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04.03.19

The Future of Energy for the Northern Powerhouse at EvoNorth

Throughout all of the various topics discussed across the two days of EvoNorth, there were two overarching themes which consistently cropped up: Brexit and climate change, arguably the two most disruptive challenges facing the country right now.

Whether it was during the leaders debates on health, social care and wellbeing; business, innovation and investment; or transport and connectivity, the challenge of creating clean and sustainable energy sources was a key topic of discussion.

High levels of CO2 in our cities is now a major health problem; trains, busses and cars powered by traditional petrol and diesel will soon have to be phased out; and new energy innovations will undoubtedly bring new jobs and investment for businesses.

A zero-carbon future

Everyone is aware of the global dangers posed by climate change, and that time is running out to do something about it. Innovative solutions with both business and government backing, back up by investment and an upskilled workforce, will therefore be essential.

Joe Howe, professor and executive director at Thornton Energy Research Institute, said at the event that we are entering an exciting period of decarbonisation, with clean air and hydrogen power rising higher and higher on the agendas of government and business alike. For example, the government has already pledged to do away with diesel-only trains by 2040, and companies like Alstom, Siemens, Stagecoach, Cadence already heavily investing in hydrogen technology across the region.

The North is where it’s at

Andrew Clark, energy programme lead for the North East Local Enterprise partnership, said the North has always been the country’s “engine room,” a sentiment shared across the panel along with Howe; Keith Owen, head of systems development and energy strategy for Northern Gas Networks; and Mark Taylor, deputy director for energy innovation at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, who said that he has seen “better and better work in the North,” and that “it’s important that everyone in the room sees the opportunity, and that the government understands that it’s going to happen, and happen up here.”

The panel argued that the North West in particular has the innovation, industry, and infrastructure to make hydrogen a reality after showing a short video from the North West Hydrogen Alliance:

NWHA_p9a from Public Sector Executive on Vimeo.

More to come and more to do

There was plenty to discuss as to what the North is already doing to deliver clean and sustainable energy. However, when it came to what the future holds, there was barely enough time at the event for the panel to scratch the surface, which in itself portrays the vast potential for the North to become a world leader in energy.

Taylor revealed that he will soon launch the first decent-scale carbon capture project and will shortly announce that “we have won a competition to produce hydrogen energy from waste.” And, alongside Owen, the two revealed that they have been developing connections across Whitehall and – as they’re competitors against other departments – they are making the claim for a ramp up in funding.

However, to reach the carbon-free future where the energy supplies for our homes, hospitals, schools, trains, and businesses will be sustainable for the long term, we must, alongside investment, we must “bring people together to enhance partners with a mandate, deliver regional growth, and create innovative solutions.”

Find out more about what went on at EvoNorth 2019 in our Business & Innovation and Education blogs.

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