Greater Manchester fleshes out clean energy plans, secures funding for electric buses

Pictured: An artist's impression of one of the 50 pure electric double deckers ordered for Manchester from Alexander Dennis

The Combined Authority published the plans on Friday (30 September), making it the first local authority in England to produce and adopt a finalised Local Area Energy Plan (LAEP).

Over the next five years, the LEAP states, there will need to be a scaling up of renewable energy generation and improvement to energy efficiency if the city-region is to lay the foundations for delivering its 2038 net-zero target.

Some 14,000 additional homes in the city-region will need to undergo retrofitting to improve energy efficiency. There will also need to be a scaling of approaches to low-carbon heat, with 8,000 more homes connected to heat networks and a further 116,000 buildings installing heat pumps.

The LEAP also targets the installation of 2GW of additional solar capacity on the rooftops of homes. More British homeowners are exploring rooftop solar this year, amid the energy price crisis and the Government’s decision to remove VAT on domestic solar arrays.

Additionally laid out is the potential for public, commercial and industrial sector buildings to host more than 2.5GW of additional rooftop solar capacity by the end of 2027.

On transport, the LEAP states that 190,000 vehicles will need to be replaced with electric alternatives over the next five years. This figure includes private and public sector fleets as well as vehicles owned by individual motorists.

It is noted that energy storage arrays and other technologies that enable flexibility will need to be scaled at a pace to accommodate electrification and increased renewable generation.

“Our plans reduce uncertainty around what changes and initiatives each district in Greater Manchester needs to make to drive us to a decarbonised future,” said the Combined Authority’s lead for waste and Green City Region, Cllr Martyn Cox. “By providing a strong roadmap and sense of direction, we want to encourage greater investment in low carbon technologies and business growth in sectors which support the net-zero carbon transition.”

Electric bus boost

The news from the Combined Authority came shortly after the UK Infrastructure Bank launched three pilot projects for low-carbon transport and infrastructure delivered in partnership with local authorities.

Transport for Greater Manchester, the Combined Authority’s transport arm, has been confirmed as one of the local authorities and will receive support to electrify its bus fleet. It has set a target for one-third of the city-region’s bus fleet to be zero-emission by 2027 and for half of trips to be made using public and active transport by 2040, up from 40% at present.

Earlier this month, the Combined Authority announced that it had placed an order for 50 new double-decker electric buses from Alexander Dennis. This purchase had been made with support from the Government. Plans are also in the works to procure a further 170 electric buses for Stockport, also with Government funding.

Greater Manchester’s Mayor Andy Burnham said the UK Infrastructure Bank will help the local authority to “assess the strategic options to fund, finance and procure” zero-emission buses.

The other two regions set to benefit from the UK Infrastructure Bank’s local authority pilots are Bristol and West Yorkshire. Bristol City Council will receive support for its ‘City Leap’ energy investment programme, which was created to deliver heat networks and heat pumps, solar panels and energy efficiency measures. The West Yorkshire Combined Authority will be assisted in developing a new Mass Transit programme, following a public consultation last year.

“The Bank was set up to tackle climate change and boost growth across the UK and local authorities are at the frontline of both these goals,” said its chief executive John Flint. “We want to use our unique experience and position to help authorities build capabilities, financial expertise and reach their ambitions.”

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