The energy transition is likely to look different in Oxford than in Orkney, and Ofgem’s decision represents a positive step to plan for an energy system that better reflects local needs and ambitions across the UK. Regen has advocated for a more localised approach for some time (see our Energy Networks for Future paper).
The new RESP will work with electricity and gas networks, local authorities and wider stakeholders to better enable strategic, whole-system planning of the energy system at a regional level. The exact regions are to be decided, but Ofgem has suggested there will be 10-13, with one for Wales, one or two for Scotland and the remainder for England.
This has the potential to enable more coordinated, democratic input into energy system decision making, recognising the important role that local areas must play in delivering our national net zero targets – and the importance of the energy system to unlocking regional social, economic and net zero aspirations. To enable this value, our earlier consultation response developed with local authorities highlighted that the RESP needed to be a dynamic and collaborative partnership, built on open and iterative engagement.
There is a lot of detail to now be developed. What are the new roles and responsibilities in shaping and delivering regional strategic plans? What should governance look like to maximise value across the board? Where do regional plans sit within the wider system planning and scenario landscape? How can regional citizen and community energy organisations, for example, help shape strategic energy plans? And how can partners collaborate effectively towards shared regional ambitions in practice?
It is also vital that local network and decarbonisation planning continues to develop while the Regional Energy Strategic Planner is established, building on the positive work that already happens within networks (such as the evolution of Distribution Future Energy Scenarios) and the increasing efforts of local, combined and devolved authorities to drive their own energy projects.