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Home » How Net Zero Mission Could Bring Billions Into The North West – If Government Gives Its Support

How Net Zero Mission Could Bring Billions Into The North West – If Government Gives Its Support

Turning the North West into “the world’s first net-zero industrial region” could be worth billions of pounds and could protect hundreds of thousands of jobs – but only if the Government pulls its weight.

That was the message from the launch of the Net Zero North West manifesto on Thursday, which saw politicians and business leaders join forces to showcase the opportunities here.

And organisers were clear this is not simply a request for more government cash – it’s about making sure the public and private sectors can work together to allow ambitious companies to grow.

The manifesto says the region has some £30 billion in near-term investable net-zero projects, with a total investment opportunity of £207 billion. It says that pushing for net zero could safeguard and create some 34,500 green jobs in the short term, rising to 660,000 in the future. All that work could save 46 million tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere.

The manifesto makes a series of requests to government, including:

Mandating the implementation of energy efficiency measures for industrial sites in the UK The Government should create an investment framework and stable policy environment for hydrogen and production, distribution, storage and fuel switching. Government support for commercial-scale demonstrations of hydrogen use in all sectors including domestic, power, industrial and transport Government support for commercial-scale demonstrations of ammonia use in aviation and shipping The Government “to recognise the role that the North West can play in delivering new nuclear in its roadmap to 2050, including a positive siting decision for early deployment of small modular reactors in West Cumbria and Lancashire and continued investment to ensure nationally critical skills are not lost as our existing nuclear fleet retires” Ofgem to accelerate investment in the UK’s electrical transmission and distribution networks A streamlining of the planning process “where large-scale industrial decarbonisation projects can be approved at a national rather than local level” The Government “to develop, publish and support a skills strategy to drive the development of net zero skills to delivery of the UK’s net-zero transition” Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham and Liverpool City Region metro mayor Steve Rotheram joined forces to launch the manifesto at an event at Siemens in south Manchester today.

Mr Burnham said: “The North West has the potential to be a net exporter of green energy to the rest of the UK and the rest of the world.”

But he said the region had to act fast, adding: “There is a massive opportunity but it is a window of opportunity. And if we don’t seize it now, that window will close and others will do what we could have done.”

He added: “We’re waiting for a UK Government that has the same level of ambition for the North West as we have in the 21st century.”

The net zero opportunities stretch around the region, from the ambitious plans to build a tidal barrage across the Mersey to EET’s massive plans to transform its Stanlow refinery into a low-carbon hydrogen hub as part of HyNet, which bills itself as “the UK’s leading industrial decarbonisation project”.

It also includes plans to “decarbonise” the vast industrial estate at Trafford Park, through projects including Carlton Power’s Trafford Low Carbon Energy Park that is set to include a low-carbon hydrogen fuel hub and a battery energy storage scheme.

The manifesto also stretches into North East Wales, where Uniper is considering a new gas-fired power station at its Connah’s Quay site that “would connect into CO₂ transport and storage infrastructure as part of the HyNet industrial cluster”.

Ged Barlow, chief executive at Net Zero North West, said the manifesto was a pitch to the Government for policy support, rather than for cold hard cash.

He said: “This is not ‘we need more money’. This is us saying ‘you need to look at this policy or that policy, because there may be some unintended consequences of what you’re doing, which are acting as a barrier’. Or we might say ‘you may need to make things happen more quickly. Things that you’re currently considering. make them happen more quickly, because you’re holding the progress up’.”

Ged Barlow, chief executive at Net Zero North West, with the manifesto (Image: Net Zero North West) He added: “These are our asks, our suggestions to policymakers and investors as to how we can accelerate industrial decarbonisation.

“We are asking government to give us some clear guidance on new business models for hydrogen and ammonia. How are we going to improve electrical connectivity?

“One of the major barriers to industrial decarbonisation is actually how these new net zero technologies can actually connect to the electricity grid. And we, as a nation, are going to have some significant challenges around how we fund that, how we invest in the electricity grid going forward.

“Also net zero skills is a massive thing. We’re looking to central government to give us a steer going forward as to how they’re going to support net zero skills development, right the way through from apprenticeships right up to higher education.”

The high-profile industrial net zero projects in the North West are largely run by multinationals and big companies – but Mr Barlow said there would also be opportunities for smaller firms in the supply chain.

He said: “All of our members and all of our collaborators are attempting to work with their supply chains, and obviously many of their supply companies are going to be SMEs. They’re developing their own net-zero pathways and strategies with their supply chains, encouraging them to have their own net zero activity.

“Some of that is going to involve things like moving towards more efficient lighting, LED lighting, (using) more efficient pumps, reducing waste.

“Also, supply companies will get more involved in supplying new green technology. So it will create new markets for them and also create new jobs for them.”

One challenge for any growing industry is finding the people with the right skills to work in it. That subject came up at the panel discussion at the launch, with speakers including City of Liverpool College principal Elaine Bowker and East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce CEO Miranda Barker.

And at the start of the event, Mayor Rotheram said the UK needed to focus on nurturing a skilled workforce, saying: “For a long time, this country has believed we can just turn the tap on for skills.”

The Stanlow refinery in Ellesmere Port is at the heart of HyNet, the UK’s leading industrial decarbonisation project (Image: Essar Oil (UK)) Mr Barlow said: “We’re trying to work with the educational sector, as an industry, to try to get them to understand what the future needs of industry are going to be in terms of these new decarbonizing technologies.

“We’ve worked with the North West Business Leadership Team and Manchester Met to put together a skill strategy which essentially we’ve attempted to cascade down through our membership and through their supply chains.”

However, Mr Barlow says that, while the green technology may be new, the skills needed to develop and operate it are not.

He said: “It’s not rocket science. It’s very much more of the same. It’s more chemical engineers. It’s more pipe fitters. It’s more electrical engineers. It’s more construction and engineering-type jobs.

“So it’s much more of the same, but with a slant towards net zero. It’s not like we have to completely reinvent what these jobs look like. It’s a slight realignment of the content of some of these jobs.”

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