The West Midlands will explore how new Energy Innovation Zones (EIZs) could make energy costs cheaper for businesses and residents thanks to a £150,000 grant from Government.
EIZs will fast-track new clean energy technologies and pilot the smarter infrastructure necessary to give regional businesses a competitive edge.
The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) has unlocked the £150,000 grant from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to create a national template for EIZs – essentially writing the rulebook to allow communities to take greater control over their local energy system.
The preparation project, which must be completed by March 2020, will define the legal obligations on local authorities and energy companies, and will act as a pathfinder for adoption of the EIZ approach nationally.
Once scoping is complete, the approach will be ‘live’ tested across four EIZs in the West Midlands, including sites at Tyseley, UK Central in Solihull, Coventry and Warwickshire and in the Black Country.
Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street said: “The West Midlands is once again leading the way for the rest of the UK – we’ve got global leaders in clean energy research, low carbon technology and energy efficiency, and many manufacturing and transport businesses which rely on clean, low-cost energy.
“We want to make sure these vital businesses deliver for the people of the West Midlands as well as remain competitive on a global scale.
“That means finding ways to ensure the businesses, universities and organisations at the forefront of this cutting-edge work are not hindered by unnecessary legal obligations, and are able to access energy at a cost comparable with the rest of Europe.
“Energy Innovation Zones will pioneer new ways of working, and once we’ve proved the concept here in the West Midlands, will provide a template for similar zones across the rest of the country. We’re proud to be trusted to test this new approach on behalf of the UK.”
The WMCA is working through the Energy Capital Partnership, including all the region’s Local Enterprise Partnerships, National Grid, Western Power Distribution, Cadent Gas and the region’s universities, to deliver the proposals.
Cllr Ian Ward, leader of Birmingham City Council and WMCA portfolio holder for economic development, said: “The Energy Innovation Zones will be flexible and led by local authorities. They will deliver lower energy bills, cleaner air and greater economic opportunities for households and businesses.
“We want to ensure the West Midlands is the best place in the UK to live and to do business – and the EIZs provide a chance both to reduce fuel poverty and to offer reduced energy costs for businesses. This is just one way we’re creating conditions for a clean revolution in industry here.
“There is still much to do, but we will now begin to scope out how EIZs will work in practice – and this will form the basis for future legislation so EIZs can be established elsewhere in the UK.”
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