The green men and women of the UK are flexing their muscles

By Dan O’Sullivan

The Green Deal, a consultation on cuts to Feed-in-Tariffs and the Durban Climate Conference are all dominating environmental headlines. So extensive is the coverage that these issues are commanding, the struggle to secure the Green Investment Bank seems to have faded into the background. Yet, with the announcement of the location for the world’s first ‘Green Investment Bank’ set for April 2012, battle lines are being drawn behind the scenes.

Considering that the government are expected to plough a whopping £3 billion into the project within the first three years, it’s perhaps surprising that the mounting bids seem to be attracting very little coverage. Indeed, the Bank’s potential for creating jobs, stimulating local investment and providing a foothold on the ladder of a growing industry cannot be questioned; so luring are the possibilities and scope for success, twenty one competitors have thrown their names into the hat.

The varying cities that have come forward to stake their claim represent a real melting pot, ranging from giants like London to relative minnows such as Warrington. However, this could well be a fight in which size doesn’t matter, as many see London as too obvious a choice.

Simon Hughes – MP for Southwark and Bermondsey – has called for the bank to be located outside of the Capital, most probably in a bid to stimulate growth elsewhere. Similarly, Terry O’Neill – leader of Warrington Council – believes the government should show its commitment to closing the North-South economic gap by opting to reject London’s advances. 

There are many other gladiators of note in this ever-growing battle royale. Leeds entered the race in September, citing the city’s position as second only to London when it comes to providing business and financial services in the U.K – as well as its current involvement with offshore energy – as its contest winning trump cards. Liverpool is also picking up its sword, with head of council Joe Anderson claiming it ‘will demonstrate it possesses the natural, built and business assets to capture the extraordinary opportunity which is developing in the green economy’.

Manchester’s secret weapon is the cut price rent it is prepared to offer as a means to take the spoils, whilst Peterborough hopes to triumph in this David Vs. Goliath showdown due to its strong financial and innovative environmental sectors. Add to this contest the power of Wales, swinging its offshore wind farm mace, and you can see the scope of the contenders, every one of which has something that would see it justly crowned the victor in a lesser battle.

Whilst we can’t go into all of the bids here, it’s clear that a genuine scrap exists to secure the Green Investment Bank. The long term potential in terms of stimulating local growth and putting a smaller town on the business map is clear, and can help in explaining why so many have come to the fore in pursuit of this opportunity.

It would be entertaining to see representatives of each town go all out in a Royal Rumble, winner-takes-all style bout, but that’s not what the GIB is for. The overall principle is to support low carbon infrastructure initiatives, and it just so happens that this embodies an extremely attractive prospect for U.K. towns and cities in these times of austerity.

Whether a Yorkshire city Leeds the way (oop!) or London capitalises on its already dominant position, the final outcome also remains of vital importance – providing the foundation for significant growth in low carbon technology infrastructure – key in hitting our carbon emissions targets and ensuring greater energy self-sufficiency for UK PLC.