Birmingham at night

The University of Birmingham, together with Energy Capital and the Energy Systems Catapult, is unveiling a report today (Tuesday 27th March) making the case for the creation of Energy Innovation Zones (EIZs) in the West Midlands. The commission, which was chaired by Sir David King, calls for four pilot energy hubs to be located in Central Birmingham and Tyseley, UK Central in Solihull, the Black Country and Coventry and Warwickshire.

The report, Powering West Midlands Growth: A Regional Approach to Clean Energy Innovation, states the main focus of the EIZs will be to integrate low carbon technologies, to develop the business models and infrastructure needed to support new approaches to clean energy as well as overcome the regulatory barriers necessary for them to flourish. They will be designed to stimulate local clean energy innovation and drive productivity, within the region, as well as exports and growth.

The EIZs aim to demonstrate new technologies, and to turn them into fully commercial propositions, breeding regional markets and supply chains that provide a platform for exports and growth. They will also offer a controlled environment in which innovators of all types can trial new services, technologies and business models.

They will also generate faster progress in the areas of energy that urgently need attention, such as transport and heat, where emissions have risen over the past few years.

The West Midlands region faces acute energy business and social challenges: energy poverty is among the worst in the UK; there is a high concentration of intensive manufacturing; poor quality air; as well as areas of electricity grid constraint.

Professor Martin Freer, from the University of Birmingham, Director of the Birmingham Energy Institute, and lead author on the report said: ‘Energy resources and challenges differ from place to place meaning solutions will differ by location. Many of the urgent problems require the integration of energy systems such as heat and electricity grids or the integration of energy into wider systems such as waste and transport, which must happen locally. So local leadership is vital to the success of clean energy investments, and a local approach could be nimbler, producing collaborations across the energy sector and new technologies faster, with less risk.’

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, said: ‘The objective of the EIZs is to reduce emissions in the region and lower energy bills, meanwhile developing local supply chains, creating jobs, skills and markets.

‘Delivering clean growth means ensuring we can supply competitive power to increase productivity across our industrial base. It means ending fuel poverty for our most vulnerable citizens, building our existing skills base to grow new industries, delivering our share of the UK’s contribution to climate change targets and creating commercial successes in the energy arena for export worldwide.’

Sir David King, until recently the government’s special representative on climate change and Chair of the Commission said: ‘Tackling climate change is the most pressing issue of our time. Britain has been in the vanguard so far, reducing its carbon emissions by more than 40%, however the next steps are more challenging because we need to expand our efforts from electricity to heat and transport, which are harder to decarbonise.

‘The Energy Innovation Zone is a concept developed in the West Midlands that would allow the region to take control and ownership of the energy transition. Our commission report presents a compelling argument to invest in this locally driven model of clean energy transition and represents a major step forward in this field.’

The report commissioners hope that the EIZ approach is adopted across the country, working closely with local authorities, attracting investment and mustering local political support.

To read the full report, please follow the link below:

Powering West Midlands Growth: A Regional Approach to Clean Energy Innovation

The report will be launched at an event held at the Macmillan Room, Portcullis House. If you would like to attend, please notify the press office.

Speakers include:

  • The Rt Hon Claire Perry MP, Minister of State for Energy and Clean Growth
  • Preet Gill, MP for Birmingham Edgbaston 
  • Sir David King, Chair of the Regional Energy Policy Commission and former Special Representative for Climate Change 
  • Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands

Timings for the event are as follows:

Doors Open: 18:00
Speeches: 18:30-19:00
Networking: 19:00-20:00

The main sponsors (financial and political) of the Commission are the University of Birmingham, the Energy Systems Catapult, the University of Warwick and the WMCA (Mayor).

Supporters who gave their staff time for free to attend and work on the Commission, in addition to the above were: National Grid, Western Power, Ofgem, BEIS, Ecuity Urban Growth Company.

The initiative has been supported by the three Local Enterprise Partnerships: Black Country, Coventry and Warwickshire and Greater Birmingham and Solihull.

Kate Chapple, Press Office, University of Birmingham, tel +44 (0)121 414 2772.