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Thought Piece: How Cumbria is leading the way to Net Zero

– By Ian Wheeler, Head of Sectors

Last month saw the two new Cumbrian Local Authorities; Cumberland and Westmorland & Furness come together with the LEP for our “Cumbria – Leading the Way to Net Zero” event.

Thought Piece: How Cumbria is leading the way to Net Zero

200 delegates came together at Carlisle Racecourse spanning local government, business and other key stakeholders to hear from local leaders, businesses and community groups about Cumbria’s net zero ambitions and real case studies of how progress is being made.

Cumbria has a central role to play in the UK’s net zero future and Cumbria LEP is helping the county realise this potential through our two clean growth priorities: encouraging the development of new clean energy generation and supporting Cumbria businesses to decarbonise.

Already, Cumbria is making great strides: the county contributes significantly to UK renewable generation and capacity. It is estimated that Cumbria accounted for 5.6% of all UK electricity generation (GWh). On the decarbonisation front, businesses across the county have taken advantage of LEP support to deploy solar PV and other innovative low carbon solutions through our Innovating for Success programme.

The event was an opportunity to reflect on the progress and achievements made to date and explore the net zero ambitions and plans of businesses and the public sector.

Local leaders opened the event, setting out their commitment to supporting the net zero transition across Cumberland and Westmorland & Furness as well as from Cumbria Action for Sustainability.

Delagates also heard from the Department of Energy Security and the North West Net Zero Hub about plans for heat network zoning for urban areas like Carlisle and public sector building initiatives.

We also heard about the key roles that our main ports at Workington and Barrow can play for Cumbria whether that is supporting our offshore wind industry or to attract other clean energy industry to the county.

The afternoon saw attention turn to the critical role of business in realising net zero. Delegates were briefed on a range of projects currently being planned to deliver clean energy and support business decarbonisation. Spirit Energy set out their carbon capture and storage plan for Morecombe Bay. Solway Community Power made the case for nuclear power to return to Cumbria as part of their ambition to bring a small modular reactor (SMR) to the county in a community and private investment partnership. Holmen Iggesund, a Workington based paper mill, discussed the potential to enable a heat network utilising waste heat from their industrial process. The case studies highlighted on stage were an insight in to the innovative and ambitious mindset of the counties businesses, from small to large, and reinforced that private sector investment will help deliver jobs, growth and decarbonisation for Cumbria. Lakeland Free Range Eggs, Holker Estates and Morgan Sindall demonstrated the breadth of commitment from our business community to sustainability.

Organising such a big event takes a lot of effort and I am very grateful for everyone who worked behind the scenes so that it went so smoothly. You know who you are! Such an event focusing on sustainability needs to justify the time and travel carbon footprint to attend even allowing for the bus transfer laid on from Carlisle city centre to allow wider use of public transport. From a personal perspective I held a number of conversations on the day that demonstrated the value of the event as well as the insight from the excellent presentations;

  • A demonstrable clear commitment from all involved from our biggest companies to smallest SME, public and private sector to deliver net zero and wider sustainability. It was refreshing to see the passion and genuine drive for action in Cumbria.
  • There were a number of areas of genuine opportunities identified at the event that can be taken forward collaboratively between public and private sector. One example was on heat networks where we have already followed up on the potential for schemes in Workington and Carlisle.
  • A strong commitment for collaborative working moving forward. The event gave visibility to the sustainability leaders in Cumbria and for me it is much clearer how we all can interact moving forward. We had a number of companies seeking to get involved in our Business Decarbonisation Strategy Group to demonstrate how our companies can work together to learn from each other.

The LEP will continue to focus on its key priorities of Clean Energy Growth and Business Decarbonisation and strengthening the links we have made through this event. I thank all the presenters and attendees and strongly believe that working together, Cumbria can lead the way to Net Zero.

Thought Piece: How Cumbria is leading the way to Net ZeroThought Piece: How Cumbria is leading the way to Net ZeroThought Piece: How Cumbria is leading the way to Net Zero

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