Energy Innovation Zones to be pioneered in region

A new report making the case for the creation of Energy Innovation Zones in the West Midlands has been unveiled.

The report is produced by the University of Birmingham, together with Energy Capital and the Energy Systems Catapult. 

A commission chaired by Sir David King is calling for four pilot energy hubs to be located in central Birmingham and Tyseley, UK Central in Solihull, the Black Country and Coventry South.

The report states the main focus of the EIZs will be to integrate low carbon technologies, to develop the business models and infrastructure needed to support new approaches to clean energy as well as overcome the regulatory barriers necessary for them to flourish. 

They will be designed to stimulate local clean energy innovation and drive productivity, within the region, as well as exports and growth. 

The EIZs aim to demonstrate new technologies, and to turn them into fully commercial propositions, breeding regional markets and supply chains that provide a platform for exports and growth. 

They will also offer a controlled environment in which innovators of all types can trial new services, technologies and business models.

They will also generate faster progress in the areas of energy that urgently need attention, such as transport and heat, where emissions have risen over the past few years. 

Professor Martin Freer (pictured), from the University of Birmingham, director of the Birmingham Energy Institute, and lead author on the report, said:

“Energy resources and challenges differ from place to place meaning solutions will differ by location. 

“Many of the urgent problems require the integration of energy systems such as heat and electricity grids or the integration of energy into wider systems such as waste and transport, which must happen locally. 

“So local leadership is vital to the success of clean energy investments, and a local approach could be nimbler, producing collaborations across the energy sector and new technologies faster, with less risk.”

Sir David King said:

“Tackling climate change is the most pressing issue of our time.  Britain has been in the vanguard so far, reducing its carbon emissions by more than 40 per cent, however the next steps are more challenging because we need to expand our efforts from electricity to heat and transport, which are harder to decarbonise. 

“The Energy Innovation Zone is a concept developed in the West Midlands that would allow the region to take control and ownership of the energy transition. 

“Our commission report presents a compelling argument to invest in this locally driven model of clean energy transition and represents a major step forward in this field.”

The report commissioners hope that the EIZ approach is adopted across the country, working closely with local authorities, attracting investment and mustering local political support.

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