Low carbon aspiration to build on enthusiasm

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 23 Oct 2017

THE man charged with helping to realise Grimsby’s low carbon ambition has given a passionate rallying call to an organisation geared up to help drive the transformation.

Addressing Grimsby Renewables Partnership, Tony Neul, strategic commissioning lead for energy and environment policy at North East Lincolnshire Council, said it was an “exciting time” and a vital period in which to capitalise on the blaze of publicity the Humber and green energy has been bathed in.

With Dong Energy leading on the rapid cost reduction in offshore wind, and basing itself in the town to operate and maintain the largest farms in the world, there is a sense of real capital to build on.

Last month the local authority hosted the Clean Break conference to explore potential, and the esteemed speakers underlined how seriously this proposition is being taken.

Mr Neul, who is heading up the programme known as RenewNEL, told the monthly meeting at Humber Cruising Association: “I think it is an exciting time in North East Lincolnshire.”

Stating it has to be done “as an integral part of the wider regeneration and development of the borough”, Mr Neul, who has been with NELC since its inception, and worked in the private sector prior to an eight year stay in Peterborough, said:

“I was born here I have come back. I know there are great people here and great places to live, that is why I came back. I don’t think we shout about it enough. That’s what the chief executive and leader are keen to do and are doing. Raising the profile is important, as is the story of our place. We are a coastal community, and Government accepts they have been left behind. We have a proud maritime and fishing heritage, but there is a saying that if you spend too much time looking back you will fall down the stairs.

“We have the proud heritage but we need to look forward. It is important not to labour on that. We have significant levels of deprivation in North East Lincolnshire and we have worn that as a badge of honour, we also have low aspirations for people’s careers and people’s futures. It is something we are all tackling, we do have a bright future, but without aspiration people are not going to take up the jobs, the capacity that is needed to deliver.

“We have many challenges, but many opportunities. We need to surf the wave of investment, attention and enthusiasm in North East Lincolnshire and make sure we benefit more widely from it.

“Incredibly we have a strategic advantage on the Humber. The Northern Powerhouse is developing, regional administration is preferred, increasingly it is becoming an advantage to be where we are. Historically it perhaps wasn’t.

“The profile for this place has never been better, and the profile is growing all the time.”

While offshore wind has given Grimsby the launch-pad, the future plans are very much about harnessing onshore means and methods too. These include large scale redistribution of landed electricity from some of the huge offshore installations, capitalising on being home to the world’s largest biomass feedstock reception facility; district heating in harmony with heavy industry – with more energy from waste provision eyed up – as well as furthering solar and potential geothermal assets.

“I have lived in North East Lincolnshire most of my life and there have been false dawns, but I have never been more certain that what’s being announced is going to happen,” Mr Neul said. “I have seen it before, this time it feels real, and it is important we make the most of that. We have the opportunity here to really develop something special.”

It is hoped support for the proposition will enable the borough to become a model of sustainability for other towns and cities to follow. Potential borough-wide savings of £64 million on energy bills have been extrapolated.

“We know where the carrot is, we know where the money can come from,” Mr Neul said.

District heating has got to feasibility stage, with cold storage and other industrial activity generating a considerable amount of waste heat there to be seized upon.

“This is all about heat pumps, and we are a refrigeration town,” Mr Neul enthused, having been an apprentice refrigeration engineer with Findus in the early Eighties. “We need to make sure we have the skills here so we are not sucking them in from outside.”

Acting chair of Grimsby Renewables Partnership, Andrew Goudie, said: “This is game-changing. We achieve great things in our town when we have a clear, joined-up vision, purpose and objective, and it is something the council cannot achieve on its own. It is a strategic enabler, not a technical services organisation. We have the vision for the area, we now need to work backwards an look at the business opportunities and the developments required to fulfil that vision.

“The size of investment in this industrial renaissance is transformational. I completely back the initiative and look forward to a close working experience with RenewNEL and the member ship of Grimsby Renewables Partnership.

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