Better procurement for a brighter (local) net zero future

Guest Comment by Vicky Kingston

Strategic Director for Energy at Local Partnerships

Public procurement can play a pivotal role in the delivery of local energy projects on the pathway to net zero. However, public procurement has been raised as a barrier to working with the public sector by investors, technology developers and service providers, as well as local authorities themselves.

Across the UK, current methods of procuring local energy projects are considered expensive and inefficient, and even more so the procurement involved in joined-up, scaled-up energy projects that form a smart local energy system (also called SLES).  Approaches are frequently based upon previous experience rather than best practice or market insight, often precluding innovation and failing to generate the economic, social, and environmental benefits required.

Across the public sector, there are several examples of local authorities abandoning procurements after months of investment, being successfully challenged and failing to meet their original aims for the projects.

The importance of improving public procurement practices and ensuring lessons learned is critical for the success of future energy projects at the scale required to deliver against our net zero ambitions.

In 2021, research conducted by Energy Systems Catapult identified a series of public procurement barriers and these were placed into three key categories:

  1. The culture of local authorities was considered a key barrier to effective procurement practices. Some issues raised included levels of risk appetite, the need for upskilling and knowledge sharing; areas that can be effectively managed with help and support.
  2. Procurement processes in local government were considered unnecessarily lengthy and complicated, making them costly for the council and the suppliers that are bidding and tying up the time of key staff. The incompatibility of timings for procurement practices, planning requirements and government funding sources were also cited as a key challenge for the successful procurement and delivery of schemes.
  3. The ability to navigate procurement processes and assess what, if any, guidance and material is available to support councils.

So how can our spending and procurement decisions help us achieve our net zero ambitions?

To help address the issues raised and identify a series of recommendations, Energy Systems Catapult and Local Partnerships conducted a review of routes to market for the development and delivery of energy projects and an assessment of what support and information was available to help councils in this space.

There are several established routes to market for local authorities selecting a public sector procedure to assist in the delivery of their net zero ambitions. This includes a proliferation of frameworks available to the public sector. However, navigating through these options and identifying which, if any, are appropriate for the delivery of a particular project or set of projects is another key barrier to effective public procurement.

Likewise, there are many guides available which aim to assist councils in the procurement of local energy projects, but many do not cover the routes to market for local energy projects and are not always known to or accessed by local authorities.

Our research concluded that there should be a mechanism to allow for:

  • A decision tree to assist project teams to identifying the relevant procurement route for their project/ programme aims
  • Comparison between potential frameworks
  • Sharing/signposting existing guidance, template documentation, process checklists and other materials
  • Sharing best practice and lessons learnt in outcomes-based procurement.

Net Zero Go is Energy Systems Catapult’s response to this research – launching on 23rd March.

Funded by UK Research & Investment, supported by Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and informed by local authorities, the platform will help UK councils navigate the complexities of developing and delivering local energy projects.

Incorporating new tools and resources to simplify and de-risk procurement (approved by and developed with Local Partnerships), Net Zero Go aims to address many of the barriers facing council teams when it comes to realising and replicating their energy initiatives.

As well as procurement, this includes decision making and business case support, finance and funding guidance, and help to start on the local energy journey.  By addressing potential procurement pitfalls, the platform offers a practical solution for public procurers and energy teams wanting to turn the ambition of cleaner, smarter local energy into action. Better procurement for a brighter (local) net zero future.

Net Zero Go Launch Event


Wednesday 23rd March 2022



Map Pin


Duration: 1.5 Hrs

Register now

About Local Partnerships

Local Partnerships is proud to be part of the public sector family. A joint venture between the LGA, HM Treasury and the Welsh Government, it helps local and combined authorities to face the ever-increasing challenge of meeting rising demands for services with shrinking budgets, with particular regard to their net zero journey.

Want to know more?

Find out more about how Energy Systems Catapult can help you and your teams