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Industrial energy taskforce to be launched

Repowering the Black Country and the West Midlands Combined Authority have announced the West Midlands Industrial Energy Taskforce.

Greg Hands visiting Robinson Brothers in West Bromwich
Greg Hands visiting Robinson Brothers in West Bromwich

The taskforce will explore economic pathways for the energy-exposed West Midlands industry through the energy crisis and transition to net zero.

It was announced to coincide with a fact-finding visit from Greg Hands, Minister of State for Energy, Clean Growth and Climate Change.

As part of the visit Mr Hands spent time with West Bromwich-based Robinson Brothers and Wednesbury-based KEW Technology.

Over the past two years the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and local manufacturing companies have been involved in the Repowering the Black Country project.

The taskforce will build on the work already underway to identify specific short-term measures government and industrial partners can take to mitigate the immediate impacts of industrial energy cost increases.

The taskforce will broaden the geographic focus to the whole West Midlands, and support the transition of the region’s manufacturing economy to be globally competitive in a lower carbon future.

Taskforce members include MAKE UK, William King, The Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, Dudley-based Thomas Dudley, Westley Group, Lloyds Bank, Mondelez and Repowering the Black Country.

Matthew Rhodes, director of Repowering the Black Country and chairman of the West Midlands Industrial Energy Taskforce, said: “This is a vital issue for our regional economy, and the Repowering project team are delighted that our efforts are now being recognised by government. The Mayor’s Industrial Energy Taskforce is a significant acceleration of our work to mitigate the energy cost crisis for the industrial base of this region and we’re looking forward to working with government and partners to find urgent solutions – we need competitive energy costs to keep more than 290,000 people employed in skilled jobs across this region.”

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands. has given his support, saying: “The West Midlands has more than 16,000 small and medium-sized manufacturing businesses, many based across the Black Country, that have been the engine of economic growth over the past century.

“Many of these businesses will drive future innovation, with the manufacturing of electrical light vehicles, for example, identified as a key growth cluster opportunity in our Plan for Growth.

“But rising energy costs are hitting families and businesses hard, and unlike big steel works or chemical plants the kind of support such diverse supply chains need is complex and challenging.

“That’s why I have launched a new industrial energy taskforce to identify the kind of action required to provide urgent support to the most exposed local businesses. It was brilliant to launch the taskforce in Dudley alongside Mike Wood MP, and together we can make the case to the Government that the West Midlands and the Black Country need bespoke support to address the huge challenge facing our regional economy.”

Dudley South MP Mike Wood added: “Small and medium-sized manufacturing businesses across Dudley South and the Black Country depend on affordable energy to help them stay competitive on the global market.

“That’s why I asked the Minister to join us in Brierley Hill to launch the Energy Taskforce. Working with our Mayor Andy Street to see how national government, local government and Black Country businesses can work together to find ways to help our energy intense businesses cope with surging energy costs, and move towards cleaner, greener and more affordable energy sources where possible.

“We’ll need to be imaginative and have our eye on the technologies of the future – but most importantly, we need solutions that are accessible to businesses of all sizes, and I’m looking forward to working with the taskforce in this endeavour.”

The taskforce will be a small and focused, time-limited group of West Midlands industrialists which will work with government to identify and support short-term interventions to deliver more effective support to energy-exposed businesses; identify and promote medium-term interventions which inhibit the competitiveness of West Midlands industry and engage with partners and investors to find ways to act on these recommendations with urgency.

Preliminary findings will be published in October this year and a final report by June 2023.

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