West Midland low-carbon manufacturers like electric commercial vehicle maker Modec offer a “big potential” for the UK, Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband said yesterday during a trip to Birmingham.
Mr Miliband was in the city to visit environmental projects such as the Summerfield Eco Neighbourhood as well as answer questions from local businesses about the opportunities offered by a low-carbon Britain at an event on the West Midlands’ green economy.
Speaking to The Birmingham Post, he outlined the Government’s plans for some of the low-carbon sectors which offer big opportunities for the West Midlands, including energy from waste and low-carbon commercial vehicles.
The Government has been accused of ignoring the low-carbon commercial vehicle sector in favour of announcements on electric cars.
Companies such as Coventry-based Modec have called for the UK to follow the lead of other European countries and introduce tax incentives for the vehicles to stimulate the market at home.
Mr Miliband described the sector as a “very important area” which the Government was keen to help.
“That’s why they are exempt from the major motoring taxes like vehicle excise duty.
“We are also providing £120 million in support for research, development and demonstration for some of these key technologies to drive them forward and the Department for Transport are providing resources for public sector fleets from a fund worth about £20 million in the UK to procure low carbon vehicles.”
“We are very keen to help companies like Modec.
“If they have further ideas about what we can do I am very happy to listen.
“It’s just that kind of low-carbon manufacturing which means that Birmingham and indeed the whole country has big potential.”
Many in the waste from energy sector, which also has a burgeoning base in the West Midlands, have accused the Government of stalling over the introduction of the Renewable Heat Incentive which would provide financial assistance to generators of renewable heat, such as biomethane produced from anaerobic digestion. Waste and anaerobic digestion firms in the region, including Biffa which recently relocated to Birmingham from the South-East, are eagerly watching to see what form the incentive takes when it comes in in April, 2011.
Mr Miliband said: “I think there’s a huge contribution from anaerobic digestion and that’s why I’m putting funding towards anaerobic digestion projects.”
He defended the delay in bringing in the incentive, saying the Government needed time to work out what form it should take.
“We are going to do a consultation. If we don’t consult we won’t get it right,” he said.
Another key part of the Government’s low carbon transition plan announced earlier this month was the introduction of feed-in-tariffs.
The incentives, which have been rechristened “clean energy cash-back schemes”, mean people and businesses are paid an above-market rate to sell small-scale renewably-generated electricity to the grid.
Mr Miliband said this offered a “huge opportunity” for community groups in Birmingham to get involved in generating renewable energy.
He said: “People talked originally about feed-in tariffs being available for very small generation of electricity from wind or solar PV but actually what we said is it can be up to five MW, which is quite significant.”
He said that community renewable energy projects could be a step towards encouraging people to accept onshore wind projects, many of which have run into opposition from local residents at the planning stage.
“We have got to win a big battle about onshore wind and one of the ways I think that is more likely to happen, including in Birmingham, is if we can convince people that their community will get a benefit from it.”