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The Humber - an opportunity created from a challenge
Things are changing in the Humber.
The region has long been the most carbon intensive the country, producing roughly 40% of our industrial emissions due to its capabilities in chemicals, concrete, steel and energy. Those strengths have turned the Humber industrial cluster into a vital part of the UK economy, contributing £18 billion a year and supporting 360,000 jobs in heavy industry and manufacturing, as well as providing 20% of the country’s electricity.
But in recent years the region has also become the epicentre of a green industrial revolution – one that shows no sign of stopping. The region’s businesses have responded to the net zero challenge by joining forces to develop shared decarbonisation infrastructure, with £15bn of private investment ready to flow in.
It’s ambitious but necessary. Not only is this vital for the UK’s net zero mission, it is critical for these businesses’ survival. After all, if they don’t cut emissions, they will struggle to compete with those parts of the world with little or no carbon pricing. Together these green energy projects form the East Coast Cluster across the Humber and Teesside, with the potential to provide 50% of the UK’s entire renewable energy needs.
At the heart of this vision are plans for a new subterranean pipeline network that can transport carbon captured from industries, stretching from Drax power station to the coast. It's a huge undertaking that will require us to deploy world leading engineering expertise but, if we get it right, it would put the Humber and the wider Northern Powerhouse on the world map as a pioneer of this cutting-edge technology.
The Humber’s proud industrial heritage, existing skills base and natural assets provide the perfect bedrock for a flourishing green economy. Together with a relentless focus on developing future-ready industries, it makes for a hugely attractive investment opportunity.
The world’s leading offshore wind developer, Ørsted, has so far supported £9.5 billion of investment in the Humber coast since 2012, with the Siemens blade factory at Green Port Hull a critical example of UK content which must be central to our approach.
This is just one example of a wider inward investment boom into the North of England, driven in large part by our green credentials. Our 2021 report found that foreign direct investment (FDI) into renewable energy in the North of England increased from $6.95bn between 2012-16 to $20.25bn 2017-21 – a 193% rise. This has helped the North increase its share of overall FDI into England from 19% to 33% over the same time period. It means that our region – which makes up roughly 28% of England’s population – is now punching above its weight and drawing in more inward investment on a per capita basis.
The Humber’s proposals for a freeport will accelerate this long term if we invest prudently with our local authorities against the retained business rates to drive up high skilled employment; attracting and leveraging existing FDI in specialisms such as the decarbonisation of rail around Siemens Goole and key assets in the developing battery supply chain.
The Humber ports, which connect the wider North to the rest of the world, are vital to continued growth. Associated British Ports recently revealed its plans for a new terminal at Immingham to handle a key green hydrogen feedstock and import carbon for storage.
The region is also benefitting from a sustained focus on building the talent pipeline. Businesses like Drax and Phillips 66 are investing millions in training the next generation while upskilling their existing workforce to prepare them for these green jobs.
The Humber is critical to the wider Northern Powerhouse economic prize - and a case in point for how to turn a weakness into a strength, a challenge into an opportunity.
It’s just one example of the North leading the charge in the net zero transition, transforming our economy in the process. It’s a once in a generation chance to turbocharge our productivity, bring in billions in investment from around the globe and create many, many thousands of well-paid jobs (and protecting many more) in a just transition.
This is just the beginning.
Northern Powerhouse Partnership