1. An Ambitious City-Region with an Accelerated and Focused Innovation Pathway
Having led the first industrial revolution, Manchester is now leading a new green revolution - committed to Energy Transition to help meet our climate goals. With an accelerated carbon neutral target of 2038, the region is now home to a bespoke Energy Innovation Agency (EIA) which is dedicated to transforming investable ideas into real-world clean energy solutions: from smart and enabled assets, funding mechanisms and policy reform all the way through to product validation and commercialisation.
As part of this effort the EIA brings together partners from local government, business, industry, and the academic sectors, including citizen representatives to meet the challenge. It is a true collaboration between the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA), The Growth Company, Hitachi Europe, Bruntwood, SSE Enterprise, The University of Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan University, and the University of Salford.
This unique partnership will accelerate the introduction of energy-related innovation, bringing together the region’s exceptional academic and government assets with the entrepreneurship and investment of industry to both shorten the journey from discovery to deployment and to facilitate the rapid scaling of energy innovations.
There are a number of carbon-neutral energy investment opportunities available across the city-region, including:
Generation and Storage
The UK has an ambitious target of 100% renewable power generation by 2035 and Energy Storage is crucial to accommodate the increased levels of intermittent generation. With only 2.5% of Greater Manchester’s (GM) energy currently generated from low carbon energy, the city-region requires innovative solutions that can create a big impact.
Decarbonisation of Heat
With an aim to have 60% of Greater Manchester (GM) homes and businesses powered by low carbon heating by 2030, the EIA can fast track innovative solutions that can be deployed at scale to accelerate the decarbonisation of heat in buildings.
Low Carbon Transport
GM is the only city outside London to adopt a franchised bus system. Starting in 2023, it will allow the local Government to work with operators to transition to a Zero Emissions bus fleet - the size of which creates a big opportunity for suppliers. The Metrolink Tram system already runs on 100% renewables, and a bike hire scheme will also add to an integrated ‘Bee Network’ transport system.
In addition, GM is working on the roll out of an EV charging infrastructure along with other innovative solutions to encourage the adoption of Zero Emissions commercial, taxi and private vehicles across the city-region. However, the predicted increase in electric vehicle uptake and charging requirements bring fresh demands on our energy infrastructure. The EIA is keen to hear from businesses that specialise in low carbon transport itself or the systems, models and data that underpin the shift to a carbon neutrality.
Diversity and Flexibility
Ensuring the UK has a diverse energy mix will help to increase stability, and flexibility will have a huge role in avoiding costly grid capacity upgrades. The Government's Smart Systems and Flexibility Plan found that grid flexibility could reduce annual energy systems costs by £10 billion annually by 2050, while also creating 24,000 jobs. To realise this the EIA are seeking innovative, smart-tech solutions including software, infrastructure, and financial models to support our carbon-neutral targets.
2. An Unparalleled Opportunity for a Hydrogen Energy Cluster
The UK’s first Hydrogen Strategy was released in August 2021 to rapidly ramp up the production and use of hydrogen, with an aim to produce 5GW, later increase to 10GW, of low carbon hydrogen production by 2030 generating 8,000 jobs. In order to achieve this, the North West (Manchester and Liverpool) has been highlighted as one of the ‘super places’ in the Government’s Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution due to its unique concentration of industry, technical skill base and geology.
HyNet North West – the UK’s leading industrial decarbonisation project – will bring together the proven technology and infrastructure needed to drive us towards a net zero future. The project will reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emitted from across the North West region by a quarter starting in 2025 by locking away the carbon dioxide emitted by heavy industry, and by providing locally produced low carbon hydrogen to power industry and transport and to heat our homes and businesses.
As part of this wider North West test bed, Greater Manchester has great strengths to be a global leader in hydrogen innovation especially in the delivery of Green Hydrogen, supported by the city-region’s academic strengths. Having adopted its own hydrogen strategy to complement the National strategy, the ambition is to create a National Centre developed around regional strengths in fuel cells and low carbon hydrogen production.
The Manchester Fuel Cell Innovation Centre
The Manchester Fuel Cell Innovation Centre located at Manchester Metropolitan University is a £4.1m state-of-the-art facility which is leading the way in harnessing renewable energy and has been structured to enable collaborations between academia, industry and policymakers. Research encompasses hydrogen and fuel cell innovation, electrosynthesis, sustainable fuels and chemicals, smart energy systems and energy transition technologies. Specific areas of focus include:
- Exploring the pure science of the fuel cell, driving engagement with industry on a local, national, and international scale.
- Testing new technical concepts, commercialising products, and developing a skilled workforce.
- Developing the region’s hydrogen and fuel cell strategy.
- Working with partners in China, India, Japan and the US and continuing to actively build more global partnerships.
The Centre has already supported over 80 companies, providing them with access to facilities and expertise. One example is First Graphene - a commercial partner at The Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre. First Graphene are collaborating with The Manchester Metropolitan Fuel Cell Innovation Centre to test the use of their metal oxide coated Pure GRAPH in the next generation of fuel cells. It has already proved to be an efficient catalyst in Polymer Electrolyte Membrane Fuel Cells and a cheaper alternative to the platinum in the next generation of fuel cells.
This work is funded by Manchester Metropolitan University’s Business Engagement seed fund which supports academic engagement with industrial clients to address real world business needs.
Greater Manchester is also home to ‘Trafford Green Energy’ which is part of the Trafford Low Carbon Energy Park - a green energy production and storage complex, which already houses the largest liquid air energy storage scheme in Europe and one of the largest battery storage schemes in the UK. Industry leading, the new green energy project will use renewable energy to produce green hydrogen fuel for transport and heating by 2023 and the development will have an ultimate capacity of 200MW, with the initial 10MW phase sufficient to decarbonise 6 million road miles.
3. Carlton Power: Industry in Action
Carlton Power, one of the UK’s most experienced energy infrastructure development companies will deliver the £300 million, 200MW Trafford Green Hydrogen project with the support and involvement of a local consortium, comprising Manchester Metropolitan University, Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA), Trafford Council, Cadent Gas and Electricity North West.
Now recognised as the UK’s largest consented green hydrogen scheme, it will be a catalyst for more low carbon generation and greater energy security in the North West and will boost investment in new energy infrastructure and job creation in the area.
4. Committed to Net Zero Consumer and Commercial buildings
The built environment accounts for 40% of the UK’s carbon footprint and to achieve net zero a step change in the design of new buildings will be required. More importantly, a comprehensive upgrade and retrofit programme to the existing housing stock is also needed, of which 80% has already been built according to an estimation by the UK Green Building Council.
Through commercial and grant funded research, Energy House Laboratories at The University of Salford help businesses understand how effective their products and services are in lowering consumers’ carbon footprint and reducing energy bills.
At a cost of £16 million, Energy House 2.0 is a is the largest research facility of its type including two environmental chambers, each able to accommodate two detached houses and under controlled conditions, recreate a wide variety of weather conditions with temperatures ranging between -20˚C to +40˚C along with simulated wind, rain, snow and solar radiation. This unique facility will play a key role in accelerating the progress towards low carbon and net zero housing design and builds upon the success of the original Energy House Laboratory, which was opened in 2012.
5. Building a Next Generation, Net Zero Workforce
Part of the ‘Net Zero North West’ industrial cluster, Manchester Metropolitan University is charged with leading the development of skills needed for the hydrogen and Clean Growth economy. The overall aim of the cluster is to develop a net zero workforce of 660,000 new and existing jobs with over half a million in our industrial cluster.
The team is working on:
- Identifying a new skills pipeline and defining the role of the existing skilled workforce and supply chain.
- Highlighting the benefits of investment in green skills for innovation, sustainability, efficiencies and productivity.
- Developing the very first targeted programme of hydrogen education in Europe founded here in Manchester which will be available online and free of charge.
- Implementing new and relevant schemes of work into schools now for the future economy.
In addition, The Growth Company, Education & Skills has also recently launched the Green Skills Academy in Trafford Park. The first of its kind in the North, The Green Skills Academy will play a critical role in Greater Manchester’s ambitions to reach Net Zero carbon as early as 2038 and UK-wide by 2050.
The Academy will house the latest green technology equipment for businesses and individuals to gain the knowledge and skills which will place Greater Manchester at the forefront of emerging technologies e.g., the installation of heat pumps, EV chargers, Solar PV and many other growth markets requiring a skilled workforce.
The MIDAS Advanced Manufacturing and Low Carbon team sits at the heart of the city-region’s Smart Energy ecosystem and can help companies looking to engage with relevant organisations and research areas. To find out more contact Rachel Eyre, Head of Business Development, Advanced Manufacturing and Low Carbon.