Three South West Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) have pledged to make clean growth and energy a strategic economic priority for the region.
Cornwall and Isles of Scilly, Dorset, and the Heart of the South West LEPs have all agreed to adopt a new South West Energy Strategy with a common vision to create an energy future that is low carbon and more affordable, maximising and retaining benefits in the region.
Given the right level of investment and strategic backing from central Government – which last week pledged net zero carbon emissions for the UK by 2050 – the strategy has potential to significantly reduce fuel poverty in the South West, generate 80% low carbon electricity, attract more than £100 billion of investment, create up to 192,000 jobs and contribute up to £10bn of GVA by 2030.
Clean growth and energy have been identified by the Government as important enablers of economic growth within its Industrial Strategy.
Forecasts show that the UK clean growth sector could grow by an estimated 11% per year between 2015 and 2030 – four times faster than the rest of the economy – and could deliver between £60 billion and £170 billion of export sales of goods and services by 2030.
The South West has a wealth of renewable energy resources including the best wind resource in Western Europe, best solar resource in the mainland UK, and the best geothermal resource in the UK. It also has huge potential for marine renewables.
However, currently the region is not widely benefitting from these resources and imports almost 88% of its energy at a cost of £9 billion.
Research conducted by the Carbon Trust undertaken on behalf of the three LEPs has revealed that the South West has the potential to be self-sufficient or even a net exporter of electricity by 2030 as well as unique opportunities in:
- A rapid increase in electric vehicles over the next two decades with the potential for a longer-term transition to a hydrogen economy
- An opportunity to tackle energy inequalities with more efficient buildings; deployment of heat pumps and heat networks.
- Investment into bigger and smarter transmission and distribution grids to unlock the above.
Overall the strategy aims to result in cleaner transport, lower energy bills, reduced impact on climate change, year round jobs, smart and efficient buildings and locally owned generation.
Jim Stewart, Chair of Dorset LEP said: “This transformation represents a unique opportunity for the South West due to the region’s abundant renewable energy resources. LEPs are well placed to deliver the Energy Strategy for the South West. Our industry is primed to realise this vision which will help to attract massive capital investment into the region.”
Mark Duddridge, Chair of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly LEP, said: “The transition to a low carbon economy is a huge economic opportunity for our region. In Cornwall and Scilly we are already blazing a trail with geothermal power and smart energy systems, and we want to harness the potential for offshore floating wind and mineral extraction for battery storage technologies. Clean growth is not a contradiction; we have already seen how it can create jobs and businesses and tackle energy inequality in our communities.”
Steve Hindley CBE DL, Chair of the Heart of South West (HotSW) LEP said: “For the HotSW area – Devon, Plymouth, Somerset and Torbay – clean growth is a priority sector in our Local Industrial Strategy, which is being developed over the summer in preparation for the Budget in Autumn.
“On the wider regional level of the Great South West – the economic catchment that covers our neighbouring LEP areas – there are abundant low carbon energy resources that boost our potential as an internationally significant economy. Our strong collaborative approach to address the challenges of fuel poverty and carbon represents a transformational opportunity to future-proof our region.”
In addition to the Energy Strategy, the three LEPs are also working with Solent, Gloucestershire, Swindon & Wiltshire LEPs and West of England Combined Authority to develop a South West Local Energy Hub.
The South West Energy Hub will seek to aggregate the Energy Strategies across the South West to identify themes for delivery of projects; increase the number, quality and scale of local energy projects being delivered; and raise local awareness of the opportunity for and benefits of local energy investment. It will also help to attract private and/ or public finance for energy projects.
The South West Energy Strategy is available here.