A £200k project is being undertaken to look at how a local low-carbon smart energy system could be developed in Ellesmere Port.

It is said that the creation of a smart energy grid could see energy costs reduced by at least 20 per cent and help to cut carbon emissions.

The North West Energy Innovation District (EID) has been awarded funding by UK Research and Innovation to deliver the first stage of the ‘E-Port Smart Energy Master Plan’.

The masterplan will set out a 10-year private sector investment programme for developing a smart grid in the town that could then be rolled out across the UK.

The grid would allow local businesses and residents to buy and trade energy locally, rather than relying on the national grid.

Bosses say the project will be looking at existing energy use and generation in the area. This will involve talking to industrial, commercial and residential energy users to find out how much energy they use.

It will also look at current and future energy generation, including renewables, and how future energy uses, like electric vehicles, and new fuels, like hydrogen could change the energy market.

The EID says Ellesmere Port has the opportunity to be a “world leader”, testing the deployment of game-changing technology which could transform the way that people and businesses purchase energy in the future.

Ged Barlow, Chair of the Energy Innovation District said: “This is an important step forward for the Energy Innovation District and highlights the potential of the North West to lead the charge on decentralized energy systems. What makes the EID truly innovative is the clustering of energy intensive industries alongside energy sources, an established supply chain and a critical mass of energy ‘know how’ and R&D.

“With the private and public sector working together, this project will show how connecting energy users to local sources of energy generation can reduce costs, cut carbon emissions and increase energy security. The impacts could be huge with the aim to create a network where energy costs are cut by at least 20 per cent.”

Cllr Karen Shore, cabinet member for environment at Cheshire West and Chester Council, added: “The economy of the North West of England, and particularly Cheshire, is driven by energy, with around five per cent of the UK’s energy currently consumed in north Cheshire. The region is leading innovation in the sector and we have the opportunity to put Cheshire on the map with the UK’s first major industry backed local energy system.

“This project could potentially unlock significant private sector investment in the North West and deliver a range of high-value jobs. In a more competitive post-Brexit market, energy intensive companies, like Vauxhall, are looking for lower cost and decarbonised energy supplies. Creating an energy market where energy can be traded locally is part of a low-carbon, low-cost future that will ensure Cheshire remains a competitive place to do business.”

Spearheaded by the Cheshire Energy Hub, the Energy Innovation District brings together energy users, network owners, innovators and partners – including EA Technology, Burns & McDonnell, Urenco, Essar, Cadent Gas, SP Energy Networks and Peel Environmental – working alongside Cheshire & Warrington LEP, Cheshire West and Chester Council and the University of Chester.

Work is already underway in the region to create a local grid with £14m investment committed at Peel Environmental’s Protos site. This will provide a grid connection to connect local power generation assets, such as Bioenergy Infrastructure Group’s 21.5MW biomass facility, through a micro-grid to existing energy intensive manufacturing.

Myles Kitcher, from Peel Environmental, said: “Our job is to prove that a local energy system is both scalable and replicable. We have the opportunity to be world leaders, testing the deployment of game-changing technology which could transform the way that people and businesses purchase energy in the future. The vision is that by using smart technologies consumers will be able to switch energy supply based on the most competitive price offering greater choice and transparency.”

And Garfield Southall, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Science and Engineering at the University of Chester, added: “We are thrilled that this funding bid has come to fruition. Innovation in energy research – including the decarbonisation of gas, the hydrogen economy, and intelligent energy management systems – is at Thornton’s core, with its flagship Energy Centre, the development of undergraduate and postgraduate skills in related areas, and an array of energy-related companies on site.”

The study started in January and is due to finish in July this year. The EID is looking to the local community and businesses to provide data on their energy usage. To take part, contact e-portenergy@cheshireenergyhub.co.uk . All data received will be treated confidentially. For more information visit www.energyinnovationdistrict.com.