WITH the ever-increasing demand for energy to fuel business and housing growth, the hunt is on to find the solutions that pursue a strong economic future in a way that not only values and protects our local environment but actively enhances it.
On Wednesday, 13 November SEMLEP, the Local Enterprise Partnership for the South East Midlands, brought over 100 of the region's leading industry figures, local authorities and nature and environment organisations together to discuss the area's response to this challenge.
Peter Horrocks, SEMLEP's Chair said: "The South East Midlands is home to great examples of forward-thinking companies that are using green energy and technologies, now working through the solutions needed to connect renewable energy efficiently to homes and businesses."
A great example of this is Chelveston Renewable Energy Park in East Northamptonshire. The 750-acre scheme currently generates a combined output around 80MW of renewable energy, including wind and solar, following an £80m investment by the owners. The next phase of the development has commenced with the construction of on-site battery storage, with further investment planned. The energy park currently generates enough power to supply in excess of 10,000 homes.
The area is also recognised as a test-bed for technological developments in next-generation vehicles and vehicle emissions testing, hosting national government-academia-industry pilots for 5G and Connected and Autonomous Vehicles.
Milton Keynes Council is already recognised as one of the UK's beacon local authorities which has adopted a new sustainability strategy with the objective to be the UK's greenest city.
"The city is a pioneer in bringing devices, machines and people together iterating towards a better, connected and green way of life," Peter added.
Seven of the local councils in the SEMLEP area, including Bedford, Corby, Kettering and Aylesbury Vale, have declared climate emergencies, committing to aligning strategic decisions and actions to make the area carbon neutral by 2030.
Following the publication of the South East Midlands' Local Industrial Strategy this summer, attention is placed on promoting and sharing best practice of clean growth and mobility technologies and innovation so that businesses are supported to scale up their operations.
"SEMLEP is working with local councils and organisations such as the Connected Places Catapult to convene a range of partners to best facilitate this," said Hilary Chipping, SEMLEP's Chief Executive.
Guest speakers at the event included Nicola Yates, Chief Executive of the Connected Placed Catapult; Sam Goodall, International Projects Manager at Cambridge CleanTech; and Michael Coppleston, Head of Land, and Rupert Masefield, Project Manager, both from RSPB.
"This area's businesses and universities represent the interface between the Future of Mobility and Clean Growth Grand Challenges set in the national Industrial Strategy.
"It's the accumulation and connectivity of the area's green energy and transport innovation assets and businesses that put the South East Midlands at the forefront of enabling smarter, greener living. By prioritising investment into these areas, we'll pursue sustainable growth for the area," added Hilary.
Located at the centre of the Oxford to Cambridge Arc, the South East Midlands is a part of a growth area that has the potential to add billions to the UK economy and do so in a sustainable, well-designed way.
"We have the long-term plan to support the long-term prosperity for the area. We need to secure the long-term investment in the enabling infrastructure that meets our area's clean growth objectives. This is the case we continue to make to government, investors and business, and central to the commitments we're making to local communities," concluded SEMLEP's Chair.
Find out more at www.semlep.com