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Energy efficiency help for businesses to be considered by the WMCA Board

Published: Wednesday 13 Sep 2023

Thousands of businesses will get help to cut their energy usage and bills and support the region’s transition to net zero under plans that will be presented to the West Midlands Combined Authority Board on Friday (15 September).

If approved, the WMCA will lead a UK Government-funded scheme to provide free energy efficiency audits to SMEs in the seven council areas covered by the WMCA and the wider West Midlands region - from coffee shops and hairdressers to manufacturing firms.

Eligible businesses will also be able to apply for between £1,000 and £100,000 of match funding to implement recommended measures that can reduce their energy demand. This could include supporting investment in new machinery and equipment, improved manufacturing processes, or LED lighting and insulation.

The region has a higher proportion of energy exposed businesses than any other UK region.

Helping employers to reduce energy consumption was a key recommendation from the West Midlands Industrial Energy Taskforce, set up by Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and WMCA chair, as part of a commitment to support the decarbonisation of businesses.

The Mayor said: “Businesses right across our region have felt the impact of high energy costs and - whilst they may appreciate our #WM2041 net zero commitment – I welcome the support in helping them meet those ambitions.

“These pressures underline the importance of the Industrial Energy Taskforce we set up to enable us to hear directly from those affected about what needs to happen to better protect them in the longer term from volatility in the energy market.

“What’s clear is that a range of interventions will be required. I continue to press energy providers to unshackle firms from punitive contracts negotiated at the height of the energy crisis when prices peaked last year. However, improving energy efficiency is also part of the answer so supporting investment in measures that reduce energy consumption will result in lower energy costs in the future.

“Together, we can drive clean growth and enhance business resilience in the months and years ahead - placing the West Midlands at the heart of the coming Green Industrial Revolution.”

Minister for Energy Efficiency and Green Finance Lord Callanan said: “We’re investing billions to improve energy efficiency across the country and small businesses can make major savings by wasting less heat.

“This pilot, in partnership with the Mayor of the West Midlands, will see thousands of small companies benefit from expert energy savings advice and improvements.

“Everyone has a role to play in our journey to net zero by 2050, from our pubs to our greengrocers. I look forward to seeing the results of this scheme, as we continue helping local business owners reduce their carbon emissions.”

Making businesses more energy efficient is a key element of the WMCA’s work to help the West Midlands achieve our #WM2041 ambition of becoming a net zero region within the next two decades, and to help boost the resilience and productivity.

The West Midlands has been earmarked to pilot this energy advice and grants scheme after the new Deeper Devolution Deal agreed between the WMCA and the UK Government earlier this year included a commitment to give our region more control over funding to help deliver net zero.

If approved, the pilot scheme will build on the practical support and guidance the WMCA is already providing businesses and other institutions with to begin or continue their journey to net zero while increasing productivity and resilience.

The WMCA has also secured £70 million of funding from Government and social housing providers to improve the energy efficiency of thousands of homes.

Cllr John Cotton, the WMCA’s portfolio lead for environment and energy, and leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “The environmental and economic case for increasing energy productivity is clear but volatility in the energy market has proven to be a big barrier to the investment that we know is needed in this area.

“Providing businesses with the support they need to reduce or remove those barriers to changing day-to-day practices and processes will support the transition to net zero and help improve the clean growth that the WMCA and all its local authority partners are committed to delivering.”

The WMCA is hosting two events later this month for businesses to find out more about how they can support the work it is doing around energy and environment:

  • The Energy Capital Autumn Conference, Powering Place, takes place on Thursday, 21 September, at the Manufacturing Technology Centre in Coventry with Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street among the speakers. The event, sponsored by SSE Energy Solutions, EQUANS and Cadent Gas Limited, will focus on how investment by a range of WMCA partners is accelerating the delivery of a net zero energy system, and the challenges to unlocking that investment.
  • The Greener Together Forum takes place on Tuesday, 26 September, at The Workspace, All Saints Action Network, All Saints Road, Wolverhampton. The forum is open to any local businesses that want to find out more about reducing their emissions, including signing up to the Net Zero Business Pledge, and circular waste principles.

Both are free to attend and places can be booked at the WMCA’s Eventbrite page.

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