Catalytic Action 4: Low carbon energy infrastructure

The Executive of Manchester City Council- in effect the “Cabinet” of the 96 seat elected body, has recently accepted a report called the “Call to Action.”

A London-based consultancy called “Beyond Green” wrote the report, (for £32,000 plus expenses), which commits the Council to nine “catalytic actions.”

They are:

  1. World-leading neighbourhood regeneration

  2. Retrofitting Manchester’s civic heritage

  3. A business alliance for climate change

  4. Low carbon energy infrastructure

  5. Low carbon communities

  6. A climate-ready Local Development Framework

  7. The Manchester Prize

  8. Greening the City: i-Trees

  9. A green airport

We here at MCFly Towers think that these sorts of things go better with consultation. While we are waiting for the Council to announce just what it is going to do on this question, we will be posting one “catalytic action” per day on the MCFly blog, with a brief analysis. We invite the people of Manchester (and heck, why not beyond) to comment on these. We will pass on your comments to the Council.

That’s not to say the other parts of the report aren’t worthy of comment too- it’s just that we have to start somewhere, and here is as good a place as any…

Low carbon energy infrastructure

“The establishment of the right critical energy infrastructure is a vital step on the road to a low carbon economy. Manchester needs to bring together a demand-side analysis of current and future need for energy infrastructure with a supply-side analysis of the opportunities for low carbon energy generation. As described out in box 3.1, this is an evolving process involving many different partners; there will be a key role for the Greater Manchester Climate Change Agency in bringing coherence to that process in our City.

“Manchester City Council, with a range of partners including United Utilities, is supporting work by the AGMA Environment Commission to examine the commercial and technical feasibility of establishing a Manchester-wide Energy Services Company (ESCo). The model will supply low carbon and renewable energy on a strategic scale across Greater Manchester, making best use of the resources and environments that characterise different parts of the conurbation. This builds on a feasibility study undertaken for Manchester Knowledge Capital in 2007.”


“This work will be complemented by two other studies to be overseen by the Climate Change Agency into community heating and combined heat and power capacity, and renewable energy generation capacity.

“Subject to the outcomes of these studies, the City Council will support early efforts to establish an infrastructure strategy for renewable energy generation, distribution and use across the City and City-region. If necessary, the City Council will use its landholdings to accelerate the development of generation capacity and ensure that both the energy and the income such development – which is likely to be controversial generates is invested in local communities. However, in principle the establishment of a citywide ESCo or similar offers potentially the greatest single source of reduction in Manchester’s emissions – potentially up to a 30 per cent cut in the City’s total carbon footprint depending on uptake and the extent to which existing energy supplies are replaced

OK, in principle this seems sensible enough. I am not an energy expert, so I’d love to hear from other people on this.

A few obvious questions:

Manchester Knowledge Capital has been in possession of a feasibility study since 2007. What has that feasibility study been used for in 2008- a draught excluder?

What have other comparable cities in the UK and beyond done to encourage microgeneration? Did Beyond Green speak to WADE or Greenpeace or any other folks who’ve been banging on about this stuff for years? If so, what advice were they given? If not, why not?

“Subject to the outcome of these studies”: there’s an interesting bit of wiggle room there. What outcomes of these studies might stop the council from proceeding?.

What exactly does the council think is going to be controversial? Are they planning to announce a Fusion Reactor in Fallowfield? An atomic pile in Ancoats? Something else? (I jest of course; one of the climate principles agreed last year explicitly ruled out nuclear. And we all know the climate principles are binding, oh yes…)

Again, by the council’s own admission, these actions are going to have a low carbon reduction impact. The box on page 47 really does bear close attention- very few of these actions have immediate starts, and the ones that do were already going. And there are no quantified reductions.


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