Net zero: Powering a greener future

By Ged Henderson

06 Jun 2024

Samlesbury

Net Zero North West has unveiled a ground-breaking manifesto aimed at making the region the world’s first net zero cluster.

The group is a collaboration of industry leaders, politicians and academic experts all joined together by one central goal – to drive the North West’s potential to be a global leader in industrial decarbonisation.

The manifesto was launched with the backing of the Greater Manchester and Liverpool city region mayors and has sparked calls for Lancashire to do more to ensure it benefits fully from the lobbying exercise and wider net zero agenda.

The document looks at ways to create and safeguard over 600,000 jobs, while highlighting the action needed to substantially decarbonise regional industry by 2030 and achieve net zero emissions by 2040.

It is a roadmap that includes plans for greater energy efficiency, nuclear energy generation and improved rail infrastructure, enabling the region to lead the UK’s charge in tackling climate change.

It outlines a £30bn pipeline of live investable projects, with the opportunity for £207bn to be invested in the region overall, all aimed at decarbonising major industrial sectors in the region.

Research shows that the North West is the nation’s leader for manufacturing new, low-carbon technology, and has the highest number of potential jobs in green tech manufacturing.

At the heart of the plan is a call for increased government support to drive key technologies like hydrogen and Carbon Capture Utilisation and Storage (CCUS), develop enabling infrastructure, enhance regional communications, build appropriate skills and provide “overarching leadership” to monitor progress and support project delivery.

Ged Barlow, chief executive at Net Zero North West, says: “Substantially decarbonising regional industry by 2030, and getting to net zero emissions by 2040, is an opportunity that presents significant economic benefits, both regionally and nationally.

“It will create and protect high value jobs and position the UK at the forefront of global industrial emissions reductions.

“Our plans underscore the importance of collaboration and collective action in addressing the challenges of climate change.

“By setting ambitious targets and working towards a common goal of sustainability, we can inspire other regions to follow suit and join the global movement towards a greener, more sustainable future.”

The manifesto document calls on the government to recognise the role the North West can play in delivering ‘new nuclear’ as part of the mix.

That includes siting the early deployment of small modular reactors in Lancashire and continued investment to ensure nationally critical skills are not lost as the Heysham power stations are retired and demand for fuel from Springfields, near Preston, changes to accommodate the newer range of reactors.

It says: “A major new nuclear programme will secure the future of those communities.”

Miranda Barker, chief executive of the East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce, is Net Zero North West’s Lancashire representative and she spoke at the launch.

She believes the county’s world-leading advanced manufacturing base can and will play a key role in helping deliver the net zero vision.

However, there is work to do for the county to get its message through and to have a larger role and louder voice in the lobbying exercise.

She says: “We need to ensure we are in the supply chain, that means getting more involved in the discussions and the next stages of the plan.

“Lancashire has to get out there and push its case within this North West scale proposal.

It has to be at the table. We’ve got the opportunity; we need the public sector’s aspiration to match the private sector’s and that’s what’s missing at the moment.”

When it comes to generating more low carbon jobs in Lancashire Miranda would like to see the proposed new Combined County Authority (CCA) create an ‘inward investment facilitation strategy’.

This would bring together live information for potential inward investors, identifying sites, co-location opportunities and skills connectivity.

Loans or grants to incentivise firms to invest would be part of the mix to attract low carbon businesses, along with strategic level support in partnership with the government.

Miranda says: “We have the ability to lead globally and to best deliver on this ambition we need to ensure we have a stronger investment strategy.”

Hydrogen features heavily in the region’s net zero manifesto, and Lancashire is already set to play its part in its adoption as a fuel source.

Protium Green Solutions has received planning consent to develop large-scale hydrogen production at Budweiser Brewing Group’s Samlesbury brewery.

Protium and Budweiser first announced plans for the Samlesbury Net Zero project in March 2023, initially to help meet the brewery’s thermal, heating and transport needs through hydrogen.

Once fully operational, Samlesbury Net Zero could save up to 11,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions every year.

It will support the brewery in decarbonising its operations by using hydrogen in its  boilers and heavy goods vehicles and will be a globally significant site for showcasing how decarbonisation can be achieved by combining hydrogen, electrification and other net zero technologies.

Christopher Jackson, Protium’s chief executive and founder, says the project is now the “most advanced” green hydrogen production project being considered under the UK government’s Hydrogen Allocation Round 2 process (HAR2).

Describing planning permission as a “fantastic milestone” he revealed that Samlesbury Net Zero had also secured grid capacity, as well as a completing its ‘front end’ engineering design.

The site of the plan will cover an area similar in size to one and a half full-size football pitches.

Enjoyed this? Read more from Ged Henderson

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