As the seat of the industrial revolution in the late 18th century, the Black Country can claim to be the world’s first ‘energy innovation zone’ (EIZ), and this heritage perhaps explains the enthusiastic local support for the proposed EIZ. But of the four potential EIZs, the Black Country is the least developed, and so provides the greatest opportunity to demonstrate a complete model of how an EIZ can be defined, developed and implemented. There is a strong desire in the area to lead the energy transition by securing investment in modern, clean energy systems which deliver power at globally competitive costs and thus support delivery of the national industrial strategy. The EIZ is intended to provide a focus for this, specifically within the geography of the existing Enterprise Zones.
The Black Country Enterprise Zones comprise a portfolio of sites in Dudley, Wolverhampton, Darlaston and i54 – Wolverhampton North, spread over 120 hectares [i, ii, iii]. The focus of these zones is to promote and attract advanced manufacturing in the Black Country – by offering competitive advantage to manufacturers who locate there – especially targeting aerospace, automotive and high added value engineering.
There are already major manufacturing companies located on the i54 site, including JLR, Moog, Eurofins and ISP. This enterprise zone is known as one of the most successful in the country, and total investment of more than £1.5 billion is expected across the Black Country over next 15 years.
A key competitiveness issue for the Black Country is the cost of energy, and in particular the energy used in metal processing. Manufacturers using electricity to drive their processes are keen to secure reliable and high-quality energy supplies with predictable and highly competitive pricing.