West Wales Zero Carbon Zones
Harnessing the social benefits of a decarbonised energy system
Project duration: January 2016 to July 2016
The Welsh Government is committed to developing in line with EU's 10-year jobs and growth strategy (knows as 'Europe 2020') which aims to create the conditions for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. An important part of this is to move to a low carbon economy in a way that creates positive socio-economic benefits for local communities.
There are, of course, big challenges to achieving this, among them the reliance of local economies and energy systems on national, and even international technological networks, regulatory frameworks which inhibit disruptive change and a lack of public buy-in for certain new projects.
It’s within this context that the Welsh Government and the councils of Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire and Swansea commissioned us, in partnership with Eunomia, to research how the creation of zero carbon zones (ZCZs) could help to achieve decarbonisation goals whilst delivering other public benefits such as local employment and reduced levels of fuel poverty.
Low, or zero carbon zones that have been established in the UK and have targeted communities with energy efficiency measures and behaviour change programmes have generally been successful. However, an important first step for the research project was to explore what ZCZs might mean practically in West Wales and to develop a replicable approach to identifying and assessing potential zones.
To this end, the research team created a routemap which outlines the necessary conditions for an area to progress rapidly to a zero carbon energy system.
This includes, for example, the presence of an existing ‘catalyst’ energy generation project, such as a community wind turbine, district heating system or new low carbon housing development. This kind of project can kickstart the transition to a zero carbon zone by linking up energy generators with consumers and creating a network of relationships between supply and demand within a given area.
In previous work we have done for the Welsh Government we highlighted the importance of consciously shaping technological change, particularly in relation to the opportunities presented by smart data on energy generation and use. ZCZs are likely to rely heavily on smart tech to create a networked system that is flexible and resilient to change. As such ZCZs can act as a demonstrator of how to successfully use this technology to create a smart, low carbon economy.
The research also identified a number of case study areas that have the best potential for becoming a ZCZ, and detailed the next steps to make these case studies a reality. It is hoped that these areas can become practical examples of Wales' energy transition in a way that works for local people.