Last week, I had the opportunity to present our latest Decade to Make a Difference paper – Local leadership to Transform the Energy System paper at its official web launch.
The paper, sponsored by Scottish & Southern Electricity Networks, aims to present the many roles that local government can and should play in decarbonising the energy system. Our net zero city hall diagram provides the structure of the paper; it is an attempt to coherently set out local government’s diverse roles in decarbonising the energy system, as well as the necessary foundations for action and potential innovative approaches to working with the private sector, community organisations and innovators.
National recommendations for central government
As well as highlighting what can currently be achieved by proactive local government, with inspiring case studies, the paper also sets out clear policy recommendations for central government on what it can do to unleash the full potential of local leadership. We discussed four of these in detail through the webinar.
The panel discussion offered the opportunity for a lively discussion of the paper’s themes, with clear consensus that local leadership is vital to put the UK on the path to net zero. We were grateful to be joined in the panel session by:
- Patrick Allcorn, head of local energy at BEIS
- Sheryl French, programme director, Mobilising Action on Climate Change and Local Energy Investment at Cambridgeshire County Council
- Matthew Rhodes, chair, West Midlands Energy Capital
- Steve Atkins, DSO transition manager, Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks
As might be expected given the breadth of roles of local government, the discussion was wide-ranging. For me, a key discussion point, and one that Regen will continue to follow up is radically rethinking how local energy action is funded. Matthew Rhodes made a strong case for local control of energy efficiency funding currently directed through the Energy Company Obligation. Sheryl French backed this up, arguing that the current competition based and stop-start funding model is inadequate in the current climate when “we can’t afford to stop at all”.
The potential benefits of local area energy planning and the need for closer local working with the energy networks also came through clearly in the debate, with Steve Atkins concluding that the important decisions on the future of energy networks are far too important to be left to the DNOs alone.
Patrick Allcorn set out a raft of government policy documents, white papers and consultations that are due to published before the end of the year including the long-awaited energy white paper, a heat and buildings strategy and a white paper on devolution and local growth funding. Regen will continue to work to influence government on the recommendations set out in our local leadership paper over the autumn.
Crucially though, the debate concluded that there is no time to wait for changes to national policy to take place; local leadership on energy issues is needed now. Regen is committed to working with our members and across the public sector to support local leadership in all its many forms – please get in contact with me, Hwilliams@regen.co.uk, to discuss how we could support your area.
To listen to the webinar again click here.