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Local energy in an age of austerity: preserving the value of local and community energy

Local energy creates economic, social and environmental benefits, but how can councils drive the green agenda in the face of austerity and current policy?

Local energy creates economic, social and environmental benefits, but how can councils drive the green agenda in the face of austerity and current policy?

Key Findings:

  • Bringing energy under local governance not only supports economic growth and energy security, but also strengthens local resilience, builds social cohesion, reconnects people with energy, and improves health.
  • Local authorities already engage with the energy system in a number of ways, from generating renewable energy and installing district heating networks, to delivering energy efficiency services.
  • Council funding cuts, diminishing support for renewables and uncertainty over future green policies, will make local energy projects much harder to deliver.
  • Closer relationships with community energy groups, and new forms of public, private and community partnerships, could help local authorities continue to benefit from local energy projects in an age of austerity.

Local approaches to energy have created a wide range of opportunities and unexpected economic, social and environmental benefits. Bringing energy under local governance has helped strengthen local resilience, promoted economic growth and social cohesion, delivered energy security, and improved health by tackling fuel poverty. But with further cuts to funding and uncertainty over the future of green policies, it will be increasingly difficult for local authorities to benefit from these opportunities.

This paper looks at how working more closely with community energy groups, and building public, private and community partnerships, could help councils continue their green agendas. These initiatives offer insights into how a future energy system could create opportunities that go beyond energy, putting people, communities and local resilience at its heart.

Policy Recommendations:

  1. Local authorities should look to community energy partnerships for innovation, greater social impact and a way for local energy schemes to survive council budget cuts.
  2. Where possible, local authorities should avoid selling off assets and use council–owned buildings and land to develop local energy schemes.
  3. Local authorities and community groups should work together to create long–term local energy strategies and forward–thinking policies which can make the most of emerging opportunities and technologies.
  4. LEPs could play a more important role in developing local energy projects, but local authority and community involvement are essential to developing local resilience.
  5. New forms of public, private and community partnerships should be explored.
  6. Part of DECC’s innovation programme fund should be targeted at local authorities and community projects which are developing innovative solutions to the problems of distributed energy systems.

Author

Harry Armstrong

Authors

Harry Armstrong

Harry Armstrong

Harry Armstrong

Head of Technology Futures

Harry currently leads Nesta’s futures work, exploring the potential impacts of emerging technology and innovations, like Artificial Intelligence, on industry, society and the economy...

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