The path to net zero will not be the same in Oxford as it is in Orkney. Local authorities have a key convening and leadership role in agreeing decarbonisation pathways that meet the needs and ambitions of local communities.
Critical to the ability of local places to deliver these net zero ambitions will be having the right energy network infrastructure, the pipes and the wires, to enable low carbon projects to get built.
The engagement between local authorities and energy networks has greatly improved in recent years, particularly around the Local Area Energy Plans and Distribution Future Energy Scenarios – the planning process used by all Distribution Network Operators.
Ofgem, the energy regulator, recently came forward with proposals to create regional system planners (RSPs) to ensure network infrastructure is ready for net zero.
In response to the consultation, Regen interviewed 13 local authorities, devolved government and community energy stakeholders to understand how energy system planning should work at a regional level, how the RSP could interact with the broader net zero landscape, and what functions and governance this would require. Sponsored by Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN), the interviews were used as an evidence base for the consultation responses from both Regen and SSEN.
The stakeholders welcomed the proposal and the need to create a whole-system regional plan. Interviewees were however keen that the RSP developed a collaborative approach that builds on existing processes.
In particular, they wanted to see the RSP as leading an iterative and open process rather than being ‘black box’ where results are provided without explanation or transparency:
Regen’s consultation response drew on these findings, calling for an approach to RSPs that builds on work already going on between energy networks and local authorities to create an open partnership approach to regional energy system planning that responds to the needs of local places.
Following the consultation response, we will be continuing discussions with Ofgem to shape the development of the RSP. If you are interested in engaging with this, please email Hannah Stanley, stakeholder manager (email@example.com)