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£60m Swansea Bay City Region low carbon initiative approved

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

The UK and Welsh Governments have approved the £58.7 million Swansea Bay City Deal’s Supporting Innovation and Low Carbon Growth programme.

The programme’s aim is to help establish the Swansea Bay City Region as a leader in low carbon growth and the green economy.

Close collaboration with industry, government and academia is key to its success by delivering low carbon, sustainable and inclusive economic growth through creating the right environment to develop new technologies from the research stage, through to production, to support job creation in the region.

Led by Neath Port Talbot Council with Swansea University and University of South Wales as delivery partners, the programme aims to support the creation and safeguarding of 1,320 jobs in the green economy through seven interlinked projects that will enhance infrastructure, research and development and commercialisation:

  • Bay Technology Centre – energy positive building providing high quality, flexible office and laboratory space
  • South Wales Industrial Transition from Carbon Hub – purpose-built facility and specialist equipment to decarbonise the steel and metal industry and supply chain
  • Advanced manufacturing production facility – providing production units with open access to shared specialist equipment to support start-up companies and local business growth in the innovation and manufacturing sectors linked to energy and renewables
  • Property development fund – gap funding for bespoke and speculative commercial buildings in the Port Talbot Waterfront Enterprise Zone area
  • Hydrogen stimulus project – enabling a demonstrator to prove commercial viability of carbon-free hydrogen supply to fuel hydrogen vehicles
  • Air quality monitoring project – test bed for new technology to establish a greater understanding of air quality and levels of pollution to inform local action planning
  • Low emission vehicle charging infrastructure – developing a strategy to decarbonise journeys in the Swansea Bay City Region and develop a pilot in the Valleys area of Neath Port Talbot

The programme can commence drawing down on a £47.7 million City Deal investment from both governments to complement the £5.5 million already committed from the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government and Neath Port Talbot Council and a further £5.5 million of private sector funding. The programme also aims to attract a further estimated £40 million of additional funds from the private and public sectors over the next 5 years.

The funding will provide solutions to decarbonise commercial and industrial buildings, transport and industrial processes that will support the policies and strategies laid out by the Welsh and UK governments.

Cllr Edward Latham, Neath Port Talbot Council Leader, said: “The programme will focus on the Harbourside and Baglan Energy Park area of Port Talbot which complements Neath Port Talbot Council’s Decarbonisation and Renewable Energy Strategy (DARE), with wider regional and national impact through the development of products, services and a skilled workforce”.

James Davies, Industry Wales, said: “The programme of projects aims to transform industry and support the green industrial revolution. The focus on Research, Development and Innovation into energy and advanced materials fits well with the government’s agenda to decarbonise and with other initiatives such as the South Wales Industrial Cluster (SWIC). Industry Wales strongly advocates this ambitious and progressive programme of work that can help bring back and sustain green manufacturing in South West Wales through support for Start-ups, Small to Medium Enterprises and attract inward investment from outside the region.”

Welsh Government Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething said: “As we emerge from the Covid crisis, we are determined to move Wales forward with an economic recovery designed to tackle the climate emergency head on. We will help businesses transition to a low carbon future that will deliver with a stronger, fairer and greener economy.”

The Swansea Bay City Deal is an investment of up to £1.3 billion in a portfolio of nine major programmes and projects across the Swansea Bay City Region, which are together worth over £1.8 billion and 9,000 jobs to the region’s economy in coming years.

Funded by the UK Government, the Welsh Government, the public sector and the private sector, the City Deal is being led by Carmarthenshire Council, Neath Port Talbot Council, Pembrokeshire Council and Swansea Council, in partnership with Swansea University, the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, Swansea Bay University Health Board and Hywel Dda University Health Board.

The £8.5m Bay Technology Centre has been awarded £3.69m of EU funds from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through the Welsh Government.

The project involves creating a 2,500m2 hybrid building. This will provide a range of flexible office space to support both start up and business growth companies, with a focus on the innovation and R&D sectors.

This is one of a number of projects within the Swansea Bay City Deal supported by the European Regional Development Fund including £14.9m EU funds awarded to four projects assisting the further development of the marine energy industry in Wales through the Pembroke Dock Marine programme:

o             The Marine Energy Engineering Centre of Excellence (MEECE)

o             Pembrokeshire Demonstration Zone – Consent and Development

o             Pembroke Dock Building Adaptations

o             Pembroke Dock Marine Access Infrastructure.

Welsh government sets out carbon goals

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The Welsh Government has published what it calls a ‘robust and detailed cross-government plan’ to cut emissions and fight climate change.

Prosperity for All: A Low Carbon Wales sets out how the country will meet its first carbon budget and lays the foundations for it will achieve an ambitious target of reducing the greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% by 2050.

It sets out 100 priorities and policies across all areas of government, including:

  • Increasing tree planting to initially at least 2,000 hectares per year and then to double that to 4,000 hectares as rapidly as possible
  • Commissioning an independent feasibility study on carbon capture use and storage
  • Reducing emissions from power generation in Wales, including using our consenting, planning and permitting powers and developing a policy position on the fuels used to generate power
  • Encouraging take-up of electric vehicles by developing a rapid charging network
  • A bold ambition for buses, taxis and private hire vehicles to be zero emission  by 2028
  • Reviewing building regulations to explore how higher energy efficiency standards can be set for new builds
  • Working with partners to include more about sustainability and decarbonisation in the new curriculum
  • Providing fruit and fuel trees for the entire Mount Elgon region in Uganda by 2030.

The First Minister will confirm £4 million to support community-led low carbon projects. This includes £1.3 million for CARE – a community benefit society in Pembrokeshire, to help the Cwm Arian community become a low-carbon community.

A Low Carbon Wales was launched at the Coal Exchange in Cardiff – once the heart of the global coal trade – in a symbol of Wales’ commitment to move forward and become a leader in clean energy technologies.

The plan is the result of collaborative working, with input from people and organisations across Wales, including young people.

The First Minister said: “It’s impossible not to be inspired by the passion we have seen from younger generations, although I wouldn’t advocate young people missing school.

“Our younger generations recognise the action we fail to take to make improvements to our environment now could have catastrophic consequences for their futures.

“In Wales, we developed and introduced ground-breaking legislation, requiring us to consider the impact the decisions and policies we make will have on future generations.

“This is why we are inviting young people to be a part of the conversation, to help embolden us to make the changes that are needed for their future.”

Cardiff University has been selected to lead a new £5 million centre to explore how to achieve the rapid and far-reaching emissions cuts required to address climate change.

It will focus on challenging areas of everyday life that contribute substantially to climate change, but which have proven stubbornly resistant to change. These include consumption of goods and physical products, food and diet, travel, and heating/cooling in buildings.

Welsh Government says it has worked closely with researchers at Cardiff University and its other partner organisations to shape the projects planned by the Centre.

The new Centre’s Director, Professor Lorraine Whitmarsh of Cardiff University, said: “While there is now international momentum on action to tackle climate change, it is clear that critical targets, such as keeping global temperature rise to well within 2 degrees Celsius relative to pre-industrial levels, will be missed without fundamental transformations across all parts of society.

“At the Centre for Climate Change and Social Transformations we recognise that climate change is an emergency that requires action on a far greater scale than has been seen so far. Prosperity for All: A Low Carbon Wales recognises that everyone has a role to play. We will address the fundamental question of how we can live differently and better, in ways that meet the need for these systemic, deep and rapid emission reductions.”

‘Energy-positive’ classrooms arrive in Swansea

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

Swansea University has opened the first energy-positive classroom, generating more than one and a half times the energy that it consumed in its first year.

The Active Classroom, named Project of the Year by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RCIS) Wales, took eight months to build and uses a mix of technologies to create as much energy output as possible.

Now proven, it’s hoped that the technique can be set for a wider roll-out.

The steel roofs have integrated photovoltaic (solar) cells connected to batteries with enough capacity to provide several days of power. The building also features steel cladding to capture solar heat energy, as well as an electrically heated floor coating.

Discussing the project, Professor David Worsley, Swansea University, said: “The idea that a building has to consume power to survive is a bit 20th century. We can generate up to 50% more power from a building than it uses.

“If we make buildings that generate more power than they use, over time, the built environment can play its part in decarbonisation.”

The Active Classroom was designed and built by the SPECIFIC Innovation and Knowledge Centre at Swansea University. Another pioneering initiative by the university, Project SUNRISE, aims to put solar energy and new technologies into 5 villages in India, allowing them to become energy self-sufficient, through a £7 million consortium of UK and Indian universities. 

SPECIFIC was set up in 2011 with a five-year £20 million commitment from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Innovate UK and the Welsh Government, along with investment from Swansea University and industrial partners.

The second phase of the project began in April 2016 with £26 million funding from EPSRC, Innovate UK and the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government.

Following the success of the Active Classroom as a demonstrator, Innovate UK supported the construction of SPECIFIC’s Active Office, opened in June 2018, which accommodates 30 members of staff and can share solar energy with the neighbouring Active Classroom.