AWM budget cuts hit green energy projects
Several green projects, including a proposed new centre showcasing the region’s world-leading research into hydrogen fuel, are among the victims of Advantage West Midlands’ budget cuts.
Building on the region’s position as an international centre for hydrogen fuel research, the Science City Energy R&D Centre was designed to bring together academics pioneering new sources of energy as well as act as a demonstrator for the technologies developed at the University of Birmingham.
The initiative is one of the 65 schemes denied funding in the West Midlands by the regional development agency after its 2008-11 budget was cut by £132 million.
But although the university has expressed disappointment that no money would be coming from AWM for the project, it is determined to find alternative sources of funding.
Birmingham University Vice-Principal Michael Sheppard, who co-chairs the senior executive group dealing with the Science City collaborative project with Warwick University, said the showcase building could still go ahead.
“It was going to be a centre based on the Birmingham campus and its purpose was to relocate the various components of the energy projects and locate researchers and programmes within a building with features designed to test the energy research,” he said.
“We are very keen to pursue this so we will be looking at other sources of funding.
“Of course we are disappointed about the Energy Centre but it will not put any other projects at risk.”
Prof Sheppard said the amount the university was hoping for to fund the project was less than £10 million.
Despite the problems with the proposed building, the university was still going ahead with its scientific research into hydrogen which forms part of the AWM-funded Science City project.
The University of Birmingham, working together with the University of Warwick, has been conducting research into how hydrogen energy can be generated, stored and used as a power source in buildings and transport as part of the Science City project.
The University of Birmingham campus has one of only a handful of hydrogen fuel filling stations in the country.
Another more controversial initiative, the Tenbury Biomass Plant, has also seen its funding pulled by AWM.
A spokesman for the applicant CJ Day Associates said the power plant was now “not going ahead”.
The biomass plant, backed by Worcestershire City Council, would have converted clean plant matter such as woodchips into heat and electricity, generating enough energy to fuel 2,500 houses in Tenbury and neighbouring villages.
Anthony Blagg, Worcestershire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Waste and Green Environment, said it remained committed to renewable energy solutions.
He said: “Worcestershire County Council, as joint site owners, is as keen as anyone for positive outcomes from Tenbury Business Park.
“We remain supportive of the scheme in principle and will continue, where appropriate, to encourage projects that contribute to regional and national targets for energy generation from renewable sources and contribute to the environmental excellence of Worcestershire’s economy.”
The plan has caused strong local opposition for a couple years due to the number of heavy lorries that would have to come through the town.
Ian Little, who has used his Tenbury Blog to voice his disapproval, said: “I’m glad that sense has prevailed and the AWM support for the scheme at this unsuitable site has been withdrawn. Now we need support to get this site developed for sustainable jobs.”
Meanwhile, a sustainable Engineering and Computing Building at Coventry University will still go ahead, despite the lack of hoped-for funds from AWM.
The proposed state-of-the-art facility will feature two L-shaped blocks representing science and nature and maximise the use of natural daylight in order to keep carbon emissions low.
Excess heat from IT servers will be used as underfloor heating along with a biomass burner and a solar-powered hot water system.
A Coventry University spokeswoman said that AWM was continuing to support the university in its application for funding from the European Structural Fund for remaining projects in the £160 million redevelopment plan for the campus.
She said: “Coventry University has committed to providing a world-class building for the Faculty of Engineering and Computing and is therefore continuing with its plans.”
Other projects to miss out on funding included a proposed environmental business park in Tyseley which it was hoped would attract environmental and recycling firms to the area.
But AWM emphasised that this was at the very early stages and no budget had been allocated to the scheme.
An AWM spokesman said: “A study was carried out into the potential of Tyseley as a location for resource recovery and an environmental enterprise park, but that’s as far as it went.
“Tyseley will still be the focus of a resource recovery programme being developed by AWM.”
Environmental Projects which will get funding:
Smarter Working West Midlands An innovative project working with Coventry University that is helping businesses adopt smarter working practices that improve productivity and reduce carbon emissions from transport.
Business Link Environmental Advisory Service This new support programme delivered by Business Link will provide a structured specialist programme of environmental and resource efficiency support to businesses across the region, resulting in improved competitiveness and profitability, and subsequent reduction in carbon emissions.
Waste Infrastructure Development Programme A programme to provide regional leadership and develop infrastructure for the waste and resource recovery industry. The initiative will also help to remove barriers to businesses recycling their waste streams and raise the profile of this sector of the regional economy.
Projects that missed out:
Science City Energy R&D Centre The proposed centre to be built on the University of Birmingham campus would act as a showcase for research going on in the region into alternative energy sources such as hydrogen.
The University of Birmingham, which is still hoping to go ahead with the project, is already home to one of only a handful of hydrogen fuel stations in the country.
Tenbury Bio Park The project would have been a biomass-fuelled Combined Heat and Power plant generating 2.5MW of renewable power – enough for 2,500 houses in Tenbury.
Engineering and Computing Building at Coventry University which will maximise the use of natural daylight and use excess heat generated by the IT servers as underfloor heating. It will still go ahead without AWM funding.
Environmental Business Park (Tyseley) The project was in the very early stages and had not been allocated a budget, but would have been designed to attract environmental and recycling firms to the area which is home to the Veolia waste management and energy recovery
AWM said it is still supporting a waste recovery programme in the area.