Local Area Energy Planning - The Time and Place is Now

To meet our Net Zero targets we need local action, carried out in a strategic, cost-effective way, backed by significant investment.

Local Area Energy Planning (LAEP) is a integrated planning approach – pioneered by Energy Systems Catapult – designed to define detailed place-based whole energy systems pathways and delivery plans for Net Zero. LAEPs can coordinate, quantify and de-risk that investment at scale and has now been, or is being, undertaken by around 1 in 6 councils in England and Wales as of September 2023. Progress is gathering pace: only 15 Local Area Energy Plans had been completed or were underway by the end of 2021.

The process is set out in the Guidance for Creating a Local Area Energy Plan, produced by Energy Systems Catapult with Innovate UK support.

Ensuring and supporting the development of LAEPs led by local councils within a defined framework, will provide the platform needed for them to shape the energy transition. A nationally endorsed and supported approach, including funding and guidance, would empower local authorities to convene and lead Local Area Energy Planning, and reap the benefits of delivering a Net Zero whole energy system in a co-ordinated and localised way.

This approach would also deliver a key part of the CCC’s recommendation to establish ‘a clear process and governance framework for energy planning across national, regional and local levels’. It is not enough to focus on policy in one arena. Alignment between spatial and energy planning, and the involvement of local communities, is critical and can be facilitated by LAEPs. This should help to lay the groundwork for changes to the institutional landscape e.g. proposals by Ofgem for Regional Systems Planners.

To get to Net Zero, we need to urgently act. The time for a place-based approach is now – there is huge potential to develop local energy resources and skills. Some areas are racing ahead with LAEPs and realising the benefits, whilst others are in danger of being left behind.

Even if the UK government decides it is too early to support delivery of full LAEPs, we believe urgent action is required to provide a consistent framework for places to utilise to build a robust understanding of local needs and demands. This would enable every local area to progress action consistently but at the level of depth and breadth it is ready for, eventually leading in to a full LAEP, as an integrated plan.

Key recommendations

This report also sets the recommendations needed to ensure the quality, consistency and momentum of LAEPs is maintained, and that confidence is given to the market to support continuing development:

  • Recommendation 1 – LAEP Guidance should be adopted and endorsed nationally as the framework for place-based whole energy system decarbonisation planning. Informing other public funding and ensuring consistency across the UK.
  • Recommendation 2 – Funding all areas to undertake a full LAEP, or as a minimum, whole energy system baselining (following Stages 1-3 of the LAEP guidance – aka a Local Energy Asset Representation).
  • Recommendation 3 – LAEP should be embedded within the National Planning Policy Framework, and future energy network institutional and governance arrangements to consistently align spatial and energy systems planning (as shown in Wales).
  • Recommendation 4 – Establishing scope for consistent data inputs across the UK to ensure all plans are comparable, interoperable and easier to refresh and update.
  • Recommendation 5 – Centralised support for local authorities to build LAEP capability and capacity.

Read the Report

Local Area Energy Planning: The Time and Place is Now

Local Area Energy Planning

Our pioneering evidence-based approach uses whole systems thinking to identify the best route to Net Zero for your local area

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