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Zero-Carbon Fuel and the Future of Steel in Wales

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Neath Port Talbot Council’s Cabinet is being asked to back a revised business case for the authority’s Swansea Bay City Deal projects which will see a bigger emphasis on innovation and future energy technology – plus actual delivery and the realisation of benefits.

If approved by Cabinet members, the intention is to submit the business case to the City Deal Economic Strategy Board and Joint Committee along with the Welsh and UK governments for endorsement at the earliest opportunity.

The revised business case – to be put to the Cabinet today– contains a vision to make the Port Talbot Waterfront Enterprise Zone, which is one of the most unique and accessible business destinations in Wales, the gateway to the whole Swansea Bay City Region.

With its deep water harbour and acres of available development space, the zone itself together with the Neath Port Talbot Fabian Way corridor, which is home to the fast growing Swansea University Bay Campus, is seen a real growth hotspot.

Overall, the re-modelled business case seeks an investment of £47.7m from the City Deal over five years, matched in part by the Council and other funding streams.

It aims to create/safeguard some 1,300 jobs directly (with as many again safeguarded in the wider economy) and to provide some 18,000 square metres of business space, primarily to meet demand from small and medium sized businesses.

Councillor Rob Jones, Leader of the Council, said:

“After a difficult few months, this is a vital step to reinject momentum into the City Deal. The Council has made clear its intention to make the Deal work if we can and these proposals provide a much better basis for moving forward; but also introduce an important new theme of decarbonising our economy.”

Councillor Anthony Taylor, Deputy Leader of the Council, added:

“As a board member of the Port Talbot Waterfront Enterprise Zone, I am keen to integrate its work with the City Deal as the two are entirely complementary with a clear focus on jobs and growth. We now look to our partners in the region and the Welsh and UK governments to move with pace and urgency to approve the business case and release some of the funding committed over two years ago. There is no time to lose given the challenges facing the regional economy – as evidenced recently by the Ford announcement.”

The programme is split into four themes:

  • The Swansea Bay Technology Centre – an “energy positive” building which will provide office space for start-ups and local businesses, it will also transmit excess energy from solar and other renewable means to the nearby Hydrogen Centre where it will be used to make zero-carbon fuel for Council vehicles.
  • National Steel Innovation Centre – this project aims to support the steel industry in Port Talbot and Wales as well as anchoring research and development into future steel making here in the region. The sector has made great strides in recent years in reducing its carbon footprint (including using hydrogen as a reducing agent instead of coal) but there is more to do.
  • Decarbonisation – A separate report to the Cabinet on July 31st outlines the Council’s Decarbonisation and Renewable Energy Strategy, which among other things, reveals the Council’s links with researchers looking to create low carbon aviation fuel from waste gases at the Port Talbot Steel Works. The Council will work with FLEXIS (the £24.5m research operation aiming to developing an energy research capability in Wales) on a series of other projects including the Swansea Bay Technology Centre – Hydrogen Centre energy link, establishing an electric vehicle charging route map and Air Quality Modelling and Real Time Monitoring (aimed at achieving better informed decisions on the selection of mitigation and intervention measures regarding emissions).
  • Industrial Futures – This will address the gap between demand and supply to business and available land in the Port Talbot Waterfront Enterprise Zone with a hybrid building providing production units with office space to support start-ups and indigenous businesses especially those in the innovation and manufacturing sectors. There will also be laboratory space (supported by Industry Wales) for spin-outs to monetise Research & Development projects plus land remediation, flood defence work, construction of access roads and upgrading of highways to adoptable standards.