More than 80 businesses and organisations from George Osborne’s ‘Northern Powerhouse’ have called on the chancellor to back renewable energy in the region ahead of next week’s Budget announcement.
Osborne will unveil his Budget next Wednesday and while there are not expected to be any major renewables announcements, the collaboration of companies has called on him to make clean energy an integral part of his plans to transform the North of England.
The chancellor first made mention of the so-called Northern Powerhouse in March last year, detailing a range of plans to trigger economic growth in core cities such as Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield and Newcastle.
But against a backdrop of cuts to renewable subsidies – which many critics place at Osborne’s door – more than 80 businesses within the region have signed an open declaration organised by lobby group the Green Alliance.
The declaration states that the North of the England, referred to as the “cradle of the Industrial Revolution”, now wants the northern economy to “play a leading role in the biggest transformation of the world’s infrastructure since the switch from wood to coal power”.
“The North is already designing, building and exporting the new low carbon products and services that the whole world wants and has committed to buy, from wind turbines to electric vehicles. Renewable energy, efficient homes and workplaces, and smart technologies will all support local jobs and businesses.
“And they enable communities to shape their own energy futures, as towns and villages across the North have done since Baywind in Cumbria, which was the UK’s first ever renewable energy co-operative.
“To make this vision real, the 2016 Budget must enable us to develop and grow renewables for our region into the 2020s. The UK government should be celebrating clean energy as core to its economic plan. To cherish what we love about our region and reassert our place in the forefront of the world’s economy, we ask the chancellor to back clean energy for the North,” the declaration reads.
It comes amidst a surge in solar energy deployment in the north as creaking grid infrastructure is preventing further deployment in the south of the country. Ofgem revealed last week that more than 7.6GW of renewable generation capacity is currently in a queue to be connected in Western Power’s operating region, while installers and developers continue to be quoted inordinate connection sums in other regions.
Solar Intelligence has too revealed that there is to be an explosion in solar capacity in Scotland, and the northern leg of the Solar Power Portal Roadshows kicks off next week, visiting Manchester, Newcastle and Edinburgh to bring together solar installers, end users and community groups under one roof.
Signatories of Green Alliance’s declaration include community energy groups, enterprises, councils and NGOs from the region such as Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, the NE Lancs Trade Union Council and the South Yorkshire Housing Association.
Kate Chappell, executive member for the environment at Manchester City Council, said: “As a city which was integral to the Industrial Revolution, we now see ourselves as being ideally placed to help lead the Clean Energy Revolution we need to see in the 21st century. Along with other great Northern cities, we have signed a pledge to move towards being exclusively powered by clean energy by 2050.
“And we will continue to develop the emerging Manchester Strategy, which explains our commitment to reducing the city's carbon footprint, including through the use of clean energy.”
Phil Davies, director at Community Energy Cumbria, meanwhile cited recent major flooding to have affected his area as evidence for a required switch to renewable power.
“With Cumbria experiencing three major flood events in the last decade and with the rural economy struggling, it has been heartening to witness so many Cumbrian residents willing to invest their money and passion in community renewable energy projects.
“We really need the government to acknowledge that supporting community renewable energy represents the perfect vehicle for job creation, social well-being and environmental common sense. Surely this is what we all want a northern powerhouse to deliver,” he said.