Peel Environmental and Cheshire’s public sector leaders believe they are closing in on a deal with the Government which will support the development of a UK-leading energy network, where occupational energy costs would be cut by 20%.
The Energy Innovation District includes sites around Ellesmere Port, Ince and Elton, a part of the region that accounts for 5% of the UK’s energy use. With schemes such as Peel’s Protos under development, the intention is for the development of a private grid, or series of micro-grids, that will offer occupiers energy security at a reduced cost due to the localised, low-carbon supply.
John Adlen, growth director at Cheshire & Warrington LEP, told Place North West: “We’ve got a high level prospectus in with government setting out our ambitions and the business case is being made.
“We’re looking at Enterprise Zone-style retention of business rates, which will give us the guaranteed long-term income stream, so the public sector doesn’t even have to borrow to fund this.
“The idea originated from the Government’s thinking on sector deals, but whereas that was very national and vertical, this is place-based – that’s not how they’d thought about it, but they’re interested and have gone away to think about it.”
Jake Berry, the Northern Powerhouse Minister, is to visit Ellesmere Port for an energy summit on 1 April, along with Welsh business minister Ken Skates.
The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy has granted the LEP £50,000 to develop an energy strategy in what Adlen said was another encouraging sign as he and his team seek to make Cheshire an exemplar – only Teesside, like Ellesmere Port a traditional fuel-producing area, has an equivalent level of energy infrastructure to attempt this, he said.
Myles Kitcher, managing director of Peel Energy, told Place: “It does feel very real now – we’ve been working on this for a long time, and we now get the sense that the government believes we have a real differentiator here.” Peel has been on site at Protos for three years, but it has been in the works for 12, Kitcher said.
The Ellesmere Port area already houses some highly energy-intensive businesses, in petrochemicals, car production and fertiliser manufacture, and the LEP said that the Energy Innovation District has 1,200 further developable acres or businesses attracted by the security of its energy offer. GVA director Andrew Pexton said “energy is definitely on occupiers’ list now”.
Philip Cox, chief executive of the LEP, told the Energy Cheshire event, hosted this morning at MIPIM by Addleshaw Goddard, that “a private wire network will provide zero-carbon energy here – it will reduce our carbon footprint, reduce costs and establish us as a hotbed of energy innovation.”
Adlen added that it would be achievable by developing the first micro-grid from North Ellesmere Port, potentially followed by Capenhurst, and then looking to provide a network for Ellesmere Port town centre.