Local government and the path to net zero inquiry: consultation response

Published: 30 April 2021

The UK Government has committed to a target of net zero greenhouse emissions by 2050. It intends to achieve this through a combination of cutting the levels of green house gasses emitted and developing schemes to remove greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere.

New measures announced included changing building regulations to ensure new homes are “zero carbon ready”, improving energy efficiency when built and removing the need for expensive retrofitting in the future.

The Government also plans to install 600,000 heat pumps a year by 2028 to improve energy efficiency. However concerns have been raised about the cost of such a proposal. Local governments are responsible for a range of areas that could also play a key role in the UK’s efforts to reach the net zero target. This includes local transport, recycling and waste disposal.

This inquiry examines if the Government’s proposals for establishing planning guidelines and building regulations to reduce the UK’s household emissions. It will examine if the current emphasis on heat pumps as a long-term solution to increase energy and ask if other options may prove more viable.

The Committee will also investigate what other, non-domestic, measures local government can take to contribute to the UK’s emissions reduction targets.

Key points

Energy Systems Catapult finds Local Authorities currently have very few powers and responsibilities to deliver on often lofty climate ambitions. Many authorities have ambitious targets, driven by declarations of climate emergencies, but very few have robust plans.

As a result, investment is limited and tends to rely on sporadic pots of funding. This limits the potential of new low carbon businesses to thrive, and for supply chains to grow, across our regions.

But the current policy framework inhibits the significant potential of Local government to influence the net zero agenda through:

  • Implementing and overseeing policies on buildings, transport, and land use.
  • Enabling the development, deployment, and expansion of low carbon offerings, by integrating spatial planning powers with energy planning.
  • Supporting energy efficiency standards, renewable energy planning and increasing uptake of district heating where applicable.

Energy Systems Catapult proposes:

  • Local Area Energy Planning – Introduction (or mandating) LAEP t0 provide a data-driven approach to analysing the cost-optimal, low-carbon solutions for a local area. such plans need to be joined up across vectors and sectors. It is vital that local government pursues a whole energy systems approach to buildings, industry, power, and transport by following a strategy that gives confidence to innovators and investors towards a clear path to net zero.
  • Training and Skills – Net Zero targets will require both retraining and upskilling the current workforce, as well as identifying training programmes and accreditations for a new generation of tradespeople – for assessment, advice, integration and evaluation of low carbon technologies.
  • Digital and Data – While working with a number of local authorities to develop Smart Local Energy Systems (SLES), the Catapult has identified the need for both national and local initiatives not only to improve data access and availability but also to build or acquire the skills needed to process that data to inform investment and planning decisions.