Manchester and Liverpool Join Forces to Explore Green Energy Potential for Powering Both Cities
A dynamic collaboration could turn two of England’s largest cities into green technology leaders in the race to net zero, reports Stuart Spray
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Labour metro mayors Andy Burnham and Steve Rotheram have joined forces to launch a taskforce that aims to map the green energy potential of Greater Manchester and Liverpool City regions and explore how people in the north-west can directly own and control those resources.
The Green Energy Task Force – announced yesterday at the Greater Manchester Green Summit – is a first for the UK and will be led by green entrepreneur and Ecotricity founder Dale Vince, with support from Co-operatives UK and climate change communications experts Climate Outreach. It will spend the coming months researching what’s possible for the two city regions in terms of renewable energy resources.
Speaking to Byline Times at the summit, Vince said: “We might find that there’s enough renewable energy here to power 50% of the homes in the two regions. But whatever it is, it doesn’t matter. It’s a starting place to say ‘this is what’s possible, this is how much is going to cost and these are the benefits that it will bring’.”
Vince is highly critical of the Government’s record on tackling the climate crisis, describing the Liz Truss administration as a “mad hatters tea party” and accusing Boris Johnson of being “all talk and no action”.
He believes that Britain can be powered by harnessing wind, sun, waves and even green gas produced from grass. The Green Energy Task Force is a first step towards doing so at a regional level. It is hoped a blueprint can be created through the project which can be replicated by all regions to establish community-owned energy schemes across the country.
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Hitting Net Zero
Liverpool’s Steve Rotheram and Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham are eager for the north-west to lead the decarbonisation race in the UK and to take advantage of the well-paid green jobs of the future.
Net Zero North West – an industry-led cluster committed to delivering a co-ordinated net zero vision for the region – estimates that 85,000 new jobs could be created in Greater Manchester through a major home retrofitting programme alone.
“Someone has to take advantage of the green industrial revolution,” said Rotheram. “Why shouldn’t it be our region?”
“We want to seize the problem in the north-west head on,” Burnham agreed. “Energy bills have skyrocketed. People feel powerless. When we look at our wind and our other renewables, ownership of our energy is up for grabs. Why not us, the people and businesses of the north-west – the stakeholders – make a play for this? Let the people be in control.”
The 2019 Conservative Manifesto included a commitment for the UK to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Greater Manchester has pledged to do the same by 2038. However, Burnham warned yesterday’s Green Summit that, unless there are significant changes in Government policies, both Greater Manchester and the UK would miss their targets.
Calling for the Government to make U-turns on its fossil fuel dependent energy policies, he said the lifting of the fracking moratorium and new restrictions on solar farms were a “complete diversion” and asked how any minister could sit at home watching BBC’s Frozen Planet on a Sunday night and then go into work and sign off a fracking licence. “I honestly don’t know how they could look at themselves in the mirror,” he said.
Burnham told Byline Times that he is “very worried” about “where this Government is taking us”. He questioned its legitimacy to govern now that it appears to have “ripped up” its three key manifesto pledges to level-up the north, invest in public services and to work towards a net zero future.
“We’ve got a Government that is putting barriers in our way when actually we should be clearing the way to a green future,” he said. “The UK Government talks about growth. Well, good growth is green growth, because that is about creating industries and jobs that will last the century.”
Harnessing Green Technology
According to Steve Rotheram, developing the Mersey Tidal Power Project could generate enough energy to power up to one million homes and create thousands of local jobs.
Similarly, Manchester’s first green hydrogen production plant, which received planning permission earlier this month, could create around 200 jobs during its two-year construction period and 10 full-time jobs when the site in Trafford becomes operational. The initial 20MW plant will reduce carbon dioxide emissions into Manchester’s atmosphere by more than 20,000 tonnes annually rising to 200,000 tonnes – the equivalent of removing 80,000 petrol cars off the road a year – when it reaches full capacity.
With the city’s tram system now running on renewable energy, all 10 local authority areas have produced and adopted Local Area Energy Plans, detailing their roadmaps towards net zero carbon. A total of 50 zero-emission double-decker buses have already been ordered and the UK’s first net zero carbon social homes have been completed in the east of the city. Greater Manchester’s green revolution is beginning to take shape.
Manchester-based musician and journalist John Rob is an enthusiastic supporter of the Green Energy Task Force and likes the idea of the two cities working together independently of the Government. “We don’t need the Government,” he told Byline Times. “To me, it’s like the spirit of punk rock – it was ‘DIY’ so it didn’t need anybody’s permission to do anything. If something was right, you just went and did it.
“So let’s not worry about the Government… Manchester and Liverpool joined together, that’s like dynamite. It’s not easy, it’s not an overnight job. But the fact they’re doing it is inspirational.”