Local authorities ‘play key role in clean energy provision’
UK local authorities are increasingly active in energy supply initiatives around the country; many of these in partnership with community groups and demonstrating alternative business models. So concludes a research project funded by the UK Energy Research Centre (UK ERC) and the Energy Technologies Institute, which has also mapped energy plans and initiatives across all UK local authorities for the first time.
Undertaken by University of Edinburgh academics, the research identified all published local authority energy plans and explored projects undertaken to aid the transition to a low carbon society. Authorities were found to be particularly active in local heat and energy efficiency projects, typically areas in which they can plan and coordinate action, despite these proving difficult for central government. Also, local authority partnerships with community organisations and the private sector often demonstrate new business models for energy provision.
The research provides timely insight into how low carbon heating and energy efficiency can be achieved, says UKERC, with both areas identified in the Clean Growth Strategy as key areas for progress.
With energy use implicated in every area of public service, ranging from housing and waste, to transport and planning, local authorities are uniquely placed to play a significant role in achieving the UK goal of developing a low carbon economy, says UKERC.
However, despite progress by many local authorities, barriers need to be addressed if the sector is to make a more significant and systematic contribution to a clean energy transition says UKERC. Barriers include austerity in public finances, and uncertainty in clean energy policies and subsidies.
The research concludes with recommendations for the UK and Devolved Government, highlighting the need to clarify the role and responsibilities of local authorities, and the need to establish stable policy mechanisms. Jim Watson, Director of UKERC, said: ‘Whilst local authorities cannot implement the transition to clean energy on their own, the report shows that local government could do much more – and suggests how all levels of government could help to make that happen.’
As if to illustrate the findings of the research, energetik, the energy company owned by Enfield Council in London, has welcomed its first customers. The company supplies low carbon heat and hot water through community heat networks. It will supply over 15,000 homes and businesses in Enfield through a series of heat networks, each designed to expand to reach more customers over time.’
Managing Director, Jayne Clare, said: ‘Energetik’s heat networks are designed to a far higher standard than what’s usual for the UK market. But we haven’t just concentrated on the technical side of things. At every stage, our customers have been our first consideration to make sure their service is reliable: from installing multiple back-up systems in our energy centres, to increasing insulation on above-ground pipework to reduce heat loss, to extended testing and commissioning to make sure everything works as it should before residents move in.’
Plans within Enfield Council to set up an energy company to deliver heat networks began in 2011. Energetik was incorporated in 2015 and the company’s first heat network is now supplying new homes at Arnos Grove, with three more heat networks being developed around the borough in regeneration areas.