On your doorstep – energy priorities in the local elections

Local elections take place tomorrow across England as 150 councils elect new councillors. Once these would have been of limited importance to the energy sector. However, in recent years local councils have taken a leadership role in both retail and generation. The rise of a diverse range of local-authority backed energy suppliers such as Bristol Energy and Robin Hood Energy has been well-documented. Moreover, recent research by the Solar Trade Association highlighted the role of councils in the low-carbon generation space, with the top 10 councils collectively investing £80mn in the technology. At the national level Labour this week announced plans to save 4mn households at least £270/ year by providing £2.3bn/ year of funding for local authorities to deliver “street by street” home insulation schemes.

What insights then can be gleaned into the future energy priorities of key local authorities? Many local political parties produce manifestos ahead of polling day, committing to actions for future years. Below are five examples of the pledges made by the main parties:

  • In Leeds, Labour are encouraging individual drivers to switch to ultra-low emissions vehicles by offering residents free parking for ULEVS and installing a network of more charge points for EVs. Labour also highlight a record of cutting CO2 emissions by 16% since 2010, pledging a continued drive to make the city more energy efficient.
  • In Plymouth, Labour pledge to recommit the city to becoming carbon neutral by 2050. The opportunities of community energy are particularly highlighted, with the party looking for opportunities for renewable energy generation across the city, including micro-generation. Plymouth Labour will also install more EV charge points, including in residential areas.
  • In Newcastle, Labour plan to maximise the uptake of energy efficiency schemes. The party will also challenge bus operators to move to zero emissions fleets and will bid to government for funds to help increase the infrastructure supporting EVs. Newcastle will also work with neighbouring authorities to examine the economic case for a new waste to energy facility.
  • In Kingston, the Conservatives plan to speed up the conversion of all street lighting to LED and will explore the introduction of intelligent street lighting to reduce energy costs. There is also a pledge to install up to 300 new electric car charging points and ensure that all council vehicles will be electric by 2020, and
  • In Sutton, the Liberal Democrats commit to deliver a “ground-breaking” decentralised energy network – the SDEN. Phase 1 of the SDEN network will be capable of supplying 3.3GWh of heat to around 725 homes and a supermarket at a nearby development. The council states the scheme has a maximum potential to deliver heat to 19,000 homes. Also proposed is a borough Electric Bike scheme.

The one trend that is strikingly apparent is the strong commitment and enthusiasm among councils to take a role in leading the transition to electric vehicles, whether providing the necessary infrastructure or utilising the direct influence councils have over their own fleets and public transport. Councils are clearly also continuing to explore the opportunities offered by local generation assets that have a viable business case.

Cornwall Insight’s sister organisation Pixie Energy has been involved in mapping local energy assets across East Anglia.