Local Authorities Play Key Role in Clean Energy Provision

17 Nov 2017

Research funded by the UK Energy Research Centre [1] and the Energy Technologies Institute [2], has for the first time mapped energy plans and initiatives across all UK Local Authorities.

The research, undertaken by University of Edinburgh academics, identified all published Local Authority energy plans, and explored projects undertaken to aid the transition to a low-carbon society.

Local Authorities were found to be particularly active in heat and energy efficiency [3]. These are typically areas where they can plan and coordinate action, but which are proving difficult for central government policy.

Local Authority partnerships with community organisations and the private sector, demonstrate alternative business models for energy provision. This provides timely insight into how low carbon heating and energy efficiency can be achieved, with both identified in the Clean Growth Strategy as key areas for progress [4].

The findings are particularly relevant to policy developments in Scotland, with the draft Climate Change Plan currently progressing through Scottish Parliament [5] and the Energy Strategy for Scotland identifying ‘a smarter model of local energy provision’ as a key theme [6]. Alongside this proposals for Scottish Local Authorities to develop Local Heat and Energy Efficiency Strategies are currently being considered [7].

Despite Local Authority progress, barriers need to be addressed if the sector is to make a more significant and systematic contribution to a clean energy transition. Barriers include austerity in public finances, and uncertainty in clean energy policies and subsidies.

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.

The research concludes with key recommendations for UK and Devolved Government, highlighting the need to clarify the role and responsibilities of Local Authorities, and the need to to establish stable policy mechanisms [8].

Janette Webb, Professor of Sociology of Organisations at the University Edinburgh said:

“Local authorities have ambitious clean energy plans, and are key to engaging the public and local businesses with the transition to a low carbon-society.

Local Authorities need clarity from central governments about their role in energy systems, and the resources available to do the job.”

Jim Watson, Director of the UK Energy Research Centre, said:

“This research provides a comprehensive analysis of energy activities by UK Local Authorities.

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.”


Notes to editor

[1] The UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) carries out world-class, interdisciplinary research into sustainable future energy systems. It is a focal point of UK energy research and a gateway between the UK and the international energy research communities. Our whole systems research informs UK policy development and research strategy. UKERC is funded by The Research Councils Energy programme.

[2] The Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) is a £400m industry and government funded research institute, working in low carbon energy system planning and technology development to address UK energy and climate change targets.

[3] The UK wide overview of Local Authorities energy initiatives revealed that three quarters of activity was in heat and energy efficiency for a low carbon, low energy building stock (from a database of 458 energy projects).

[4] Clean Growth Strategy https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/clean-growth-strategy.

[5] The Climate Change Plan http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2017/01/2768 covering 2017-2032 is currently progressing through Scottish Parliament. The new Climate Change Bill will introduce new legally binding emissions reduction targets: http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Environment/climatechange/Newclimatechangebill

[6] Consultation on Heat & Energy Efficiency Strategies, and Regulation of District Heating. http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2017/01/9139

[7] Consultation on Draft Scottish Energy Strategy: The Future of Energy in Scotland http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2017/01/3414

[8] Recommendations for UK central and devolved national governments:

  1. Use the UK Clean Growth Strategy, and devolved national government plans to clarify the role and responsibilities of LAs in energy saving and clean energy, and to establish stable policy and support measures with clear trajectories against a timetable
  2. Consider what additional powers LAs need to deliver their energy-related responsibilities
  3. Consider further the need for support agencies and shared services for LA energy developments including national or regional energy agencies and specialist procurement organisations
  4. Support LA access to low cost, long term infrastructure finance
  5. Review and amend current energy market regulation to support local energy developers and operators, when this represents social, environmental and economic value to the public
  6. Further detail in section 7 of the Report

[9] Access the full report below:

UKERC_ETI_Report_Local_Authority_engagement_in UK_energy_systems.pdf