Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) is holding a Green Summit on 21st March, with the aim of collaboratively designing an environmental charter. Ahead of this, a number of ‘listening events’ have taken place, allowing industry, academic and community stakeholders to come up with a shortlist of possible strategic commitments that will then be debated and voted on at the main Summit.
Energy Systems Catapult (ESC) organised and facilitated one of the listening events, which took place last week in Manchester. Titled ‘Smart Energy & Decarbonisation of Heat’, the workshop sought input from a wide range of stakeholders within Greater Manchester, including the University of Manchester, Upside Energy and red.coop and was centred around three broad topics:
- Buildings: How can ‘smart’ solutions such as Demand Side Response (DSR) help decarbonise future connected homes and workplaces?
- Networks: How could energy networks adapt to support decarbonisation?
- Planning: How can we ensure a fair, least-cost transition?
Attendees were split into groups to debate the discussion themes, facilitated by Matt Fawcett of Carbon Co-op, a group of Greater Manchester residents who have teamed up with housing specialists to drive energy transformation at a local level; Lorna Millington of gas network operator Cadent, and our own Richard Halsey.
Discussions were wide ranging, but similar feedback emerged across all three topics, and can be broken down into the following key themes
We need to take a whole system perspective
There was a clear feeling that Greater Manchester could play an important role in driving transformation at a local level by developing an energy strategy that sets out a vision and clear targets for decarbonisation.
Attendees agreed that any strategy must take a whole system perspective that reduces silos (e.g. energy, waste, transport, etc… are considered together), and encourages partnerships, innovation and information sharing.
With specific whole systems analysis and local area planning expertise at ESC, we are in a unique position to support Greater Manchester in driving local strategies forward, acting as an independent partner.
Local energy planning has a key role to play
It is already clear that the journey to decarbonisation of the UK’s energy system includes decentralisation. We can no longer roll out a ‘one size fits all’ approach to planning demand or infrastructure requirements.
At the listening workshop, stakeholders saw a need for energy planning at a local level, which would:
- pave the way for more effective dialogues about future networks
- support decision making across networks, and
- drive real action across Greater Manchester’s 10 districts.
Sharing energy data between stakeholders was seen as a way to speed up Greater Manchester’s ability to address the challenges and opportunities of unleashing the energy revolution.
Greater Manchester already leads the charge in this area: Bury Council is one of only three local authorities currently piloting a new Local Area Energy Planning process (funded by Energy Technologies Institute and delivered by ESC). This could be rolled out more widely in Greater Manchester to support the recommendations of the listening event.
GMCA is also working with ESC to produce a Smart Energy Plan which will set out opportunities to collaborate on innovative energy projects. The GM Summit provides a forum to disseminate and build consensus on the work completed whilst exploring possibilities for future joint activities.
Putting thoughts into action
The listening workshop highlighted support for the development of an Energy Innovation Zone for testing new energy services, and an Energy Enterprise (which could take various roles, including advising, disseminating information, negotiating contracts or aggregating).
These initiatives could link to wider Greater Manchester themes including growth, skills and the industrial strategy.
The views shared at the listening workshop have been captured by ESC and shared with Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, at a roundtable event on 6th March. They will now feed into wider recommendations for the GM Summit later this month.