Agenda item

Supporting Innovation & Low Carbon Growth Programme - Change request to incorporate the National Net Zero Skills Centre of Excellence (Now approved by Government)


The report was noted.


Nicola Pearce Director of Environment & Regeneration Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council gave members a presentation on the Supporting Innovation & Low Carbon Growth Programme including the change request to incorporate the National Net Zero Skills Centre of Excellence as per the report included in the agenda pack.

Members enquired about the hydrogen stimulus programme and what proportion of this whole project is based around that. Members noted that there is only really a market for large vehicles using Hydrogen with only 300 Hydrogen cars in the UK.

Members asked why City Deal funding is being put into hydrogen when it's not it's not working as an alternative apart from for heavily subsidised large vehicles.

Members also asked if officers are encouraging partners to look at overnight tariffs for energy when charging EV's as well with the infrastructure because of the significant savings that organisations can have if they have an overnight tariff.

Members sought clarification on what was meant by the term ‘hybrid building’ as referred to in the presentation.

Officers advised that the Hydrogen Stimulus Project and the Bay Technology Centre are part of the original 7 projects that were given approval. Members were advised that the Bay Technology Centre facility has been built and it is currently operational and is an energy positive building, meaning that it generates more energy than it requires to operate. Officers advised that it is over 50% let.

Officers explained that the project is connecting the surplus energy to the hydrogen research facility which is within 100 metres of the facility. This spare electricity is being utilised to generate hydrogen.

Members were advised that the project paid for an additional electrolyser within the hydrogen research facility which is operated by the University of South Wales to enable the increased generation of hydrogen. Officers highlighted that it was always envisaged that hydrogen would be utilised within Neath Port Talbot’s large freighter fleet and they anticipate that hydrogen is considered to be the future for the larger vehicles such as waste and recycling freighters and there is provision within that hydrogen stimulus project to pay towards one vehicle just demonstrate the effectiveness of that Co-location of Neath Port Talbot’s (NPT) fleet with the hydrogen stimulus project.

In relation to EV charging, officers explained that electric vehicles are linked to the smaller pool cars that NPT as an authority and the public’s domestic vehicles will be utilising more of going forward. NPT are investing across the region in infrastructure and charging facilities. The market is also providing charging facilities where it makes business sense.

Officers are delivering a project under Supporting Innovation and Low Carbon Growth called ‘The Electric Vehicles Charging Infrastructure Route map’, which will establish where the ‘not spots’ of large areas of the region are, where the market will not intervene to install infrastructure as they will not get a return on their investment.

Members were made aware that there are significant numbers of the population that require access to that charging infrastructure and many of these areas have got high density residential developments without off street parking facilities. Officers explained that they are looking at ways they can support people living in those communities who aspire to own an EV.

It was clarified by officers that in relation to hybrid accommodation, officers want to develop the integration of the Net Zero Skills Academy within the advanced manufacturing facility and are going to be co-located within one building. This means that the students in the academy have access to the high technology equipment housed within the advanced manufacturing facility. This will allow students to work on the equipment that they are likely to have access to when they pursue those types of career opportunities. Students wouldn’t just be sitting in a classroom and will be spending time in a manufacturing environment as well. Members were advised that this will give students the best hands on, aligned experience to working in manufacturing that officers can possibly develop for them. That is what is meant by a hybrid facility.

Members noted that the completion of the building is listed as 2027 and hoped that the time scale isn’t too tight to be workable as local businesses are concerned that the money or the potential earnings through offshore wind is going to pass them by if we don't act quickly. Members raised concerns of the need to get people trained and into the industry rather than bring people into the area to work and then move back out to the area. Members highlighted the need to replace the important jobs that will be lost to the Tata announcement.

Officers agreed that it is a very tight timescale and that while it is ambitious, they believe that they can do it. Officers explained that they have been working with Welsh government for a significant period to utilise part of the Energy Park which they have recently purchased and there are parts of the energy Park that are still subject to contamination associated with BP chemicals which used to occupy the site. Members were advised that there are parts of the site, where officers have interest that are capable of being developed in the short term and they are working with Welsh Government to secure that land and they are supportive of this project in principle and want it to happen.

Officers noted that it is important given the Tata situation that they need to do everything they can to support the workforce who are potentially at risk of losing their jobs as well as ensuring that the workforce of the future that previously aspired to work in Tata have alternative economic opportunities available for them and alternative job opportunities. They would need to have the skills to access those jobs going forward which officers want to be able to provide them with.

The report was noted.


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