Introduction to energy planning

This section summarises the process that some local authorities are using to plan strategically for sustainable energy.

Developing an energy opportunities map

Energy opportunities maps, or energy maps, are a useful way of presenting information that can be used in the preparation of planning and corporate policies and in community engagement activities. The PPS1 Supplement on Planning and Climate Change was the principal driver for this kind of exercise. Increasingly, local authorities are using them to shape area-wide energy visions and strategies for future growth.

Energy opportunities maps are being used as a starting point for identifying the potential for:

  • types of technologies and suitable locations
  • linking projects together or sharing energy centres
  • phasing energy projects with other development
  • improving the viability of development sites by collocation with a strategic energy project.

Energy maps are normally GIS (Geographical Information System) based and often prepared at the neighbourhood, local authority or sub-regional scale. They can show information on heat density for district heating, wind, biomass, solar, hydro, energy from waste and other sustainable energy resource. This information is shown alongside details of existing and future energy demands and locations of anchor loads or proposed new development.

These maps are an invaluable resource for policy-making, developing energy visions and for project developers. Their spatial nature means that planning departments are ideally placed to lead their preparation, but other departments should be involved.

Examples of energy maps can be seen in Blackpool, North Hampshire (Basingstoke, Rushmoor and Hart), Eastbourne, Cornwall (Camborne, Pool and Redruth AAP), Greater Manchester (10 AGMA authorities), Stockport, Enfield, Bassetlaw, Cannock Chase, Waveney and London. More information on energy maps, their preparation and use can be found in 'Community energy: planning, development and delivery'.

Stockport used and energy opportunities study to develop policies for their core strategy and wider carbon management policies. More information is available in this case study:

Stockport's energy opportunities and policies

Developing a shared energy vision

Planning and corporate policies can be developed using an energy opportunities map. An energy map can be an important part of the evidence base. Maps enable policies to be targeted at specific energy opportunities and can be a valuable resource for community engagement. Local authorities can use energy maps to talk to residents, community groups and developers about the potential for local energy projects and to develop a shared energy vision.

Based on the types of energy opportunities present in an area, their scale and likely timescales for realisation, an energy vision should:

  • set out priority technologies and projects that can make a real difference and deliver wider benefits to the town
  • explore the relationship between people, businesses, places and energy
  • inspire and galvanise support among politicians, potential partners and the wider community.

Agreement should be reached over the respective roles of each stakeholder in making these a reality, be they a project developer, investor, coordinator or decision maker. The vision should have political buy-in and be adequately reflected in all relevant plans, strategies and actions.

Spatial planning or corporate policy making

Developing planning or corporate policies that seek to deliver sustainable energy can differentiate between types of opportunity. These fall into two broad categories:

Building integrated - especially microgeneration, delivered as part of a property development scheme or retrofitted onto existing buildings. Project developers are likely to be property developers, local authorities, individuals or communities.

Strategic energy generation and infrastructure - either connects new and existing buildings (such as a town centre district heating network) or is a standalone energy project (such as a wind turbine or solar farm). Project developers are likely to be energy developers, local authorities or communities.

Policies can be targeted at these different categories and project developers. Importantly, they should seek to support implementation of the energy vision.

The Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) publication, 'Planning for climate change: guidance and model policies for local authorities', is a good source of information on policy making. This recommends that policies:

  • focus on delivering the opportunities set out in energy maps
  • avoid duplicating requirements in Part L of the building regulations (this affects building integrated technologies particularly).

Planning for climate change: guidance and model policies for local authorities

Evidence base

Developing the resource, vision and policies described above needs to be underpinned by a robust evidence base. The Government has clarified that local and regional planning evidence bases, including energy, will continue to form an important part of planning and decision making.

Many evidence bases for planning policies have focused on providing detailed technical information. This is designed to demonstrate the viability of development-integrated sustainable energy policies and targets. These studies can be costly and perhaps of limited value since changes in the economic climate can quickly render them out of date.

After 2013, building regulations will render planning policies designed to deliver development-integrated energy unnecessary. The issue of financial viability for planners will therefore become far less critical. However, evidence bases remain necessary and should focus on developing a resource (that is, an energy map). The evidence base should be designed to support:

  • corporate and planning policy makers
  • development managers - providing information for assessing planning applications
  • project developers - helping them to choose between energy options.

This approach should result in a practical and straightforward evidence base; one which provides better value for money. 'Community energy: planning, development and delivery' contains more detail on what should be included.

Community energy: planning, development and delivery - on the Combined Heat and Power Association (CHPA) website

21 March 2011

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