Net Zero Cheshire – towards net zero with a British county

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Cheshire, a heavily industrialised county in northwest England, has set out a roadmap towards net zero with £1 billion ($1.4 billion) in investments.

The plan for the region, which already has embarked on a decarbonisation drive, encompasses a pipeline of 18 major projects up to 2030.

Cheshire is home to one of Britain’s largest industrial clusters, including oil refining, glass manufacturing, chemical production and automotive. The county is the country’s fourth largest carbon emitter and Ellesmere port and the surrounding area consume around 5% of its energy.

Thus decarbonising industry there is key to the decarbonisation of the wider region.

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The roadmap is based around the four areas of electricity, heat, hydrogen and gas.

The electricity distribution network that supplies the area is managed and operated by SP Energy Networks. Electricity is generated through a mixture of fossil fuel, nuclear and renewable generation. Increasing the latter is key and over 800MW of solar and 200MW of wind are planned by 2030.

The emergence of hydrogen is another key element of the roadmap, with production scheduled to step up by 2024. Hydrogen is one of the options to replace gas in decarbonising heat alongside waste heat and also can be blended into the gas distribution network. The HyDeploy project is trialling blending hydrogen in the gas network in Keele, with further demonstrations planned for the north west as well as the north east.

The north west is home to the HyNet hydrogen and carbon capture project, which is initially exploring options around ‘blue’ hydrogen with carbon capture technology to capture associated carbon emissions. Hydrogen can also be used as an energy storage medium and stored in underground salt caverns, which are abundant across Cheshire.

Electric vehicles and hydrogen fuelled vehicles will support the decarbonisation of transport.

“Here in Cheshire we have developed a blueprint that will unlock capital investment in a net zero carbon industrial cluster,” says Ged Barlow, Chair of the Cheshire Energy Hub, one of the lead partners in the initiative along with the Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership.

“We have set out an unrivalled range of projects which collectively offer long-term, sustainable investment opportunities in net zero.”

The project portfolio was developed with input from the industrial energy users and has been assessed for commercial viability and investment opportunity.