Liverpool City Region: Evolving a true green and just regeneration
Liverpool City Region (LCR) is bringing together the transition to net zero carbon, social justice, economic and employment development, and energy resilience.
In our review of the Skills Advisory Panels’ recent reports, we saw how a number of regions and cities have evolved integrated plans to tackle their moves to net zero. Alongside, they’ve had to address severe local issues around employment opportunities, upskilling and reskilling, housing stock quality, and local resilience. In this post we look at Liverpool City Region (LCR), which in our opinion has been the victim of non-local economic development solutions for too long. With the advent of city mayors and the opportunities for national funding streams and policies being weaved into local, integrated solutions, several major themes emerge.
The Green Edge recently attended an informative and well attended session, convened and hosted by the Liverpool City Region All Party Parliamentary Group and chaired by Mick Whitely, MP for Birkenhead. Entitled Building energy resilience in the Liverpool City Region: Towards a resilient, affordable, and efficient City Region, the meeting featured a detailed and well researched presentation by Sue Jarvis, Co-Director of the Heseltine Institute for Public Policy, Practice and Place at Liverpool University. A Q&A session followed with a panel consisting of: Steve Rotherham, Mayor, Liverpool CR; Mick Blakely, Citizen Advice Bureau; and Guy Jefferson and Liam O’Sullivan from Scottish Power Energy Networks.
Here are some of our key takeaways from the session:
Major green energy projects offer huge local employment opportunities
The HyNet project promises 75,000 new jobs by 2035 in the North West, and the Mersey Tidal Power Project offers another 5,000 jobs. Also, there are the jobs that could arise from the local R&D strategy (44,000 jobs), the local electricity distribution and network investment (1,700 jobs) and the upgrade of the local housing stock (2,600+ jobs)1. So, overall we are talking about more than 128,300 jobs - a redefining of the local labour market over the next 10-15 years. And that’s before we consider the maritime sector, which supports 48,200 jobs, many of which are strongly green (data, Centre for Economics and Business Research, 2022).
Local housing stock creates a major challenge but an even bigger opportunity
Much of the local housing stock in LCR is pre-1940, over 60% has an energy efficiency rating of EPC D or less, and 16% of local households live in fuel poverty (2020 figures). Investment is already being made here, with £55 million committed to date. But a move towards full net zero will take much greater funds. Fuel poverty is rising fast, with a 507% increase in fuel cost cases being handled at the local Citizen Advice Bureau between Q1/2021 v Q1/2022. And this is before the next increase in the price cap. This, therefore, seems to point to a huge need to focus on reducing fuel poverty, reducing energy waste, improving local housing stock, and generating employment.
Skills shortages are a major barrier, but provide opportunities for local companies to upskill and reskill
The local energy efficiency improvement work in local housing creates many jobs for local people in local companies. Improving insulation, installing solar panels, and designing heat systems using network or individual heat pumps are all done through small local projects. This calls for local co-ordination and the upskilling and re-skilling of local people.
Resilience of energy supply calls for major investment to meet evolving demands
While attention is always drawn towards large scale renewable energy projects, there is a need to incrementally upgrade, extend, and redefine the local electricity distribution network. Currently, there are three green recovery projects taking place across the City Region by Scottish Power Energy Networks (SPEN), to help with low carbon housing and install EV charging points at local stations. Over the next five years, similar projects are described in the SPEN submission to Ofgem which is currently out to consultation.
Local industrial structure drives tactical decarbonisation plans
The Green Edge has posted previously on the various types and uses of hydrogen. LCR’s plan is to take a pragmatic approach, capturing and using hydrogen generated by the local chemical operations. HyNet builds on this and takes a gradual path towards fully green hydrogen, taking early steps now but with later developments determined by the funding streams.
Geography and legacy investment create a unique green energy mix
Some of the elements of the low carbon future for the City Region date back many years. The tidal/barrage thinking, for example, goes back to 1924. But these elements are now being brought together into a single plan, dubbed ‘the UK renewable energy coast’. We see similarities between this and what is being tackled in the North East of Scotland around Aberdeen. There are lessons to be learnt from both.
Levelling-up policy offers the ability to combine the drive for R&D investment and the emerging green economy
The momentum developed around the green regeneration and rebuilding of LCR’s economy will provide the platform to capitalise on the current R&D base and add to it as green specialisms and expertise emerge. The ecosystems offered by the local universities – including its proximity to Manchester – will also help here.
Towards LCR’s resilient, affordable, and efficient future
We thank Sue Jarvis and the panel for a very useful session. Sue’s presentation ended by posing these key questions:
How can LCR position itself as a priority for intervention and investment?
What powers and resources are available locally to support the transition to net zero and overcome the energy-led cost of living crisis?
How can local partners co-ordinate to improve energy efficiency and sustainability?
How can local plans for achieving net zero be developed and accelerated?
What does LCR need from the UK Government? How can the levelling-up and net zero agendas be aligned to support places like LCR? How can LCR secure investment from Government to support projects like Mersey Tidal Power?
What are the key threats from climate change in LCR and how do we mitigate them?
What are the major opportunities from the transition to net zero and how we do ensure LCR benefits from them?
Good questions indeed. The Green Edge will follow with interest - at LCR and elsewhere - as the answers emerge.
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We derived this number by totalling the employment which would be generated from 2022-2030 and sustained each year across the 12 constituencies that make up the Liverpool City Region and use the data held on the Energy Efficiency Infrastructure Group’s website.