs and £7bn of investment has begun.
The Energy Innovation District is earmarked to become the first of its kind in the UK and project backers said it is anticipated to stimulate £2.3bn of economic productivity by project backers, by combining the expertise of producers, energyintensive manufacturers, innovators and academics.
Established by industry trade association the Cheshire Energy Hub, the project spans industrial heartlands between west Runcorn and Ellesmere Port, which as a whole consume more than %5 of the UK’s energy usage.
A Cheshire Energy Hub spokeswoman said the main aim is to provide secure, low-carbon and low-cost indigenous energy from the North West to create more than 33,000 jobs and attract £7bn in capital investment.
A brochure accompanying Friday’s announcement said power sources in the scheme include Frodsham’s 57-megawatt (MW) wind farm, a 21MW biomass plant and 20MW gas-fired back-up ‘short term operating reserve’ (STOR) facility.
It said 480 hectares of land will be developed as part of the project.
Energy district goals include developing and using the area’s assets to make the district home to advances in energy technology such as heat networks, low-carbon transport, electricity networks, the hydrogen economy and massive energy storage including gas and hydrogen infrastructure.
Details of gas sourcing were yet to be published at the time of the announcement and although it contained no explicit reference to fracking, the report did refer to ‘unconventional gas extraction’.
The hub spokeswoman said: “The Energy Innovation District is aimed at promoting a broad energy mix to decarbonise and lower the cost of energy for the region’s industries and homes.
“From wind, biomass, energy storage and advances in the uses of hydrogen, it seeks to foster advances within the sector.
“It assumes that the way we use, consume and decarbonise natural gas will continue to play an important part in the UK’s energy supply, but does not speculate to the ● source.”
The hub spokeswoman said scheme leaders are now working with the Government to set a national blueprint for how energy and industry collaborate, which could be replicated elsewhere in the UK.
Cheshire Energy Hub is now seeking backing for emerging technologies and ‘increased incentives’ and ‘improvements to regulatory systems’.
The hub’s members include C-Tech Innovation, EA Technology, Encirc, Essar Oil UK, Peel Environmental, Protos, Storengy UK, URENCO, Cheshire & Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership, Cheshire West And Chester Council and The University Of Chester: Thornton Science Park.
The district’s biggest energy consumers include Inovyn in Runcorn, Essar’s Stanlow refinery, CF fertilisers, Encirc and URENCO,
Ged Barlow, Cheshire Energy Hub chairman and C-Tech Innovation managing director, said: “The Energy Innovation District is a British first – a place where energy generators are working handin-hand with business to attract investment, boost productivity and increase the competitiveness of our industries.
“It will be unique in that it will embrace and develop new technologies across a range of generation methods and actively explore how this can directly benefit industry.
“Energy usage is at the bedrock of successful enterprise and manufacturing.
“We’re encouraged by the Government’s support for integration as part of the Industrial Strategy and the District responds directly to this need for a more co-ordinated approach.”
Christine Gaskell, Cheshire & Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership chairwoman, said: “Energy is increasingly a top priority for business and Cheshire and Warrington has some of the country’s most energy intensive businesses.
“At the same time we have a strong set of energy generation assets and expertise with the likes of Thornton Science Park, EA Technologies at Capenhurst and the UK’s leading nuclear services cluster at Birchwood which means that we are perfectly placed to develop the UK’s first Energy Innovation District.
“The Energy Innovation District will put the region at the forefront nationally in ensuring that we can provide stable, secure and affordable energy to businesses in Cheshire and Warrington, which is vital to our continued economic growth.”
The UK’s first Energy Innovation District has been launched in the North West and spans from Ellesmere Port towards Runcorn