Celebrating South Yorkshire’s Decarbonisation Journey

On Tuesday 9 November, COP26’s Science & Innovation day was marked in South Yorkshire by a Regional Roadshow.

Taking place at ITM Power's Sheffield Gigafactory, the conference was a highly anticipated meeting of business leaders, media, local government, academics, and industry figures to spotlight the region’s low carbon transition.

Business Doncaster were in attendance at the event hosted by ITM Power in collaboration with the University of Sheffield.

The focus was on how business, industry, local authorities, and academic organisations were contributing to the nation’s net zero journey. Compered by Louise Marix Evans, Director of Quantum Strategy & Technology Ltd, the one-day climate change conference kicked off with an inspiring address from our CEO Dr Graham Cooley. Then it was over to Dave Petley from the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) who provided a personal perspective on the drastic impact of climate change. He offered key areas where research can support the wider green transition, providing proactive steps towards a better tomorrow. 

Following Dave was Labour MP for Barnsley Central and South Yorkshire Mayor, Dan Jarvis. He delivered an address that was stark, but ultimately hopeful, laying out how regional authorities are a crucial catalyst in supporting and enabling businesses to decarbonise.

Despite the magnitude of the topics being discussed, the event was not without levity. Poet Matt Harvey impressed with his green hydrogen and renewables themed poetry, which succinctly put across the clean versatility these incredible energy sources offer.

The first panel of the day was firmly focussed on driving zero fuel carbon switching – a topic that South Yorkshire, as one of the nation’s industrial and clean energy heartlands, is uniquely equipped to explore. The panel was chaired by Rachael Rothman from the Grantham Centre (a collaboration between the University of Sheffield and the Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment). As well as providing an overview of hydrogen, Rachael touched on the challenges of fuel switching and the work needed to significantly upscale the proliferation of green hydrogen.

After Rachael’s address, panel speaker Professor Mohamed Pourkashanian, Head of the University of Sheffield Energy Institute, explored the key pillars of decarbonising the global energy system. Crucially, he highlighted the importance of technology in fuel switching. Then it was onwards to the panel in earnest, which was completed by Peter Hogg, Development Director at Liberty Steel; Rob Ireson, Innovation and Partnerships Manager at Glass Futures; Dr Sinan Al-Bermani, Senior Development Engineering at Sheffield Forgemasters; and Sally Brewis, Head of Regional Development, at Cadent. Each provided unique insights into how their respective company was progressing with zero carbon fuel switching – whether that’s in the production of steel, gas, or glass.

It was on how renewable energy can be fully utilised that the second panel was focussed on. Chair Professor Serena Cussen, Head of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Sheffield, began the panel with an inspiring, eye-opening presentation, offering insight and perspectives for renewable energy transition. She was followed by panel speaker, our CEO Dr Graham Cooley, who spoke on the importance of energy storage in overcoming grid challenges. 

The expert panel was completed by Dr Jean-Michel Bellas, Sales Engineer at E.ON City Energy Solutions; Ben Morgan, Director of Research at the AMRC; Dr Solomon Brown, Research Centre Director at CDT Energy Storage; and Jo Holden, Director of Sustainability at Peel L&P. As well as some fascinating insights from the panel, there was also great questions from the audience on topics such as the transportation of renewables, locality, policy, what kinds of collaboration do we need and more besides. As well as highlighting the challenges and the work still to be done, the panel ended on an inspiring note: micro changes add up and, together, we have the power to change the world.

The third and final panel of the day was all about creating career opportunities for the net zero workforce. First up, Nikki Jones, Chief Executive of the AMRC Training Centre highlighted how empowering young people to seek careers in STEM and renewables will be critical to creating a net zero workforce for the future. To that end, she discussed the exciting pathways available to young people at the AMRC Training Centre and across the University of Sheffield.

Next up, Zak Barker, a mechanical engineering on student placement at Ardagh Group, took us on his amazing journey from leaving school to becoming a degree apprentice with the University of Sheffield and the AMRC. He spoke passionately about his journey and the amazing efforts that Ardagh is doing to decarbonise.

Then it was over to Bhavina Bharkhada, Head of Policy and Campaigns at Make UK Campaigns, who explored how the organisation is supporting businesses to sustainably transition to reach net zero. The key takeaway was that this means bolstering skills to achieve this transition and to create a true green economy.

Lastly, but by no means least, our Head of HR, Kathryn Connell, officially launched the ITM Academy. We’re committed to empowering and educating people within the renewables industry and inspiring others to join. There’s nothing more important than developing the capability of our workforce. The Academy will allow us to do all that and more.

Throughout the day, delegates were able to visit stands across the conference floor, forging vital new connections and further cementing themselves in the region’s incredible decarbonisation journey. However, this timely conference didn’t shy away from the challenges and the work still to be done. But if the experts and leaders in attendance were anything to go by, there’s a real hunger to reach net zero. The future is green.


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