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Local area energy planning

Non-specific map illustrating in local planning in general terms

Setting out techniques and quality criteria for effective practice

Project duration: February 2020 to July 2020

This report (published in July 2020) from the Centre for Sustainable Energy and the Energy System Catapult describes the purpose and value of local area energy planning (LAEP).

Whilst there have been subsequent guidance and documents published on Local Area Energy Planning since 2020, this original guidance still stands in identifying four critical elements of LAEP and setting out quality criteria for each element which together define what LAEP ‘done well’ should involve.

To download the report, as referenced in Ofgem’s RIIO-ED2 Sector Specific Methodology Consultation Document, please click the button below.

The report was commissioned by Ofgem and benefited from the input of a Steering Group including the Department for Business Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the Committee on Climate Change, the Scottish Government, the Welsh Government and Innovate UK.

The report is part of a wider project for Ofgem, commissioned in February 2020. This also reviewed:

Defining the purpose and process for local area energy planning

Local area energy planning (LAEP) is a process which has the potential to inform, shape and enable key aspects of the transition to a net zero carbon energy system.

Meeting the challenge of energy system decarbonisation needs local leadership, engagement and initiative-taking. This is because of both (a) the nature and challenges of the systemic changes required (and how they vary between places) and (b) the sheer volume and distribution of people and organisations who will need to be involved in making them.

If done well, LAEP can provide sound foundations for effective and sustained local action to cut carbon emissions taken by well-informed local leaders and initiative-takers. The resulting plan can potentially underpin specific proposals to upgrade local energy networks to enable decarbonisation in line with local objectives. Done well and consistently across many localities, LAEP can inform sharper, more effective and better targeted national policies.

Ofgem commissioned CSE, working with the ESC, to draw up an early methodology and set of quality standards for local area energy planning that could potentially be adopted as a framework used across Great Britain.

Key elements

The report outlines the four key elements that constitute LAEP, and which in combination can ensure these positive outcomes are achieved.

  1. Robust technical evidence. This must use analytical techniques which consider the whole energy system and make consistent use of available data, and whose strengths and weaknesses are well understood.
  2. A comprehensive assessment of wider non-technical factors which need to be understood and addressed to secure change.
  3. A well designed social process which engages appropriate stakeholders effectively, uses the technical evidence appropriately, and manages vested interests effectively. This will help ensure the plan is considered a legitimate representation of local intent in relation to energy system decarbonisation.
  4. A credible and sustained approach to governance and delivery.

CSE’s Simon Roberts said: “It is important to see all of these elements as equally critical. Without an effective social process, the buy-in of stakeholders and an understanding of all the changes needed to succeed, any results from technical modelling will remain an interesting set of data, graphs and maps. It will not become a plan being put into action.”

The methodology report sets out how each of these critical elements of LAEP can be done well, including describing key issues to consider and techniques which could be applied. It provides guidance for those looking to undertake, commission, fund, or simply participate in LAEP on how to approach the different aspects of the process.

Quality assessment framework

By outlining criteria for good quality LAEP – the ‘done well’ checklists for each of the four elements – the document also provides a quality assessment framework. These criteria can therefore not only help guide the design and delivery of the LAEP process. They can also enable a systematic assessment of the resulting plan’s analytical quality, representative legitimacy and likelihood of delivery.

Energy Systems Catapult’s Richard Halsey said: “Scaling up a more effective whole system approach to local area energy planning in the early 2020s is a critical enabler to translating our national net zero commitments into meaningful action in different places and helping to unlock the investment needed in smart local energy systems.”

The work sought to enable LAEP to be undertaken on a more consistent basis in different places across Great Britain. And it will ensure that the process produces more reliable and informative outputs.

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