The Marches Energy Strategy funded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), recognises the way that energy is generated and consumed in the UK is changing and the challenges that will need to be faced. The current energy infrastructure is already at capacity in many areas and this presents both a threat to future business and housing development. Regional Senior Energy Projects Officer, Tim Yair explains more in this Q&A.
What is your role with the Marches LEP?
My role is to help develop the capacity of the region to increase energy resilience. I will be working to formulate and deliver energy related initiatives, that access relevant funding and parcel together imaginative and creative energy schemes. This will involve working with partners from key public and private sector organisations within the LEP area, as well as others regionally and nationally.
What are the biggest challenges facing the Marches in terms of energy use?
Currently, there are a number of energy challenges facing the Marches region. A significantly constrained electricity grid, both in terms of generation and supply, has the potential to lead to difficulties in connecting new developments and energy generation assets.
The Marches has significant areas of off-grid gas, which leads to the widespread use of high carbon and high-cost fuels. The rural nature of the area also leads to higher levels of transport emissions, as vehicles generally have to travel further to their destinations. These challenges have also contributed to above average levels of fuel poverty.
Why does the Marches need an energy strategy?
The Marches is an area with ambitious growth plans. Councils across the Marches region have plans to create 40,000 new jobs and 70,000 new homes by 2031. These plans could make the current challenges even harder to overcome by increasing demand. Having an energy strategy will help to ensure the strategic development of energy infrastructure by bringing together suppliers, users, local authorities and other players.
As well as helping to overcome the challenges, the Marches Energy Strategy will also help to build on the strengths of the region and ensure the opportunities to expand high-value supply chains supporting technological innovation are taken.
What are the key priorities for the next ten years?
The key priorities set out in the Marches Energy Strategy are:
- Developing a pilot grid constraints mitigation project as a national demonstrator
- Locally generated renewable electricity meeting 50% of local demand
- 1000 new jobs in the Low Carbon and Environmental Goods and Services sector
- Fuel poverty reduced below 10%
- National leader in deployment of anaerobic digestion
- Centre for UK agriculture innovation and low carbon transition
- Carbon emissions excluding agriculture reduced in line with UK targets, a 57% reduction on 1990 levels
What can individual companies do now to help?
There are a number of options open to local companies to help deliver the aims of the Marches Energy Strategy. The easiest is to look at installing renewable technology on existing businesses. Since the loss of the Feed-in-tariff, installing renewable technology has become financially unviable. To help overcome this, the Marches Renewable Energy (MarRE) scheme has been launched as a simple 50% grant. Other schemes are also running across the Marches to help improve energy efficiency. For instance the Business Energy Efficiency Programme (BEEP) can provide grants of up to £20,000 (up to 40% of the total cost of the project) to implement the recommendations from an energy efficiency assessment.
What sort of jobs will be created by a low carbon economy?
The vast majority of jobs within the low carbon economy are related to energy efficiency. However, this sector also includes low carbon heat; low carbon electricity; low carbon services; low emission vehicles and energy from waste and biomass. In the Marches, it is likely that jobs will be created in research and development, particularly in terms of battery technology for energy storage and anaerobic digestion (AD) for energy generation.
What areas of sustainability can the Marches lead the country in?
The Marches is already a leading region in the deployment of anaerobic digestion (AD). This will be an important area to build on in the coming years. There remains plenty of scope for the expansion of AD across the Marches, although work is required to ensure energy is generated in the most appropriate places.
How will you help reduce CO2 emissions?
The recent publicity around the signing of Climate Emergency documents by local authorities in the Marches has made carbon reduction an important political objective. As carbon emissions are directly related to energy, it is possible to tackle them simultaneously. As mentioned earlier, there are already significant pressures on the system, so all decisions will need to be made with carbon and energy use in mind.
How will you help achieve the target of 50 per cent renewable electricity generation by 2030?
The national share of electricity generation from renewables in 2018 was a record 33.0%. However, to meet local and national targets, a significant amount more renewables needs to be installed. Working with Local Authorities, local energy co-operatives and engaging with the energy network operators will be essential. In the Marches, a new grant scheme (Marches Renewable Energy) is now running to provide 50% grant aid for the installation of renewable technologies.
What does fuel poverty mean and how can you reduce it?
Fuel poverty is a technical term and describes the consequences of low income, high fuel prices and poor energy efficiency or inefficient heating systems. Someone is classed as being in fuel poverty when the required fuel costs are above the median level, and if they were to spend what is required, then the household would be left with a residual income below the official poverty line.
In order to break out of fuel poverty, at least one of these factors needs addressing. In practice, the easiest way to achieve this is to improve the energy efficiency of the building or change the heating fuel to a cheaper, more efficient one.