Following the 2008 financial crash the UK Government, through the Local Enterprise Partnership model has been driving major economic regeneration in localised economies for high value job creation, uplifting skills and infrastructure investment. LEPs are the prime vehicles to identify and deliver their own programmes to gain increased economic growth through targeted and localised support.
The Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire LEP having a below average performing business base, developed a unique “Powerhouse Central” proposal for its regeneration funding submission into Whitehall. The proposals centred on delivering decentralised energy infrastructure in the form of Stoke-on-Trent district heat network (DHN), and the Keele University Smart Energy Network Demonstrator (SEND). The DHN and SEND are complementary projects, the DHN utilising off the shelf technology to de-risk the project and encourage private investment models to be applied to UK DHN pipeline projects, whilst the Keele SEND allows dynamic smart network technologies to be tested and trialled, both from the hardware and software perspective but also from the social interaction dimension in an idealised small town sized community.
Decentralised energy using localised energy resource assets give increased levels of supply security to business, public services and residential populations something that is becoming more difficult with the existing large-scale generation system. The DHN and the SEND gives the opportunity for localised supply chain diversification providing a key element of the LEP’s economic regeneration commitments; this observational study has researched and examined drivers, conflicts and barriers to deploying the DHN and SEND projects specifically regarding the deployment of business support strategies and programmes to drive supply chain diversification and innovation into the decentralised energy opportunity. It is apparent that technology and finance are not the key barriers to decentralised energy supply chain growth but relate to the conflict and non-aligned politics pursing national and local agendas.