Why your council should consider sustainable energy

Local authorities have a central role to play in sustainable energy. From August 2010 local authorities have had the right to sell electricity, thereby allowing them to set up energy companies. The bottom line is - renewable energy is an investment opportunity for local government.

Consider the following opportunities:

  • Invest to earn - The opportunities for generating secure long-term revenue streams from investment in energy projects are significant. This could help to replace budgets cut by the Government's spending review.
  • Invest to save - Revenue from investment in energy projects can also be a way of permanently reducing energy bills or fuel poverty. For those authorities subject to the CRC Energy Efficiency scheme investing to save will be a key financial consideration. Money saved on energy bills could be used for additional savings or to implement innovative energy projects.
  • Industry and employment - Local authority led energy projects are more likely to generate more local jobs or skills base since the council will have greater control over the choice of project, its objectives, and future expansion. Especially if projects are developed as part of a wider energy strategy.

In addition, local authorities are in a unique position to develop certain types of energy projects and help their residents identify community-owned energy schemes.

  • Some projects, particularly area-wide energy infrastructure, such as district heating, are unlikely to happen without local authority leadership due to their complexity and probable diverse land ownership.
  • Local authorities own more than 10 per cent of land (1 million hectares) or assets in the UK. A significant proportion of this land is likely to contain energy opportunities. This could be roof space or vacant land for solar panels or connecting buildings with a district heating system.
  • The Government estimates that there is potential for local authorities to develop 2GW (Gigawatts) of large-scale, cost effective wind.

Even where involvement in an energy project is limited, local authorities can play a coordinating or supporting role. This could enable other project developers to recognise and take projects forward. For example, they can help communities identify projects and set up appropriate business structures - such as a community interest company (CIC). Or they can help low income groups to benefit from the feed-in tariff by installing photovoltaic (solar) panels on public sector housing.

New opportunities through building regulations

For more introductory information on councils and sustainable energy see the guide, 'Sustainable energy options: How do you choose the right solutions for your area?' This booklet summarises the experiences of the councils that are featured as case studies in the Compare renewables resource. discussing their motivation for initiating energy projects and some of the lessons that they learned through the process. The guide is aimed at local authority strategic leaders, specifically: elected members, portfolio holders and senior officers.

Sustainable energy options: how do you choose the right solutions for your area?

6 March 2013

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