Energy crisis and a new devolution deal under discussion

Published:  09 May, 2022

Business leaders from across the West Midlands and the energy industry have come together to discuss how a new devolution deal with government could give the region far greater security over its future energy supplies and help achieve its ambitious net zero target.

The Energy Crisis Roundtable saw leading companies and business bodies discuss their most pressing energy concerns and what could be done regionally to tackle these challenges, including the powers they would like to see transferred from Whitehall to the West Midlands to strengthen industry resilience.

Topics included advice for businesses on managing their energy demands and implementing appropriate solutions, greater collaboration with the energy industry, and, in terms of devolution powers, how having greater influence on the planning and delivery of energy systems within the region can achieve greater efficiency and cost savings.

Organisations at the roundtable, which was organised by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) and chaired by West Midlands Mayor Andy Street, included members of the WMCA’s regional business council net zero subgroup and other companies, such as Lloyds Banking Group, National Express, and MakeUK.

Cheryl Hiles, director of Energy Capital, WMCA’s unique partnership bringing local government and industry together, said “There is no doubt that we can go much further and much faster on our journey to net-zero if we have the full support of businesses within the region.

"With leaders coming together to generate solutions and back our devolution proposals, we’ll have a much better chance of driving forward our agenda with central government and demonstrating the value of collaboration between business and government locally.

“Our future aim is to take greater responsibility over different aspects of the West Midlands energy systems.”

Since declaring a climate emergency in June 2019, the West Midlands has been focused on developing and delivering a clear action plan.

To hit its target of becoming a net zero region within the next 20 years, the West Midlands is also aiming to retrofit 290,000 homes by 2026, installing modern insulation and low carbon heating systems. Aside from helping its local authority partners to secure government funding, the WMCA is also looking to develop more innovative ways to undertake retrofitting.

Stuart Smith, MD of Lord Combustion, a leading heating company in the West Midlands, said “The West Midlands is traditionally an industrial powerhouse within the UK and we're keen to sit alongside the WMCA to ensure the region's voice is heard in terms of devolution and the problems we’re encountering with the current energy crisis.

“Rising energy costs for businesses impacts everyone as the cost of energy usage for businesses ultimately hurts domestic households as it will only increase the price companies place on their goods and services meaning everyone suffers.”

Charlotte Horobin, regional director in the Midlands and East at MakeUK, the organisation that represents the interests of the manufacturing sector nationally, said, “It’s very valuable to bring the key stakeholders together that can help bring change for the region as this energy crisis is clearly a complex issue that is without a quick fix.

“Without industry leaders getting together to understand more about the current crisis and discuss possible solutions, the majority of West Midlands based businesses will be left with no choice but to manage their spiralling energy costs by passing them on to their customers which will hit all of our pockets incredibly hard.”

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