Local Engagement in UK Energy Systems
01 Jul 2014
Working with the Energy Technologies Institute, Mags Tingey, Dave Hawkey and Jan Webb completed a pilot study exploring local engagement with energy systems. The work, an extension of the Heat and the City project, examined levels of local engagement across all 434 of the UK's local authority areas, and drew together a wide array of datasets with original collation of data.
Findings show that almost one third (30%) of the UK’s 434 local authorities are actively planning, and investing in, energy productivity and provision. Most of this activity is on a limited scale with only 9% of UK authorities showing evidence of significant numbers of energy project investments. We characterised this 9% as "Energy Leaders" and found they displayed multiple routes into engagement, including economic regeneration, housing upgrades and affordable warmth, energy productivity, avoided costs of alternatives and environmental protection. Particular regions of the show considerably higher levels of local authority engagement, notably London, Scotland, and Yorkshire and Humber, and energy leaders tend to be metropolitan and larger authorities.
Preliminary exploration of the relationship between local authority engagement and levels of low carbon technology deployment (not restricted to local authorities’ own deployment) shows strong association with non-industrial Combined Heat and Power (CHP). Relationships between engagement and small (under 10MW) renewable electricity generation appears marginally significant. “Levelling up” deployment of non-industrial CHP across all areas to the levels of the most engaged authorities would imply significant acceleration in deployment rates. The limited pilot research modelling suggests that the impact of this is small (under 10%) in terms of the UK energy production.
This work will continue under the Local energy infrastructure operation & governance project with support from the Energy Technologies Institute. This work will use qualitative data gathering to explore some of the quantitative relations our pilot work uncovered, in order to build a better picture of the factors supporting and constraining local engagement with energy. We will also engage with UK energy system modelling to help form a clearer picture of the contribution and impact local energy could realistically have in future.