Regen is launching a paper on the local delivery of heat decarbonisation. In this blog, Poppy Maltby, head of cities and regions at Regen, explains why the role of local authorities is so important, what national government can do to support them, and hints at some of the recommendations in our forthcoming paper.

You can sign up for the online launch of the report here.

Levelling up heat decarbonisation

Local government and local leaders, with their unique reach into communities, will be critical in delivering a transformation in how we heat out homes and buildings. Solutions to decarbonising heat are necessarily local, varying by region, building and household.  

Funded by the European Climate Foundation, we have been exploring what specific powers and roles local authorities should take in decarbonising heat, and how national and local government can best work together to address the challenge.  

There are many inspiring examples of local leadership on decarbonising heat that show what can be achieved. However, there is a lack of clarity on local authorities responsibilities and funding is patchy at best – one reason we are so far off course on our targets. 

“The UK is currently only installing 6 per cent of the heat pumps, 9 per cent of the cavity wall insulations, 3 per cent of the loft insulations and 2 per cent of the solid wall insulations needed by 2028 to keep pace with net zero.” (IPPR,  Pump Up the Volume)  

The government’s Net Zero Strategy recognises that a transformation in how we heat our homes and buildings cannot be achieved without local government playing a leading role.  

“We will also take a place-based approach to net zero, working with local government to ensure that all local areas have the capability and capacity for net zero delivery as we level up the country” (UK Government, Net Zero Strategy) 

We have talked to hundreds of people involved in the heat decarbonisation challenge in recent months. Two broad roles for local government emerged:  

  1. A stronger voice and role in the development of local energy and heat infrastructure. This means local authorities having a say in the development of critical energy network infrastructure as well facilitating investment in shared heat infrastructure including heat networks.
  2. A key role in priming local markets for retrofit and heat decarbonisation by strategic use of public sector procurement, supporting local supply chains and ensuring high quality ‘whole house’ assessments are available to the able-to-pay early adopters.

As the government brings forward a range of measures on heat and buildings, as well as the levelling up agenda, there is an opportunity to transform the ability of local authorities to deliver these roles effectively and cost efficiently.  

The Scottish Government has pioneered the way forward with their Local Heat and Energy Efficiency Strategies (LHEES), providing a clear methodology and data to support the requirement on all Scottish local authorities to conduct heat and energy efficiency strategies.  

By contrast in England, with the exception on the new heat network zoning, local areas are either waiting for guidance, or taking lots of time and resource to work out independently what they should do, with significant inefficiencies from replication of effort, increasingly the cost of net zero delivery.  

The government’s role is, therefore, not just in ensuring there are clear roles and funding for local authorities – but also in developing methodologies, data and policy frameworks to avoid replication of effort and cost at local authority and regional level.  

Our report sets out six specific recommendations towards a clearer framework of local powers on planning for and delivering heat decarbonisation, including: 

  • Local authorities should all carry out ‘energy efficiency zoning’ within a national methodology based on housing stock and factors such as fuel poverty and local climate. This methodology and zoning would replace the existing system of short term competitive funding rounds, and facilitate a long-term funding structure based on need with local authorities delivering areabased and targeted energy efficiency and heat initiatives.  
  • Local government should be using strategic procurement and local partnerships to develop their nascent local markets for retrofit and heat decarbonisation, supported by a national structure and standards. Local government could also use the changes to State Aid rules to link these retrofit programmes and initiatives into apprenticeships, adult education and local skills funding.  

Our research has found that there is no shortage of pioneering and inspiring local initiatives on decarbonising heat but these exist unevenly across England. Where local authorities are taking action there is a real danger of replication increasing the cost of net zero.  

What we now need is a clear national framework of powers and funding to release the potential of local government to lead this transformation equally across England.  

Sign up to the online launch of Regen’s new paper, Local Delivery of Heat, on 6 July @ 1pm.  

 


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