From LEAR to a LAEP the Yorkshire way

In December 2021, the York & North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership (Y&NY LEP) launched a programme of activities funded by the UK Government through the UK Community Renewal Fund (CRF), entitled ‘Delivering a Carbon-Negative energy system in North Yorkshire’.

This programme consisted of the development of Local Area Energy Plans for the region, and a series of feasibility studies across decarbonising transport, buildings, and energy supply. The City of York LAEP was funded through the Council’s own central budget.

Delivered by Energy Systems Catapult, York & North Yorkshire was the first region in the UK to first develop a Net Zero baseline with a Local Energy Asset Representation (LEAR) before creating Local Area Energy Plans (LAEPs) for all four local areas.

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Local Area Energy Planning: The Time and Place is Now

The Challenge

Each local area is unique, and the right decarbonisation strategy for every area will depend on many things from the geography, building types, energy infrastructure, energy demand, resources, urban growth plans and low carbon ambitions and investment plans of communities and stakeholders.

Around 20% of UK carbon emissions come from residential homes and about 13-14% can be attributed to emissions from heating using fossil fuels. When it comes to York & North Yorkshire currently, the predominant heating systems in the region are gas boilers. In the City of York, this accounts for over 90% of all heating systems currently installed in homes and buildings. Across the ‘The Vale, Moors & Coast’ and ‘Harrogate & The Dales’ areas, the proportion is lower, yet still very high, at 77% and 76% respectively. The A1 Corridor has the lowest proportion of fossil gas boilers at 55%. The remainder is primarily utilising some form of direct electrical heating.

The Y&NY LEP vision is: A resilient low carbon economy, where solutions to address the climate crisis are implemented to make our area a better place to live and create a more competitive economy.

The ambitious target set for the region is to achieve net zero by 2034 across the whole region, and to be England’s first ‘net negative’ region by 2040. These targets put the Y&NY region well ahead of the national plan to achieve net zero by 2050. The City of York declared its climate emergency in 2019 and aims to be a net-zero carbon city by 2030.

The Innovation

At Energy Systems Catapult we are passionate about the role Local Area Energy Plans – our pioneering evidence-based approach that uses whole systems thinking to identify the best route for a local area to achieve Net Zero.

However, we recommend a three step process: (1) start by identifying your baseline, (2) then create a plan, and finally (3) deliver on that plan.

Y&NY LEP firstly commissioned the Catapult to produce a LEAR – using data analysis and aspects of machine learning to provide a baseline of local energy assets, delivering insights such as: energy demand, energy generation, energy storage and distribution assets, social factors like fuel poverty and characteristics like building design types and local geography.

The Catapult then delivered four LAEPs to support the Y&NY region in enabling the transition to an affordable and decarbonised energy system as well as supporting wider socio-economic goals – in a given timeframe.

A LAEP provides a level of detail comparable to an urban masterplan. Our ‘whole systems approach’ explores potential pathways to Net Zero, considering a range of technologies and scenarios – such as deploying different heat decarbonisation technologies in different areas to avoid a high-cost upgrade of the electricity network. When combined with stakeholder engagement – incorporating their data, knowledge and future plans – a LAEP is built on a common evidence base so that council planners, network operators, businesses and community groups know they are working towards a common Net Zero goal built on strong foundations.

The scope of the LAEP covers the current energy consumption and associated greenhouse gas emissions, as well as the projected consumption in a defined area to 2050, primarily focussing on the area’s built-environment (all categories of domestic, non-domestic, commercial, and industrial buildings) and some aspects of energy used for transportation.

Shaun Gibbons, Head of Carbon Reduction at City of York Council

“The York Local Area Energy Plan has served an important role in articulating the scale of the net zero challenge and setting specific targets against some of our most pressing actions. It has provided a robust evidence base for external funding applications and has resulted in the Council accessing funding several times greater than the original cost of the plan.”

The Solution

One of the key outcomes was the identification of approximately 386,000 dwellings across the York & North Yorkshire region, of which around 216,000 of homes will require energy efficiency upgrades to reduce the amount of energy being used to heat them. This is in addition to commercial and industrial buildings.

The 216,000 dwellings requiring energy efficiency upgrades are split across the region with:

  • 71,000 dwellings in ‘Harrogate & The Dales’
  • 61,000 in the A1 Corridor
  • 44,000 in City of York
  • 40,000 in ‘The Vale, Moors & Coast’.

The level of energy efficiency upgrade is not consistent across the LAEP areas with older dwellings with solid walls requiring ‘deep’ upgrades e.g. solid wall insulation, triple glazing, door upgrades etc. More modern dwellings typically require only ‘basic’ upgrades e.g. loft insulation, cavity wall insulation, draughtproofing, etc..

The Impact

The Local Area Energy Plans for North Yorkshire and City of York, future scenarios and emissions trajectories have been considered which are consistent with the Carbon Abatement Pathways (CAP).

The region has multiple pathways now outlined to them to follow to reach their goal of Net Zero by 2034 and to become the first net negative region in England by 2040.

The LAEPs, whilst setting big challenges which will require a level of investment for the city of York alone of around £3.8bn, also offer some significant opportunities, including:

  • Cheaper energy bills
  • Homes will be more comfortable, with reduced instances of damp and mould
  • Local air quality will be better
  • Local communities will be able to own energy generation assets.

Tied into all of this will be added economic benefits too, from job creation in installation and maintenance of low carbon technologies, through to a more resilient local energy system.

The plan aims to find cost-effective ways of removing carbon emissions from its energy system and identifies the need in the City of York for:

  • 20,000 new connections to a district heat network
  • 44,100 homes retrofitted with insulation improvements
  • 24% of homes generating their own electricity with rooftop solar panels.

Next Steps

The challenge now is for local decision makers is to try and capitalise on the LAEP and the pathways it outlines and use it to leverage financial support from external investment, the private sector, insurance companies and others to help deliver the decarbonisation challenge.

Energy Systems Catapult, modelling technical lead, Karl Sample said: “ the LAEPS for York & North Yorkshire will require the retrofitting of 32 homes and the installation of 1,500 solar panels per working day”.

The City of York is already building on the work of the LAEPs with a successful bid to Innovate UKs Pathfinding Places programme. The funding is being used to accelerate Net Zero in parts of the city by understanding the non-technical barriers to decarbonisation. The project involves a consortium of partners including City of York Council, Energy Systems Catapult, University of York, Abundance Investment and Brightsparks.

Cllr Kate Ravilious, Executive Member for Environment and Climate Change at City of York Council

“The Local Area Energy Plan (LAEP) has allowed us to understand the challenge of decarbonising our energy system and gives us a list of actions that build towards our net zero ambition in York. It has already provided evidence that helped secure funding, and is being used to help prioritise which projects will have the most impact and give the best value for money.”

Read the Report

York & North Yorkshire - Local Area Energy Plan

STEP 1: Identify your Net Zero baseline

Local Area Asset Representation

STEP 2: Get your Net Zero action plan

Local Area Energy Planning

Step 3: Deliver your action plan

Net Zero Go

Net Zero Places

We empower and advise Local Authorities, Network Operators, and Central & Devolved Governments to take Net Zero action

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