University of Warwick: Restarting the aluminium industry in the Black Country

The Black Country in Birmingham was the energy and innovation stomping ground in the 18th and 19th century, creating the UK’s industrial economy. Fast forward to the 21st century there is now a need to make a business model that’s more economically and environmentally sustainable.

With the help of WMG, University of Warwick, the Black Country LEP have made a future business model for Aluminium in the Black Country based on the provision of low carbon energy sources, as part of a project Repowering the Black Country, which aims to make the Black Country the world’s first zero carbon industrial cluster.The Phoenix 10 site in the Black Country

The aim of the project is to enable clean GVA growth of £16bn by 2030, creating or safeguarding at least 20,000 skilled jobs. Thanks to funding from Innovate UK researchers from WMG specifically looked at the Aluminum Industry in the area.

The researchers report that if the Black Country Strategic Economic Plan forecasts GVA growth of £16bn by 2030. The growth will be driven by reshoring of manufacturing from overseas and organic growth, particularly in high value manufacturing, building, transport and environmental technology sectors where the Black Country has long-standing strengths.

However, if this growth simply follows the structural templates and energy practices of the past, annual CO2 emissions from Black Country industry will almost double to 2.3M tCO2.

To deliver green growth and meet UK industrial strategy objectives researchers from WMG propose that the Black Country needs to take the opportunities created by Brexit and Recovery from Covid-19 to reconfigure and repower its industrial base and create a fundamentally new economic model for the area.

Professor Jan Godsell, from WMG, University of Warwick explains:

“This has been an exciting project for WMG to get involved in. By using circular supply chain principles, we’ve been able to demonstrate how re-industrialising around low carbon energy hubs in the West Midlands can help meet our net-zero carbon goal by 2050 but also create value-adding jobs for the region.”

Since the project has completed The Black Country Consortium has been awarded funding from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) to support clean industrial growth through the Repowering the Black Country Project. This second round of funding, focused on helping the UK achieve net zero emissions as part of Government’s Clean Growth Strategy, will support businesses and local authorities in developing plans for zero carbon hubs and reducing energy costs across the Black Country.

Funded by UK Research and Innovation, on behalf of the UK government, Repowering the Black Country is one of only 7 projects funded nationally focused on helping the UK achieve net zero emissions by 2050 as part of the Industrial Decarbonisation Challenge. This is a key component of the government’s Clean Growth Strategy.

Tom Westley DL, Chair of the Black Country LEP Board said:
“This funding is another step toward the Black Country putting in place plans to decarbonise our industrial supply chains and lead the way nationally for industrial clean energy. The Repowering the Black Country project is a real partnership approach to planning for the future of our world-class industrial sector.

“This boost will enable the team to work across the Black Country with local authorities and industry to develop zero carbon industrial estates that optimise and generate clean energy in the most efficient way. Zero carbon means lower energy bills, lower carbon emissions and commercial opportunities locally – all of which will be good news for the Black Country economy.”



Energy Minister Kwasi Kwarteng said:
“The UK is leading the world’s green industrial revolution, with ambitious targets to decarbonise our economy and create hundreds of thousands of jobs.

“As we continue to level up the UK economy and build back greener, we must ensure every sector is reducing carbon emissions to help us achieve our commitment to net zero emissions by 2050.
“This funding will help key industrial areas meet the challenge of contributing to our cleaner future while maintaining their productive and competitive strengths.”

Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, said:

“Our region’s plan for economic recovery is all about delivering the high-paid, high skilled, ‘green’ jobs of the future. So this funding partnership is both good news for West Midlands jobs and industry, helping businesses grow while using less energy. So it’s great news for our environment.

“The West Midlands Combined Authority has an ambitious #WM2041 plan for the region to be carbon neutral by 2041. This Government funding for clean industrial development in the Black Country will help our region build on its long history of manufacturing, building a green economy that’s good for jobs and good for the planet.”

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