Putting all our energy into a greener planet

The clean growth agenda is a major opportunity for the North to play a leading role in creating new sources of prosperity for the UK, while also addressing urgent environmental and social issues says Roger Marsh OBE DL, Chair of the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership, in his latest for the Yorkshire Post.

It was great to see everyone in Hull last week for the first Energy and Clean Growth in the Northern Powerhouse conference. The event was organised by the Humber Local Enterprise Partnership and NP11 which I proudly chair – that brings together the 11 local enterprise partnerships across the North to work collaboratively with business, local and central government for the benefit of the North. The conference brought together industry, public sector, university and other representatives from across the North and beyond to underscore how important energy and clean growth is to the future prosperity of our combined region, country and our planet.

As we heard at the conference, the clean growth agenda is a major opportunity for the North to play a leading role in creating new sources of prosperity for the UK, while also addressing urgent environmental and social issues. Make no mistake, the North is the UK’s powerhouse that generates over 40% of the UK’s electricity.

However, our role in meeting much of the UK’s conventional energy and industrial needs means we also generate a quarter of the country’s CO2 emissions. By harnessing our shared assets in cleaner technologies and processes, we can play a leading role in achieving the UK’s zero carbon ambitions, while also creating new sources of economic growth, new global market opportunities, and new, skilled jobs for the people of the North. A report commissioned by the NP11 has determined that low carbon energy opportunities could add more than £2billion/year to our northern economy and create 100,000 new jobs by 2050.

Many parts of the North have declared a climate emergency, so we must achieve our agenda in a way that is environmentally responsible and sustainable. Many of our northern regions have set ambitious zero carbon targets. In the Leeds City Region, we launched our climate coalition in July, setting out a collective ambition to make the whole of the City Region net zero carbon by 2038 at the latest, with significant progress by 2030.

To realise these ambitions, we need to prioritise action in offshore wind; carbon capture, utilisation and storage; new options for nuclear energy and hydrogen. We also need a joined-up approach in how we develop and strengthen the key enablers of our low carbon future, including our utility networks and smart grids; our innovation, research and skills capacity; and the green financing and governance to make all of this work. Doing so would allow us to halve the North’s carbon emissions by 2032. However, more action would be required to achieve net zero.

In the Leeds City Region, we are applying a low carbon and sustainable approach in everything we do. As a leader in low carbon energy generator, we will exploit new economic opportunities with potentially huge global market reach. This will benefit everyone in the region through sustainable economic development that harnesses innovation and technology to reduce pollution, improve air quality and reduce people’s and businesses’ energy bills.

Through our capital investment programme across the region, we are ensuring long term economic resilience and success to manage future implications of climate change. We have tackled fuel poverty by helping over 1,440 households across the City Region lower their energy bills and heat their homes more efficiently. Working in partnership with Leeds City Council, we have developed the Leeds PIPES district heat network which will bring low carbon, lower cost heating and hot water to people in Leeds, while also cutting 22,000 tonnes of carbon emissions every year. We are providing advice and grants of up to £10,000 to small and medium sized (SMEs) business in the Leeds City Region to help them lower their carbon footprint, energy use and water and waste costs. We have helped businesses save enough energy to make over 51 million cups of tea.

We believe that over the long term, investing in green technology will lower carbon emissions, boost the economy and lead to increased employment, innovation and productivity across the City Region and the North.

The North has the capacity to become a zero carbon energy powerhouse for the whole of the UK, by developing zero carbon energy technologies and by decarbonising our major industrial clusters and their wider economies.  With the right policies and business models the North can deliver – as it has before – the changes needed to build an economy that balances environmental sustainability with business productivity and increased opportunities for our people. But we need to work together.

This article originally appeared in the Yorkshire Post