Local Area Energy Planning: Insights from three pilot local areas

Published: 12 December 2018

Local Area Energy Planning was pioneered by Energy Systems Catapult to help inform and support local authorities, distribution network operators, business and communities to plan for a cost-effective low carbon transition to achieve Net Zero.

LAEP: Insights from three pilot local areas outlines this new, whole system approach to planning and design of local energy systems in:

  • Newcastle
  • Bury in Greater Manchester
  • Bridgend in Wales.


Smart Systems and Heat Phase 1 (2015-2017)

LAEP was created as part of SSH1, which focused on developing capabilities, tools and insights for Local Energy System Modelling and Domestic Energy Services and was delivered by the Energy Systems Catapult for the Energy Technologies Institute.


Energy Systems Catapult has worked on three pilot local area studies exploring the decarbonisation of heat in buildings The pilots identified decarbonisation pathways and energy network choices based on the geography, buildings, energy infrastructure, energy demand, resources, urban growth plans and decarbonisation ambitions for each local area.

These are all able to achieve the near complete decarbonisation of heat using existing technologies. The most cost-effective and desirable pathway for different local areas is influenced by a combination of  factors, but all are heavily dependent on national energy system pathways – particularly the decarbonisation of national electricity supply.

Key points

There is no one size fits all solution and it is be important to retain optionality and flexibility in network and building choices as part of a Local Area Energy Planning process, supporting an affordable transition to low carbon heating. However, some common themes emerged from the pilot studies:

National policy

National government can enable local decarbonisation in several ways:

  • A supportive policy and regulatory framework is needed for investment in future-proofed energy network infrastructure if this is to be planned, managed and delivered efficiently
  • Continued support for the vision to decarbonise national electricity generation by 2030 is required to achieve decarbonisation in local areas
  • Continued support for a wide range of different low carbon heating options, including heat networks, electrification, bio-fuel and hybrid so lutions, is required.

Local planning

Local Area Energy Planning should include:

  • Implementing a Whole Systems approach to aid an understanding of the options, inform the most appropriate combinations of network choices, fabric upgrades and heating systems in different places and allow more effective decision making
  • Setting clear local carbon budgets for emissions associated with buildings at levels above a 90% reduction on 1990 levels to support an acceleration in the decarbonisation of heat
  • Creating an open dialogue between key stakeholders, including local government and network operators, based on robust evidence to aid consensus-based decision making
  • Recognising there are just two windows of opportunity to change any individual heating system between now and 2050.

Local action

There are some local activities that could be undertaken immediately:

  • Planning for the potential expansion of heat networks to connect existing homes and buildings over time
  • Planning and targeting domestic retrofit schemes
  • Delivery of new development to high standards of fabric energy efficiency and future-proofed to enable a transition to low carbon heating systems
  • Ensuring that sufficient skills and resources are available within local areas and network operators.

Development and demonstration

The following activities proved to be valuable across all local areas:

  • Development and demonstration of integrated low carbon electric heating solutions
  • Development of smart heat storage solutions at domestic and network levels
  • Demonstration of hybrid heating systems as a potential transitional technology, particularly for hard to heat homes.

Data gathering

Improving knowledge of several areas would support the quality of Local Area Energy Planning:

  • Investigation of the costs and impacts of low carbon gas, including hydrogen pathways, on local energy systems
  • Identifying sources of low carbon heat able to supply networks in local areas
  • Better understanding of the types and uses of non-domestic buildings and the options and costs to decarbonise them.