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Harnessing your energy potential

Vicky Kingston, strategic director for energy at Local Partnerships, a joint venture between the Treasury and the LGA, considers the role that councils can play in the success and future expansion of the energy sector.

Local authorities play a pivotal role in the development of regional energy resilience, lowering household energy bills and improving business competitiveness.

Delivering these objectives and ensuring that benefits can be realised locally can present a significant challenge.

Whilst there is increasing recognition by local authorities of the integrated nature of energy policy objectives, significant opportunities to achieve corporate goals are being missed unnecessarily.

Energy policy needs to be linked to the council’s overall priorities for the true potential to be understood and the benefits realised. Those benefits run across a wide range of areas – from revenue generation and cost saving to housing development and regeneration, and economic growth and new jobs.

In the context of environmental challenges, the phrase “think global, act local” is highly relevant to councils which seek to address poverty and improve carbon performance. As a major supermarket chain says: every little helps.

Many local authorities have sought to replicate the projects they see others pursuing. But these may not be the best projects on which those authorities should focus, so the effort – and money – may be wasted.

In recent years, I have seen two main causes of project failure: a lack of internal buy-in, and a lack of integration or consideration within existing council plans. These have resulted in project delay, cancellation and increased costs.

There is huge potential for local authorities to deliver on a range of energy projects, and these run across three primary areas. The first is energy consumption – by reducing spend on energy supplied to council-owned buildings, for example. Second is energy supply, where councils can become a fully licensed or white label energy supplier to residents and businesses. The third is perhaps the most novel and innovative: energy generation. Councils can use assets they own, such as land and buildings, to generate local power from natural sources and create income. It can take imagination and persistence, but there is support available to make the journey much smoother.

The first step toward success is for local authorities to understand the corporate drivers affecting the delivery of integrated energy projects. This must be at both a council and regional level, with specific delivery opportunities identified.

Where energy is considered and integrated at the early stages, local authorities reap the benefits. Cambridgeshire County Council is one such authority. It has developed an integrated energy strategy that ensures projects are clearly linked to council objectives. Of vital importance is that non-energy-led projects consider the effects of energy infrastructure, resilience and local benefit during the planning stages.

To support councils through this process, Local Partnerships developed a new integrated assessment and management toolkit, the Energy Assessment and Strategy Tool. This gives councils a helicopter view across all their services and functions, helping identify where climate and energy considerations could feature as a priority. Authorities can tap in to expert, on-site support to review existing project pipelines and consider additional projects to deliver against multiple strategic objectives. Councils may then identify specific opportunities, encourage activity and create a portfolio of projects, as well as explain supporting factors.

At Local Partnerships, we work only for the public sector. Our combination of expertise and knowledge of the public and energy sectors supports local authorities to create a robust strategy and programme of opportunity. This allows them to realise their full potential, and to succeed.


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