A collaboration of local authorities recently came together to launch APSE Energy in Parliament. Hosted by Dr Alan Whitehead MP, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Renewable and Sustainable Energy Group, the keynote address was given by secretary of state for energy and climate change Ed Davey. Among those addressing the meeting was David Kilduff, partner and head of energy, infrastructure and government at Walker Morris (APSE’s legal partner in this initiative).
The meeting was attended by more than 60 representatives from local authorities and affiliated organisations and was chaired by councillor Leon Unczur of Nottingham City Council and APSE National Chair 2013–14. Other speakers included Paul O’Brien, chief executive of APSE, and Mick Lovatt, corporate director for environment at Preston City Council.
Davey articulated his support for the initiative as part of the armoury to help address the issues of lowering energy prices, decarbonising power generation and keeping the lights on. Fuel poverty was recognised as a critical area of attention for local government and he announced that a new fuel poverty strategy would be launched shortly recognising a pivotal role for local authorities.
He commented that it was not only electricity that should be a cause for attention but also heating and in particular community heating. Collective switching had not addressed fuel poverty and heat strategies were a vital way forward. The department was making available resources centrally to build capacity to deliver schemes locally and this would continue.
Community energy required local authorities to be at the heart of the initiative in local generation and distribution — helping facilitate to the Big Six. He cited both the OVO ‘community energy tariff’ and the Greater London Authority’s strategy to secure a Licence Lite permission to facilitate its supply of lower-cost energy in the capital.
In addition, he mentioned the work of government in bringing forward measures to address property considerations currently affecting both shale gas and geothermal energy exploitation. He referred to the drive to deliver higher-efficiency heat networks and the challenge of ensuring that planning policies dovetailed with energy strategy, in particular enabling the delivery of renewable heat systems.
The secretary of state concluded with explaining his passion for water source heat — especially in urban areas — and how this and other relatively novel technologies needed to be understood by planning officers so as to help smooth the process. His department would continue to work at this capacity building and knowledge development. He also committed himself to help respond to requests from APSE and its members to deal with obstacles in their drive to deliver on the energy agenda.
Kilduff urged local authorities to have the confidence to embrace the opportunities presented by the energy agenda and said that most of what they might want to do could be achieved with existing powers and in partnerships and joint ventures with others in the market. Over the last 20 years, local authorities have had substantial experience of delivering complex projects, partnerships and outsourcings using a blend of internal and external support. This experience remains valid.
Doing nothing or not enough is a wasted opportunity — in their roles as services provider, energy purchaser, asset manager or delivering economic and social objectives, authorities can embrace and influence the agenda.
Authorities need to prioritise the opportunities and navigate their way to successful delivery by achieving clarity on their policy objectives and priorities and by adopting strategies for delivery to ensure proper governance, resourcing and project management. By selecting and working with experienced partners, authorities should have a high degree of confidence in their ability to secure the benefits be they economic or social.