3rd IDRIC Industrial Decarbonisation Policy Forum

10th October 2023, Edinburgh

The 3rd IDRIC Policy Forum brought together representatives from industry, academia and governments for a constructive discussion on current policy priorities for industrial decarbonisation, and opportunities for multi-stakeholder collaboration.

Harnessing collective expertise across organisations, the discussions focused on policy lessons to be learned from the cluster experience in the UK and abroad, how collaboration on Net Zero can be supported going forward, and critical priorities for government action.

Presentations

  • The IDRIC Policy Team kicked-off the discussion with an synthesis of key findings from IDRIC policy roundtables and research 2023 and outlook for 2024, including on electrification, planning and permitting, and carbon accounting, and emerging findings from its industry survey on grid constraints for industrial decarbonisation (presentation slides).
  • Discussing the drivers of collaboration, Dr Chris Williams (Industry Wales) shared key insights from cluster experiences in the UK and Peter Taylor (University of Leeds) presented key findings  international experience of Industrial Cluster Decarbonisation, including key messages from a recent IDRIC International Workshop with representatives from 14 countries (presentation slides).
  • Officials from DESNZ and the Scottish Government outlined current and upcoming policy priorities and workstreams to support industrial decarbonisation.

Cross-cutting discussion themes

The discussion addressed three key cross-cutting themes:

1. Collaboration

Collaboration is critical for decarbonisation, but it will take different forms for different purposes (industry-to-industry, to supply chains, to academics, to infrastructure providers, to local and UK government, skills providers, cluster-to-cluster, global). Trust is key for successful and sustained collaboration, as well as appropriate support structures and governance support mechanisms:

  • Trusted and impartial facilitators such as LEPs and local authorities can play a critical role, but must have the resources to catalyse collaboration, including:
    • Financial support to catalyse collaboration,
    • Supportive legal structures,
  • Barriers to exist in regulatory frameworks – e.g. competition law – for which a new balance could be sought to enable collaborative industrial decarbonisation without removing key checks and balances.

While collaboration is important for disseminating best practice (e.g. between different companies or clusters) and coordination for common benefit, it may not always be a substitute for competitive process.

2. Place-based approaches

Place-based approaches, such as clusters and hubs, are key to industrial decarbonisation as they give meaning to the systems in which industry operates, which sector- or technology-based approaches may miss. Clusters, organised around industrial decarbonisation as opposed to one technology, allow consideration of the whole socio-technical context – e.g. the leadership, vision and networks needed for decarbonisation, the politics and ability of industry to be pathfinder, the links to social communities around a cluster, the buildings, the public sector etc. Place-based approaches can develop a sense of ownership and community, bring large companies and SMEs together as part of a collective, important for vision selling and trust.

Outside the main clusters – place-based considerations are also important for dispersed sites, which are equally embedded within their own specific local contexts. There is a need to consider how offsite infrastructure networks develop and extend, both for local planning (heat, energy efficiency, renewables) and extending to dispersed localities. Furthermore, some coupling of place- with technology-based approaches will always be required. Knowledge exchange must be supported beyond clusters and is a key feature of the current Local Industrial Decarbonisation Plans, but further work is needed on establishing and disseminating best practices.

3. National policy strategy and coordination

Local plans need national and regional coordination so that benefits extend beyond specific organisations to the UK overall. A pragmatic approach to infrastructure development is required that considers “acceptable regret” options in the absence of no regret options.

Government can’t decarbonise everything at once, so there is a need to start somewhere: so with regard to giving clarity on available decarbonisation options for dispersed sites, it would be beneficial for policymakers to identify what networks and technologies can actually be built out from clusters. Opportunities for repurposing infrastructure can also be taken, and should where this represents the best value for money option.

An open question for the energy transition remains at which scale intervention is most conducive to achieving the desired outcome most efficiently and effectively, according to what prioritisation, and who should should be responsible for decision making (Government, FSO, Ofgem, local government, etc.).

More info: policy@idric.org