Global energy problems … Northwest low-carbon answers

Worldwide worries – local solutions. As the UK’s new strategy to head off the global energy crisis is criticised for neglecting onshore wind and energy-efficiency, the Chamber Low Carbon Programme (CLC) and RedCAT project are taking the good fight to international audiences and markets.

A daunting international and national start to April improved during the month with encouraging Lancashire and Northwest low-carbon news that will have significant long-term benefits.

Two major documents set against a backdrop of deepening economic, political, and environmental crises contained ominous energy warnings … but also slim opportunities for avoiding the worst outcomes.

Northwest help is at hand

However, positive changes closer to home mean that pioneering low-carbon product and technology companies can now look forward to much-needed new help in reaching wider UK and international audiences.

The catalyst is CLC programme and RedCAT project developments that will be unveiled in May. A preview of what to expect – plus two case study overviews of RedCAT funding, technical and worldwide marketing help in action – is given below.

Also included below is an analysis by East Lancashire Chamber CEO, Miranda Barker of shortfalls and missed opportunities in the UK’s new energy security strategy.

Three-year final warning

The first document published on 4th April was a frantic warning from UN scientists that global warming is still not being taken seriously (“Mitigation of Climate Changehttps://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg3/).

They now give the world just three years until 2025 to get its act together, pass peak carbon, and move on very swiftly to net-zero by 2050. We will look at the implications more closely next month.

However, the British Energy Security Strategy, released on 6th April to stimulate a ‘major acceleration of home-grown power generation’ in both low-carbon and fossil-fuels, has been criticised for neglecting onshore wind power and greater energy-efficiency (https://www.gov.uk/government/news/major-acceleration-of-homegrown-power-in-britains-plan-for-greater-energy-independence).

Better homefront news – part 1

As explained above, Lancashire’s good news is twofold. The first part is that Chamber Low Carbon Programme (CLC) events, after two years of lockdown when our online events were joined regularly by international visitors, are going live and in-person again.

As well as an expanding events programme, in May we will announce new CLC team expert appointments, a messaging change from low-carbon to net-zero, plus new activities to energise our initial five-year mission which ends in June 2023.

On the ground, the developments will include a new low-carbon hub with a co-working space for businesses in the RedCAT area within the Chamber headquarters at Red Rose Court, Clayton Business Park in Accrington.

Meanwhile, in the first-ever edition of Insider’s Green Power List, Miranda, who is also RedCAT’s CEO, and Stephen Sykes, Director of Sustainability for the Chamber and its CLC programme, are now listed as Champions for their commitment to sustainability, commercialising low-carbon technologies, and support for the low-carbon economy.

Yet another string of our expanding international reach and credentials, Stephen has been invited to Shanghai to speak at and exhibit at the UK and China Carbon Expo (due to the current Covid-19 lockdown in Shanghai this has been postponed) and Ljubljana in Slovenia to talk and share the Chamber’s experience of Net Zero and engaging SMEs and supporting them on their journey.

These are transferable strengths, assets and values that we want to share. Watch this space!

RedCAT low-carbon mission – part 2

The second part of Lancashire’s good news is that the RedCAT project (https://www.red-cat.uk/) is now actively supporting low-carbon entrepreneurs and leaders with practical resources and commercial advice to win firm footholds in key markets.

The county is already a significant global advanced manufacturing centre. RedCAT is helping to bridge a technical and financial gap between the development and commercialisation of low-carbon products, technologies, and services.

As the Lancashire Centre for Alternative Technologies, it helps carefully-selected projects to find funding, maximise innovation, increase manufacturing, and enter local, UK and world markets.

As examples of what can be achieved, we look later at two key companies – Advanced Bacterial Sciences, a spin-off from Lancaster University, and Global Energy Systems, based in Lytham.

The UK’s new secure energy strategy

However, before that it is important to understand how the energy strategy is meant to ensure that 95% of UK power comes from renewables by 2030 – with UK net-zero goals unchanged.

Nuclear capacity will rise from 7GW to 24GW if up to eight new power stations are built. Rolls Royce hopes to bring sixteen £2 billion small modular reactors (SMRs) made in Lancashire online by 2025.

The offshore wind capacity target will also rise from 40GW to 50GW; 5GW could come from floating turbines. Current capacity is 11GW. There is a mild commitment to onshore wind; 10GW of green’ and ‘blue’ hydrogen power could also be available by 2030

Solar energy should see a fivefold capacity increase from 14GW to 70GW by 2035. There will be an ‘impartial’ review into whether controversial fracking technology is safe.

The good, the bad, and the missed opportunities

Miranda sees the strategy as good news for new nuclear and Lancashire’s energy sector, but missed opportunities in onshore wind and the energy efficiency drivers needed for “a real shift to net-zero”.

Nuclear commitments – including SMRs – must be ‘executed at pace’ to secure the ‘future of our expertise in nuclear fuels innovation, manufacture in the UK, and associated jobs in Lancashire,’ she says, with nuclear vital for a ‘transition to low carbon energy production and hydrogen generation’.

But she is disappointed at the “… lukewarm approach to onshore wind” which avoids “a significant source of low carbon energy” and “demonstrates a lack of commitment to real energy transition”.

No efficiency measures

However, Miranda is also appalled by “… no mention of energy efficiency/support for energy use reduction plans for businesses, homeowners, new builds and retrofitting across the UK”.

This is because “… the first step in any energy security, energy supply or energy transition has to be to reduce the amount we use, and will need to use into the future”, she notes.

An “energy-responsible strategy for the UK”, with firm public sector procurement measures and a national and local purchasing framework, plus proactive energy plans from suppliers, is vital too.

Another priority should be “setting firm planning baselines for energy efficiency measures in all new build domestic and industrial premises, and for retrofitting all re-licenced premises”, she believes.

“A sound licencing procedure for Green Finance schemes would have helped householders and small businesses to use energy saving technologies now to reduce spiralling energy costs,” Miranda adds.

RedCAT to the rescue

A challenge many enterprising companies keen to expand face is closing the gap between innovation and successful commercialisation – or as Miranda describes it, ‘the Valley of Death’.

“RedCAT is about accelerating the development of low-carbon technologies and putting them on the grid in Lancashire with a potential to export to the world,” she explains.

“We have the world’s fourth largest aerospace cluster, plus an advanced manufacturing capability, and are a major centre of low-carbon technology and job creation. In fact, Lancashire has the highest number of potential future low-carbon jobs per local head of working-age population in the UK,” she adds.

Lack of finance and demonstrator capacity

“However, it can take decades for innovative companies to commercialise successfully, mainly because there is no flow-through of funding. We are able to fill that gap,” she continues.

The RedCAT capital funding  – £1.5 million from the Government’s Getting Building Fund secured with the sterling support of the Lancashire LEP – is for ‘kit’, she stresses, adding, “What makes RedCAT unique is that it provides technical, marketing and funding support in one place. It also specialises in taking post-university spinouts to market.”

“There is also a shortage of demonstrator capacity, which is why we are fortunate to have the AMRC North West (Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre – https://www.amrc.co.uk/facilities/amrc-north-west) on our doorstep at Samlesbury and their successful Low Carbon Demonstrator project also supported by £2.5 million from the Getting Building Fund.”

RedCAT in practice

RedCAT first assesses whether businesses are close enough to commercialisation, and have the right potential, for it to support. This is where the expertise of consultants like Ian Trow comes in.

If, with Ian’s input and help, the answer is ‘yes’, the first step is often identifying initial funding to put exciting projects on track, followed by additional help to access further financial sources.

However, support also includes business planning plus business rationale, and publicity to send sales messages to chosen markets.

Advanced Bacterial Sciences (ABS) (www.abs.eco)

Ian has worked closely with ABS, a spin-off of the Environment Centre at Lancaster University, which over the next two years will create 50 jobs at its new laboratory, office, and innovation centre of excellence at White Lund.

The company was part of Lancashire’s delegation to COP26 in 2021 and will provide environmentally friendly solutions for three interlocking global crises – climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution.

Importantly, its new location means ABS can reduce its current use of third-party manufacturing outsourcing while providing a more tailored approach to customer needs.

ABS is developing a series of products that harness non-toxic, non-pathogenic bacterial solutions to solve pressing environmental problems. These currently include natural remedial and regenerative solutions.

First generation products reduce uric acid build-up in urinals and unblocking grease traps eliminating the need for the need to use toxic chemicals and costly interventions and reduce water pollution restoring ecological balance.

– Help to navigate challenges

“The financial and technical support from RedCAT and connected ‘assets’ has enabled us to accelerate our product development plans more efficiently and cost effectively,” explains ABS CEO and Chairman, Gareth Hughes.

“By leveraging RedCAT’s valuable and relevant informed connections, Ian Trow has helped us to navigate through a number of what would otherwise have been more difficult challenges. Locating in the Northwest is proving to be the right decision and we are excited about the future,” he adds.

Global Energy Systems (GES) (https://globalenergysystems.co.uk/)

GES is an established renewable energy company based at Lytham which designs and manufactures air source heat pumps that extract energy from the air around them and are seen as a much-needed alternative to fossil-fuel gas or oil-fired boilers.

What makes GES’ products stand out is that they are designed specifically to work in the British climate. Working with a network of UK installers, the company draws on 50-years of international experience.

However, the last decade has been dedicated to renewable energy technology via high-performance air source heat pumps; GES’ Eco Air Boiler which provides central heating and hot water can cut CO2 emissions by 60% and heating bills by up to 65%.

Awarded a Shell Springboard Award for carbon-reduction technologies, its designs outperform gas, oil and electric systems and have a 25-year life expectancy.

RedCAT has helped to source funding for a temporary plant extension to double manufacturing production ahead of a permanent extension to increase output tenfold.

Ben Morris, Managing Director of GES, explains how significant this is for the company at an important time. “We are facing the challenge of having to significantly increase our production capabilities to enable us to meet the rising demand and new opportunities we are experiencing,” he says.

“RedCAT and Ian Trow have been instrumental in providing us with the support we need for our expansion, thereby allowing us to play our part in aiding the Government’s Heat and Building Strategy.

“We thank RedCAT and Ian for their invaluable and ongoing support.”

Low carbon levelling up

Debbie Francis, Lancashire LEP Chair, adds “The Getting Building Fund at its heart is about creating new economic opportunities post pandemic, and RedCAT, Lancashire’s Centre for Alternative Technologies, will do exactly that.

“By helping to fund and grow the County’s low carbon technologies jobs and expertise, supporting advanced manufacturing and the export of UK designed and built low carbon technology to the world.

“This is exactly what we mean when we look at levelling up, putting the County at the heart of innovation and development”.

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