Local authorities across the UK are beginning to take control of their own energy future and are starting to invest in decentralised networks that bring down prices, improve energy security, cut carbon and make communities more prosperous and resilient. The scale of the challenge is huge, but so is the opportunity. Public bodies all around the country are looking into what decentralised energy can do for them. If every local authority in the UK with a potentially viable scheme found a way to bring that project to market then we would trounce all current targets and predictions.(1)
By August 2019 more than half the UK’s principal councils had declared a climate emergency, making it one of the fastest growing environmental movements in recent history, according to the Local Government Chronicle (LGC). 205 of the UK’s 408 principal authorities (county, unitary, metropolitan, London boroughs, district) have declared a climate emergency, committing them to take urgent action to reduce their carbon emissions at a local level. The Local Government Association has itself declared a climate emergency and agreed to establish the Climate Emergency Network to support councils and lobby central government. (2)
Radiation Free Lakeland published a report in June 2019 on why Lancaster City Council should embrace the local energy revolution, not old, dangerous, centralised, redundant nuclear technology.
For more information about what is happening around the UK, read the Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) various briefings on the subject. Its first was published in August 2014: Development of Local Authority Energy Service Trusts/Companies – part of the answer to a new energy revolution?
The NFLA’s first a comprehensive overview of how Councils in England, Scotland and Wales are moving rapidly forward in developing decentralised energy policies was published in October 2016.
The NFLA’s second update on the continuing progress of decentralised energy nationally and internationally was published in May 2017. It reviews innovative policy within this area which can help local government move forward with developing such projects. It shows the important and essential role local government can play in the development of low carbon energy.
The NFLA’s third annual assessment of the ‘state of play’ amongst Local Authorities in the development of local, or decentralised, energy projects, strategies and policies was published in May 2018. The report again provided a large number of best practice examples.
The Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE) Energy provide support and promote best practice in the development of renewable and decentralised energy in the UK. The NFLA reported in November 2018 on APSE’s 2018 Energy Summit to update member authorities on the ‘state of play’ in decentralised energy so that they can keep appraised of new and interesting policy developments.
In May 2019, NFLA also published a Policy Briefing to provide Councils with practical ways to develop strategies that support climate change mitigation and low carbon renewable energy at a time when local government is going through one of the most financially challenging periods in its entire history. This Policy Briefing is structured in two parts. The first considers in some detail some of the practical solutions that Councils from across the UK and Ireland are developing to inspire and fund low carbon strategies and policies. The second part gives a thorough analysis of some specific examples of best practice across local government. It provides some tangible evidence of the hard work that is going on, along with targeted finance, to develop specific energy generation, energy efficiency and energy storage projects.
Friends of the Earth has published a briefing on 33 Action a Local Authority can take on Climate Change.
All Cumbrian local authorities could start by carrying out an audit of council property, including council houses, schools, and land, to assess the potential for renewable technologies. A programme of investment could then be drawn up with a view to achieving a target of 100% of buildings to be provided with some form of low and zero carbon technology by 2030.