Electricity generation is responsible for 15 per cent of UK greenhouse gas emissions. Although emissions from electricity have fallen due to a larger proportion of the UK’s energy coming from renewables, further development of low-carbon energy infrastructure is required.
Electricity generation is responsible for 15 per cent of UK greenhouse gas emissions. Although emissions from electricity have fallen due to a larger proportion of the UK’s energy coming from renewables, further development of low-carbon energy infrastructure is required. Climate Change Committee pathways anticipate that electricity demand will double between 2020 and 2050, as we electrify transport and heating systems.
There are regional, council-level and place-based opportunities for councils to engage in energy generation and decarbonisation. These range from creating sustainable council strategies and policies, consenting to new large-scale infrastructure projects, and supporting community renewable energy and micro-grids, to making data available for innovation and energy management.
The energy generation routemap suggests interventions that could embed sustainability in council services with a focus on energy, complementing existing council projects and actions. It enables reflection on your work in this area and how things could be improved.
This is the beginning of an ongoing piece of work for the LGA. These interventions are a first draft and we will be adding and amending them based on initial feedback. We welcome your thoughts on how we can improve and grow what we have started. Please fill in the feedback form (opens in new tab) to let us know your thoughts.
How to use the routemaps
The routemaps provide a menu of interventions council staff can reflect on and consider applying to their role, team or service area. Some may require collaboration and partnership with colleagues, other service areas, businesses or communities. Others may be within the remit of individuals to explore.
The routemaps are not broken down by service area or council type, as the themes are cross-cutting and affect all councils and service areas. Instead, the routemaps present categories and sub-categories of interventions, based on their potential to drive change and achieve the project goal.
Some of the interventions councils could consider include:
- Exploring whether space could be used more effectively, for example, using rooftops, car parks or other open spaces for renewable energy installations.
- Fitting solar panels on all council buildings.
- Having council buildings without carparks to encourage different ways to travel to work.
- Replacing private parking with car-sharing services.
- Rethinking how existing infrastructure is used – could it be used differently?
- Introducing council bike schemes for staff travel.
- Consider using energy from waste plants to dispose of unavoidable waste.
- Creating council/community energy partnerships.
- Installing community-owned infrastructure to feed into a sense of place.
- Building local wind or solar farms.
- Installing hydrogen infrastructure, especially for rural communities.
- Exploring the feasibility of community heat schemes and combined water source heat pump and mains gas schemes, for example, Cambridge County Council.
- Researching potential sources of renewable energy to expand existing infrastructure.
- Using mine water heating systems – these could be a high number of small-scale, geographic area-specific projects.
- Investing in small-scale local renewables using smart meter technology, for example, Durham County Council.
Council policy and regulation
Council policy and regulation interventions relate to local council policies and strategies.
- Implementing local authority planning policy to promote energy efficient homes and businesses.
- Sharing common policy goals with other councils and organisations to drive wider action, for example, co-ordinated action during the Covid-19 pandemic.
- Adopting council policy to facilitate retrofitting and micro-energy on historic buildings, for example, Lancaster Local Plan Examination.
- Developing local plans to include provision for developments to connect to district energy networks or be capable of connecting to proposed networks (SCB).
- Making sure solutions are inclusive, for example, some service users will need a car.
Funding and investment
Funding and investment interventions relate to budgets and funding controlled and distributed by councils.
- Exploring sources of funding to invest in council buildings, for example, Salix.
- Setting up a Green Investment Fund to back renewable energy projects, for example, Liverpool City Region’s £10 million fund.
- Introducing programmes to provide loans for energy measures from county council local energy investment funds, to reduce schools’ energy bills and enable them to generate income.
- Setting up a green energy fund raised from electric vehicle (EV) charging points to invest in additional infrastructure.
- Sharing resources with other councils within the region to support low-carbon investment.
- Divesting pension funds from fossil fuels.
- Creating partnerships to deliver innovation and renewable energy infrastructure.
- Funding renewable infrastructure using bonds with ethical investments, for example, Warrington Solar Farm and Battery Storage.
- Buying from local suppliers to encourage local manufacturing and investment in the local economy.
- Purchasing electricity from solar farms, for example, City of London’s Power Purchase Agreement with Dorset Solar Farm.
- Holding a citizens’ assembly to build understanding and appetite for sustainability policies and gauge the ease of implementing them.
- Sharing information with the community.
- Launching web resources at the onset of projects and updating content regularly.
- Running training to build media literacy and increase understanding of information.
- Delivering training to empower staff to act in their own sphere of influence.
- Supporting renewable energy training through involvement with the Skills Council – this could also be implemented through partnerships with colleges and universities, for example, Dundee City Council.
- Councils can find out how to partner with their local universities though the LGA and UCL’s Net Zero Innovation Programme.
- Upskilling young people to deliver local renewable energy projects, for example, Repowering London.
- Funding reskilling schemes for local people to enable renewable installations to be developed, for example, East of England Offshore Wind Skills Centre funded by Norfolk and Suffolk councils.
- Engaging elected members directly with climate action work, including collaboration with other councils.
- Creating partnerships to deliver renewable energy infrastructure and projects.
- Collaborating with the renewable energy sector to share knowledge and identify land for renewable energy projects, for example, Stroud District Council.
- Bringing stakeholders together to identify local needs and develop solutions collectively.
- Adopting multi-authority collaboration approaches for procurement and development to benefit from cost savings for at-scale projects, for example, renewable infrastructure and EV networks.
- Setting up an independently led climate hub with external partners to act as a steering group.
- Bringing stakeholders together around co-benefits that can drive climate and sustainability action, for example, Islington Council Seasonal Health Intervention Network (SHINE).
- Using technological solutions to enable better sharing of resources.
- Creating and sharing case studies to spread good practice.
- Producing regular internal communications to develop a culture of action.
- Combining the construction of solar farms with measures to increase biodiversity, for example, planting wildflowers in Leicestershire City Council
- Bringing stakeholders together to help vulnerable people access support, including energy efficiency measures, for example, Islington Council Seasonal Health Intervention Network (SHINE).
- Working with partners to enable people to buy hours of comfort rather than kWh, with a focus on local energy and creating local jobs, for example, Bristol City Council Energy Smart System Transformation.
- Using local contractors to build and maintain community wind farms to benefit the local economy and provide income for local investors.
- Using existing infrastructure for completely different purposes, for example, changing roads to cycle lanes.
Mindsets and beliefs
- Using existing infrastructure for completely different purposes, for example, changing roads to cycle lanes.
- Building council buildings without car parks to encourage people to travel to work differently.
- Changing working practices to move away from the 9-to-5 model to reduce travel issues.
- Providing financial information to counter opposition to investing in bonds with ethical investments, for example, Sefton Council.
- Demonstrating a stronger commitment to sustainability.
- Adopting distributed responsibility governance to empower people across all service areas to embed sustainability into their roles and services.
- Reducing private parking and encouraging car-sharing services.
- Turning the lights off at night in council buildings.
- Increasing the focus on energy reduction rather than just using renewables.
Cambridgeshire County Council
Triangle Solar Farm in Soham, Cambridgeshire, is a 12 megawatt 70-acre solar farm which launched in 2017. The site generates enough electricity to power 3,000 homes.
The farm currently makes a net revenue of £350,000 a year for the council, which will rise to £1 million when the loan that funded the project has been repaid. Funds generated have been invested in social care services and have prevented cuts across council services, demonstrating social benefits alongside carbon reduction. Investment in post-pandemic recovery has been facilitated through the funds raised, with new projects including the North Angle Solar Farm, which incorporates land management to promote biodiversity.
A former landfill site is being reviewed to provide a solar farm and battery storage site. Park-and-ride sites are also being redeveloped to create smart energy schemes and demonstrators, including canopies over car parking fitted with solar panels, battery storage and EV charging points. The scheme makes use of local resources in research and industry and works on long-term capacity building, including finding reliable contractors and focusing on replicability. Setting up an expert renewables team and financial modeller among the council officers has allowed for greater engagement by people within the authority and a better understanding of risk.
Stroud District Council
Stroud District Council has taken a proactive approach to renewable energy, by putting renewables at the centre of its local plan. The council identified suitable areas for new wind or solar installations in the area in a ‘policy map’, which included early engagement with local communities. The approach included commissioning land use consultants and the Centre for Sustainable Energy to draw up models for renewable energy opportunities. The project also drew on local assets to harness benefits such as job creation, extensive youth involvement, and community support. The end report provides a map of current and future renewable energy schemes (commercial and community-owned) and an evidence-based resource to enable space for developing renewables to be maximised while meeting legal obligations.