October LEP column - Paul Hamer - Chair of the LEP Green Economy Panel
The time has never been better for the UK’s energy sector to flourish, particularly in the Leeds City Region. One sixth of the UK’s electricity is generated in the region; we have the UK’s largest manufacturing base with vast growth potential and are home to innovative energy companies that are driving the sustainable energy agenda. With the region’s economy now starting to blossom in post-recession growth, the scale of the commercial opportunity ahead is immense and we must seize this opportunity and capitalise the vast economic and market potential.
As a LEP, our resource efficiency agenda is simple. We need to support businesses to grow in an energy efficient way. A simple agenda with immense opportunity.
Resource costs are a major issue for our manufacturing sector – the largest in the country. According to our quarterly economic survey, for the vast majority of manufacturers, over 30% of gross production value is resource costs and many of these businesses report that these costs have increased significantly in the last five years. Building upon this research, the LEP - and particularly the LEP’s Green Economy Panel of which I am Chair - are exploring ways in which we can work with businesses to become more resource efficient, as well as build on our region’s existing strengths and exploit the vast investment opportunities ahead.
In negotiating our Local Growth Deal with government, we clearly set out the challenges and opportunities that businesses face and the steps we need to take to implement our long term ambition of becoming a lean, resource efficient economy, underpinned by a 21st Century energy infrastructure. As a result, we secured significant funding to deliver a series of projects and programmes that will enable businesses to save time, money and waste and position the Leeds City Region as a resource efficient economy.
The LEP’s Energy Hub will be a specialist vehicle responsible for the development of new energy infrastructure across the Leeds City Region. The Energy Hub will work directly with our local authority partners to provide technical and commercial expertise from highly skilled professionals and also invest in feasibility and project design which will enable projects in the region to go from concept to market ready propositions. Alongside this local authority support, the LEP will work with potential investors and suppliers to facilitate project development across the entire City Region.
A core element of the LEP’s offer to business in this area of work will be establishing a Resource Efficiency Fund. Consulting with businesses in the region, we understand one of the barriers to energy efficient growth can often be the initial risk associated with the project development that prevents good schemes from leveraging the finance available to them. By autumn 2015 we will ensure information and finance is available to growth oriented businesses that have viable projects to implement.
Partnership working is at the heart of the LEP’s activity and we secured funding for a collaborate initiative with York, North Yorkshire and East Riding LEP to further develop BioVale in York. The ambition is to develop BioVale as an innovation cluster that will support the region’s growth as an international hub for the knowledge based bio-economy. Innovative new science facilities will be built that will help companies and other organisations work together on the development of high value chemicals, natural products, next generation biofuels and processing bio-waste. Development has started, working closely with the University of York, City of York Council and the Biorenewables Development Centre.
Ambitious plans are in the pipeline but we are also busy implementing measures right now to support growing businesses and make the Leeds City Region a better place to work and live.
The Green Economy Panel is acutely aware of the impact of rising energy bills for both businesses and families and therefore, our strategic heat programme is currently identifying opportunities for installing district heat networks across the region to help businesses and residents to drive a reduction in energy costs. District heat networks are a method of generating heat in a centralised location which is then supplied to businesses and residents in the local area via super insulated pipes. This is a more efficient way of providing energy and in turn supports our goal – not just of creating growth for growth’s sake, but good growth that enables everyone in the City Region to benefit from economic prosperity.
In addition, we are nearing the implementation stage of our Energy Efficiency Scheme and will be working with our local authority partners to take advantage of funding from Government and the LEP to improve housing and business premises. This will be a fantastic opportunity to work with home and business owners to improve their energy efficiency, reduce their energy bills and create jobs in the city region.
It is an exciting time to be a business in the Leeds City Region, with opportunities aplenty to kick-start growth plans with support from both the public and private sector. The LEP is entering an important new phase of delivery and we are seeking business leaders to join our Green Economy Panel to help us deliver our vision for transformational economic growth. If you are interested in joining and making a difference to your local economy, please visit: www.leedscityregion.gov.uk/leprecruits