Grimsby to be championed as a low carbon capital for the UK

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 13 Apr 2017

GRIMSBY is to be offered up to Government as an exemplar for a functioning low carbon future economy.

Council chiefs have pulled together an ambitious strategy to build on the phenomenal opportunity that has blown this way, with the emergence and establishment of offshore wind.

It is now working up the proposal to deliver to Westminster, having already turned heads in the capital with a can-do attitude first heralded by the major investors in the green energy business a decade ago.

Councillor Ray Oxby, leader of North East Lincolnshire Council, and Rob Walsh, the chief executive, have held roundtable talks with policy setters, looking to fuse together several different strands that have emerged to present the potential.

HIGHLIGHTS from the meeting in London.

Strategies include harnessing the waste heat from the vast cold storage operations, tapping into power coming ashore, and taking advantage of geothermal potential identified below the borough.

It could even lead to a de-coupling from the grid as the area becomes self-sustaining, in what is described as a ‘fundamental change in the way heat and power are generated and consumed’.

Millions of pounds of investment in infrastructure and skills would be required to hit the long-term aspiration, with a desire for the borough to be carbon neutral by 2050, while by 2032 gaining international recognition.

Mr Oxby said: “We want Grimsby to be the hotbed of the economy for the future as well as existing industry.

We have enormous potential, not just in the operation renewable energy, but in the use and recycling of it. We are committed, be it solar, wind energy or geothermal. We are looking at how we can embed this into the community, into the existing clusters.

“We have major processing activity here, a vast quantity of energy intensive operations, with potential for community heating schemes and the recycling of energy in food process and chemical sectors.”

An extensive plan has been drawn up covering the context, skills, needs and asks, with three requests of support from Government.

They are: 

  • Recognition of the opportunities in North East Lincolnshire associated with offshore and onshore renewable energy
  • Backing of ambitions to be the UK capital of the renewable energy industry and nationally and internationally recognised as the UK’s leading region for low-carbon energy
  • Support and investment to enable North East Lincolnshire to seize those opportunities, realise its ambitions and ensure everyone in North East Lincolnshire benefits from a low carbon future

Mr Oxby believes presenting an opportunity is welcomed rather than heading down to the capital with a begging bowl, and said initial reaction at last month’s meeting has been positive.

“It can be difficult to get a profile nationally, but this can deliver on the industrial strategy and is a real platform to show what we have got, it is ambition and vision,” Mr Oxby said.

Grimsby has already been flagged up as a leading green area, with a belief that the attention given to the likes of offshore wind has made residents more renewable energy conscious. Attracting more industry to the area is seen as vital too, with business rates to be retained in the borough in a switch of local government funding in coming years.

On a community level there is also an award-winning solar share scheme in operation.

“It has become the fulcrum for that future to develop the economy," Mr Oxby said. "It is the way we can generate income to provide services. There is a motivation for a generation of people and the survival of the council as we know it beyond 2020. There has been a dramatic shift over the last five years. We have removed barriers and blocks. We have got to be a facilitator, a broker for the area.” 

Highlighting the ‘hidden’ quality of living in the area, low land values, coupled with the large swathes of developable space being brought forward under economic schemes, Mr Oxby added: “We have major investors, Dong Energy, Siemens and E.on, big corporate businesses that see this place as a real centre of industry.

“We are putting the infrastructure in place, we have an excellent offer and we believe there has never been a better time.”

​INFLUENTIAL figures were full of praise for the bold proposal. 

They enjoyed a detailed discussion on the low carbon plan which could be a model of efficiency to roll-out far and wide, while bringing in millions of pounds of investment in infrastructure and skills.

Phil Lawton, power systems specialist within the Energy Systems Catapult, said: “The thing that hit me most was the fact the council was no longer seeing themselves as providing services, the ‘we run the school, we empty the bins,’ but as having a responsibility for delivering local economic growth, which is good for the community and good for them too. 

“Clearly you have to make the most of your local geography and so North (East) Lincolnshire is ideally placed for the North Sea, and connecting there with offshore wind.”

Tim Banfield, a consultant at infrastructure specialist Nichols Group, with 30 years of experience of large public sector projects, said: “The commitment of the leadership, both from councillors and from the executive, is so strong and comes through so clearly. We had two hours in that workshop and the message was consistent, it was clear and there was utter passion. 

“Where I think the council has a real head start is it has complete clarity of vision. The ambition of this as a scheme is about changing people’s lives.”

Underlining the “bold ambition for growth,” Mr Walsh said the passion for the place was “catalysed by renewable energy”. He said: “It has had a transformative effect in a town like Grimsby which is resurgent as a result. An old fishing town has now got a new identity and a real story to tell around how we can grow in a very sustainable way for local community benefit.”

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