the environmentalist investigates how the Local Enterprise Partnership covering Norfolk and Suffolk is blazing a trail in developing a green economy
In June 2012, the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), which operates across Norfolk and Suffolk, became the first LEP to launch a green economy pathfinder (GEP) project. This means that New Anglia is taking the lead on showcasing the work under way in its region to build a green economy and recommending actions to government and businesses. The aim is for the lessons learned by New Anglia to be implemented across the rest of the UK and its successes emulated.
In the manifesto outlining how it will carry out the GEP, New Anglia defines the green economy as one in which “economic growth is combined with continued reductions of greenhouse-gas emissions and other environmental impacts are reduced”. The definition makes clear that, the “green” element is not an add-on, but defines the whole economy.
“Through effective demand management and efficiency measures, energy, water and other natural resources will be used efficiently and the level of waste to landfill will decrease or be eliminated completely,” says Aled Jones, GEP board member and director of the Global Sustainability Institute at Anglia Ruskin University.
A pioneering approach
One of 39 LEPs in the country, New Anglia was established in 2011. The government believes that the New Anglia LEP is uniquely placed to capitalise on local strengths and fast-track the UK’s transition to a green economy.
“The region is ideally suited to leading across three focus areas: low carbon, natural capital and social capital,” comments Jones. “In low-carbon developments, for example, New Anglia has a wealth of world-class innovation and thinking through its universities, research centres and science parks. The region also has a well established energy sector – embracing oil, gas and nuclear technologies – which is evolving into onshore and offshore renewables.”
A recent study found the East of England is the most diverse energy region in the UK, with about 6,200 businesses actively operating in the sector. Between them these firms have an annual turnover of £12.9 billion and employ 103,400 people.
One recent addition to the energy landscape in the region is the Adnams Bio Energy plant, which turns the brewery’s waste, and local food waste, into a form of biogas. The gas is upgraded to biomethane and feeds into the national grid.
In terms of natural capital, tourism is one of the East of England’s major sectors and the abundance of agricultural land means that the region is also home to many food and drink producers.
To achieve sustainable growth, skills development and employment in the region, the New Anglia LEP has developed a route map. This involves a number of stretching objectives and actions to support ongoing efforts by local people and organisations to drive the transition to a green economy. As a result of its GEP work, the LEP aims to account for at least 25% of the growth in the national low-carbon and environmental goods and services (LCEGS) sector by 2015, and create more than 1,000 new LCEGS jobs by 2017.
Mapping the future
The route map for New Anglia’s GEP sets out five priority objectives:
- for Norfolk and Suffolk to lead the green economy;
- maximise funding and investment opportunities;
- enable innovative, entrepreneurial and radical solutions to business challenges and opportunities;
- drive down costs and improve resource and energy efficiency across all sectors; and
- communicate effectively and share information to drive sustainable growth regionally and nationally.
Across these priority areas, there are 25 goals to fast-track green growth in New Anglia and beyond. For example, under the objective of Norfolk and Suffolk leading the green economy, there are 11 goals. Three of the main objectives are:
Emissions targets – drive the reduction of carbon and greenhouse-gas emissions ahead of national and European targets by proactively lobbying all relevant bodies in the New Anglia LEP to adopt Suffolk’s “creating the greenest county” target of a 60% reduction in emissions by 2025 (against a 2004 baseline).
Sustainable homes and buildings – require all new-build houses to meet Level 4 of the Code for Sustainable Homes one year ahead of current central government targets, using s.106 planning agreements to incentivise significant improvements to the thermal efficiency of buildings.
Enhancing renewables – work with local authorities and businesses to ensure that organisations looking to invest in manufacturing for the offshore renewables industry receive the most comprehensive support possible, and work with other locations classed as centres for offshore renewable engineering (CORE) and government departments to raise the profile of the CORE offer.
Putting policy into practice
Within these overarching objectives and goals, New Anglia supports and directs a plethora of projects and initiatives to build a green economy. Some were already on track before the launch of the GEP, and are now benefiting from greater coordination, while others are new or still in the pipeline.
The GEP is led by a board of more than 20 leaders and experts from business, government, academia and other bodies with a special interest in sustainability. As well as encouraging organisations and businesses in Norfolk and Suffolk to develop more sustainable working practices, the results of the GEP’s work will be shared with other LEPs to help them develop green economies locally.
Jones says that New Anglia is engaging with organisations of all sizes – from international energy suppliers and nationally renowned universities to rural small businesses (SMEs), start-ups and social enterprises – to exploit the opportunities covered by the GEP. Although it is early days in the project, there are already an impressive number of achievements on which to build. For example, close to 20GW of offshore wind energy developments are planned and, if planning consent is achieved for Sizewell C, the plant will generate a further 3.2GW of low-carbon electricity for the region.
Other initiatives helping New Anglia to achieve its aim of a low-carbon economy include a number of new low-carbon housing developments and a scheme that has conducted 300 resource-efficiency audits with SMEs and identified potential carbon savings of 7,200 tonnes.
The GEP’s support for initiatives, from Adnams on bioenergy, Anglian Water on water efficiency and the Centre for the Built Environment on low-carbon homes at Trinity Close (see case studies) demonstrate how the project is already making a tangible difference to the region’s environmental performance and how it can inspire change across the rest of the UK.
To read more about the projects being undertaken by Adnams, Anglian Water and the Centre for the Built Environment click here