Identify the best route for your local area to achieve Net Zero using our pioneering whole systems, evidence-based approach.

5D76234B-9183-4B1B-ADDF-31027C04CC9D Created with sketchtool. A29472C4-2295-4798-ADEF-101CF5EDB496 Created with sketchtool.

Data-driven, collaborative and cost effective Net Zero action plans

Local Area Energy Plans (LAEP) are recognised as the leading method for translating national Net Zero targets into local energy system action with plans that are collaborative, data-driven and cost-effective.

Every month around 10 new local councils commit to taking climate action by pursuing a LAEP, with the overall number fast approach 100 in total.

LAEPs are led by local government and developed collaboratively with defined stakeholders. The results are a fully costed, spatial plan that identifies the change needed to the local energy system and built environment, detailing ‘what, where and when and by whom’. LAEP sets out the total costs, changes in energy use and emissions, and sets these out over incremental time periods to meet the 2030 target of a 68% reduction in emissions, and the 2035 target of a 78% reduction in emissions, and net zero by 2050.

  • LAEP provides the level of detail for an area that is equivalent to an outline design or master plan; additional detailed design work is required for identified projects to progress to implementation.
  • LAEP defines a long-term vision for an area but should be updated approximately every 3–5 years (or when significant technological, policy or local changes occur) to ensure the long-term vision remains relevant.
  • LAEP identifies near-term actions and projects, providing stakeholders with a basis for taking forward activity and prioritising investments and action.

The LAEP scope addresses electricity, heat, and gas networks, future potential for hydrogen, the built environment (industrial, domestic and commercial) its fabric and systems, flexibility, energy generation and storage, and providing energy to decarbonised transport e.g. electricity to electric vehicles and charging infrastructure.

Actions to be addressed when developing the plan include: stakeholder engagement and a social process that considers both technical and nontechnical evaluation, using robust cost inputs and standardised assumptions and data sets, multiple future scenarios/ pathways, whole system approach, spatial analysis (including zoning and data granularity), temporal analysis, network infrastructure impacts, and developing the plan through a credible and sustained approach to governance and delivery.

Dots pattern Dots pattern

Frequently asked questions

Got a question about the LAEP process? Find the answer below.

What are the aims and objectives of a LAEP?


A LAEP identifies the ‘what, where (and how many), and when’.

At its heart a Local Area Energy Plan (LAEP) should identify the best route for a local area to meet its Net Zero targets but also contribute to the country’s targets too. Critically it identifies the ‘what, where (and how many) and when’.

By being data driven, it provides an area with a level of detail equivalent to an outline masterplan, resulting in a fully costed, co-ordinated spatial and visual plan, identifying the change that is needed to the local energy system and the built environment.

LAEPs must be created collaboratively between local government, energy network operators and other key local stakeholders, but crucially, it is led by local government to provide democratic accountability.

A LAEP sets out the total costs of delivery, changes in energy use and emissions over incremental time periods in line with national and local Net Zero targets.

Critically, rather than more opportunistic identification of individual projects, a LAEP provides an organised plan, at building level, to deliver on a Net Zero target. This includes the size of investment required in different asset types, and confidence they are the right mix of interventions from a whole energy systems perspective

When done well a LAEP can and is being used to get invest into a local area to support the delivery of an areas Net Zero transition because it provides an evidenced based plan. This includes such things as where energy network investment is required, and how many EV charge points should be installed and at what cost, as well as spatial locations.

What are the data requirements to support a LAEP within a geographical area?


Crucial to making a plan truly localised is obtaining relevant local datasets.

The starting point is using nationally available datasets including such things as EPC ratings, Ordnance survey maps and housing survey information, these tend to have a level of spatial detail that allows values to be extracted for a local area. Using these datasets allows consistency of approach between different local areas, this should not require local stakeholder resource or effort to provide these and can be processed and analysed by desktop research.

But then crucial to making a plan truly localised is obtaining relevant local datasets. Although most local areas may have similar data, the format and level of detail may be different. Local stakeholders are essential in providing much of this data and should be consulted as to what might be available. Those delivering the plan will need to assess and judge which of the identified locally available datasets they want and need to use, and this will vary according to local priorities.

What are the typical resource requirements within a geographical area to carry out a LAEP?


Primary stakeholders are responsible for creating the LAEP.

It is expected that the two types of stakeholders identified here always act as primary in every LAEP. They include:

  • A single local government organisation who will own and have overall responsibility for leading creation of the LAEP and coordinating other input from stakeholders.
  • Network operators (electricity, gas, heat) who will play an active role in shaping the content and direction of the LAEP, contributing, and supporting the lead organisation in decision making.

Those organisations will need resources available to support the creation of the LAEP. The biggest resource is needed by the local authority who own and have main responsibility. But contributing stakeholders like the DNO will need allocated resource as well.

As a guide, the lead local authority will probably need to allocate approximately 1 day a week resource commitment which might vary at different stages of the LAEP process. Then on top of that other local authority representations will be needed to give inputs throughout the process, from workshops and to time around making final decisions.

Secondary stakeholders are responsible for supporting the lead local government organisation in creating the LAEP, contributing to the decision-making process. There is less resource demand on secondary stakeholders.  Secondary stakeholders include:

  • Local citizens
  • Other local government organisations. For example: neighbouring local government organisations. local government organisations at different tiers (e.g. county council, combined authority), other departments from the lead local government organisation (e.g. housing)
  • Large public sector, industrial, or commercial energy users in the local area
  • Community energy organisations
  • Net Zero Hub
  • Social housing providers

The lead local government organisation has ultimate responsibility for determining which organisations it would like to contribute as primary stakeholders, and which organisations it would like to contribute as secondary stakeholders. The list provided here is not exhaustive; exactly who is involved in each LAEP will depend upon the local area.

What are the typical timescales from commencement to completion of a LAEP?


Time taken varies from place to place.

Depending on the scale of the area, and number of individual plans to be developed, the time it takes to complete a LAEP can vary. For example, does the LAEP cover an individual local authority or a region with multiple local authorities. A LAEP programme could take around a year, but LAEPs can be delivered faster dependant on scale and scope.

Energy Systems Catapult is continually innovating the LAEP process to establish ways to deliver that achieve pace while maintaining robustness.

What are the intended outputs from a LAEP?


Good LAEP outputs show what needs to be done, when and how.

The final LAEP is a place-based plan that enables whole energy systems coordination and should include the following:

  • The chosen pathway with sequenced interventions that set out the area’s proposed route to Net Zero.
  • A ‘plan on a page’ that provides an at-a-glance impression of the scale of least regret interventions across the different geographical zones of the local area.
  • Visual focus zones for all the prioritised activity associated with getting to Net Zero.
  • Outline priority projects, providing users of the LAEP with priority interventions to take forward.
  • Breakdown of investment to decarbonise the local area aligned to the main components
  • Next steps: Being the key immediate/near-term activities and actions needed to progress the LAEP.
  • Corresponding data sets that can be used for a future LAEP update or by organisations to support project/implementation activity.

A good LAEP and especially the plan on a page should give an area a useful data visualization tool to show what needs to be done, when and how. But the report is a moment in time and will need to be refreshed either around the five year mark or if there are significant changes in government policy or advances in low carbon technology.

Is the analysis produced set in stone or is there some flexibility in the outputs?


LAEP outputs are not set in stone.

A LAEP gives a robust data-led analysis of a preferred pathway to Net Zero for a local area, it is based on assumptions and information at the time of publication. A general refresh of the modelling data could happen around every five years.

LAEP is all about innovation, so we are constantly looking at how it can be improved. The main time a LAEP report needs to be reconsidered and refreshed is if there has been any major changes in such things as government Net Zero policy or major advances in technology or for example, if a local area has approved new significant housing expansion or a new industrial site for example.

What does a LAEP not do?


LAEP is not a silver bullet to Net Zero.

A LAEP is a masterplan but it isn’t a detailed delivery plan. A LAEP provides the basis for understanding what is needed and what whole energy based system change is required.

It is a starting point. It doesn’t tell you how its all going to happen and be funded, but it does gives you a plan to enable a local area to co-ordinate its efforts based on the data and chosen pathway. It also doesn’t give you a detailed street by street design. But it does help work out priorities, projects and consider how they can be delivered and paid for.

Creating a LAEP is an important activity in support of transitioning a local area to Net Zero. However, creating a LAEP will not deliver decarbonisation unless the pathways and interventions that it highlights are implemented.

Can you provide examples of how it has been used as a springboard to make a difference?


LAEPs are transforming project delivery.

We’ve seen areas such as Greater Manchester using their LAEPS to attract public and private sector investment and progress project delivery on the ground:

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester: 

“To help catalyse action we are the first city in country to develop and adopt Local Area Energy Plans. These plans provide a clear roadmap for everyone to support the net zero carbon transition and help us make a greener and fairer Greater Manchester. The plans have identified a £12 billion investment opportunity in our wider public estate including heat networks, social housing retrofit, renewable energy generation and public sector retrofit. The time to  act is now!”

In York and North Yorkshire they started off on the LAEP journey by understanding the current make up and energy demands of their region (a Local Energy Asset Representation) this then progressed into four LAEP plans across the region. That is now being used to look into delivery approaches and turn ideas into action on the ground, whilst also being used to attract investment.

Shaun Gibbons -Head of Carbon Reduction – York City Council:

“The York Local Area Energy Plan has served an important role in articulating the scale of the net zero challenge and setting specific targets against some of our most pressing actions. It has provided a robust evidence base for external funding applications and has resulted in the Council accessing funding several times greater than the original cost of the plan.”

What does a good LAEP look like?


A good LAEP takes many forms.

At its core a good LAEP gives a local area a highly visual granular plan that shows what needs to be done, where it can be done, when it can be done.

For example, how many heat pumps or solar panels your area might need and what are the costs to install.

A good LAEP will include the following:

  • The chosen pathway with sequenced interventions that set out the area’s proposed route to Net Zero.
  • A ‘plan on a page’ that provides an at-a-glance impression of the scale of least regret interventions across the different geographical zones of the local area.
  • Visual focus zones for all the prioritised activity associated with getting to Net Zero.
  • Outline priority projects, providing users of the LAEP with priority interventions to take forward.
  • Breakdown of investment to decarbonise the local area aligned to the main components.
  • Next steps: Being the key immediate/near-term activities and actions needed to progress the LAEP.
  • Corresponding data sets that can be used for a future LAEP update or by organisations to support project/implementation activity.

What are the seven stages of the LAEP process?


Prepare, engage, map, model, choose, identify, and create the plan.

Prepare – In this stage, key for a good LAEP is to ensure that mobilisation includes having an understanding of how the LAEP is going to be used afterwards by local government. This may include considering if it is better placed to try and develop a LAEP regionally with partners or individually.

Engage – A good outcome is that all major stakeholders  who are going to play a role in delivering net zero in a place support/are bought into the LAEP

Map – Representing the local area and its energy system with a very high level of spatial granularity (ideally at building level) is important as this provides the building block to identifying the what, where and how many in the LAEP

Model – technical robustness of the modelling/analysis is so important, a good outcome is being confident with the proposed solutions when compared to other options from a whole energy system perspective – you need to be able to explain why options have been selected

Choose – Looking across options and scenarios for trends to identify where energy system decisions are low regret e.g. a heat network is always a good option for a place when compared to other options

Identify – Breaking down all of the activity in a LAEP in a sequence, prioritising what to do in the short term (where low regret / less risk) versus key decision points and less certain (longer term activity)

The plan – Spatially visualising, to a high degree of detail, the what, where, how many and how much (e.g. how many EV changepoints in this post code area and how much)  – this is what organisations use to take forward activity, not lots of technical writing. Also providing the outputs as data to be used and kept up to date.

My DNO is doing something, what does that mean for my LAEP? (How do we work better with DNOs?)


DNOs are investing in place-based solutions.

Network operators are seeing the benefits of local areas undertaking LAEPs as it is helping them to inform their energy network planning and investment.

We’re also seeing DNOs invest in tools to help them visualise the current system and identify some immediate projects. These tools are useful to see the current system and identify some short term opportuinties but aren’t planning the future energy system.  Outputs from these tools can and are being used in the development of LAEPS and are providing really useful datasets and evidence.

Moving forward we hope LAEP outputs which do set out the future energy system change could be incorporated into these different DNO tools.

Will it be funded?


The Catapult is calling for a national LAEP framework.

Many of the current LAEPs which have been delivered have benefited from public sector funding through Innovate UK, shared prosperity funds as well as other funding bodies.  But cost remains an issue for many.

To ensure LAEPs are consistent, in terms of their structure and content, a standardised approach across the country is desirable but is not currently the case. The Catapult has called for the LAEP framework to be adopted across the UK, because consistency between plans across regions and nations allows plans to be compared and consolidated, creating a picture of progress to Net Zero across larger geographical scales.

In our The Time and Place is Now report we also called for the funding for all places in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland to deliver a full LAEP, or as a minimum whole energy system baselining following Stages 1-3 of the LAEP guidance (if government considers it too early to mandate full LAEP delivery).


A range of technologies will get local places to Net Zero.

A LAEP sets out the change required to transition an area’s energy system to Net Zero in a given timeframe. This is achieved by considering a range of technologies in the different scenarios that are modelled.

Below is just an example of some of the recommended technologies and interventions that are suggested as part of a Local Area Energy Plan:

  • Energy efficiency in buildings (both domestic and non-domestic) – what interventions are needed for each building (and what combination of measures e.g. glazing, insulation)
    • Identifying priority/focus areas to target least regret areas of deployment, considered alongside other factors e.g. areas of greatest need
  • Low carbon heating systems (both domestic and non-domestic) – what heating systems are proposed for each building
    • Identifying priority/focus areas to target least regret areas of interventions e.g. heat network zones and heat pump/hydrogen heating priority areas
  • Industrial clusters
  • Infrastructure for transport
    • e.g. public and private EV charge point installations, community/fleet hubs
  • Local renewable generation deployment
    • Locations and details for each installation
  • Networks, storage and flexibility
    • Proposed change to energy networks to supply the areas energy needs, both for energy network change and alternative investments such as storage to provide flexibility in place of network investment

How does it align with planning?


LAEPs are not a formal planning matter.

Local Area Energy Plans are not a formal planning matter for local government in England, Scotland or Norther Ireland, however, there is a relationship between LAEPs and other plans. However, in Wales Local Area Energy Plans are part of Planning Policy Wales (2024) which outlines how LAEPs interact with planning policy. For example:

  • Through setting out that ”local and regional authorities must take an active, leadership approach at the local and/or regional level by setting out their vision for decarbonisation and energy for their areas”
  • “Using LAEP or other development plan evidence, local authorities should identify challenging, but achievable targets for renewable energy in local/regional plans and strategies or development plans”
  • “In order to facilitate local and regional energy planning, local authorities must develop an evidence base (which can include LAEP) to inform the development of renewable and low carbon energy policies”
  • Using LAEP as an “evidence base to inform policies and proposals for local energy generation”

LAEPs use inputs from other plans (such as Local Plan) to inform of planned future development etc. for the LAEP to account for when planning proposed energy system change. Conversely, other plans can use outputs from LAEPs as a potential evidence base (as per the example in Planning Policy Wales); for example, LAEPs can set out large quantities of local renewable generation. In addition, other local government strategic plans and strategies should also use LAEP outputs as appropriate e.g. where LAEPs set out proposed locations and provision for EV charging infrastructure, this information can inform transport strategy.

Recognising that Local Area Energy Planning isn’t formalised in England, Scotland or Norther Ireland, it will be up to individual local areas to determine how to use LAEPs and whether they can be used as an evidence base. This may depend on the urgency and priority given to Net Zero and climate change within areas and the approach taken by officers and corporate and political support; for those familiar, like the Merton Rule which originated as an innovative approach by Merton Council before finding it’s way into national planning guidance (as per the Wales example). It is therefore hoped that policy/planning officers in other parts of the UK will establish innovative ways to formalise and integrate Local Area Energy Planning.

As a further example, the 2023 Town and Country Planning Association and Royal Town Planning Institute guide ‘The Climate Crisis – A Guide for Local Authorities on Planning for Climate Change’ advises, in relation to renewable low-carbon energy and associated infrastructure, that it is good practice to “Integrate local area energy plans and local development plans, including engaging in detail with the Distribution Network Operator at forward planning stage to help anticipate, plan for and overcome distribution grid constraints, by considering the implications of local development plan policy for grid capacity and the inter-relationships between spatial and grid planning”.

Will a LAEP address grid constraints?


A key part of the local energy system baseline is establishing the status of the electricity grid.

This is typically assessed in terms of low voltage and high voltage networks including substations and cabling (up to 132Kv). The requirements for future grid capacity and therefore the level of required upgrade in support of other measures, such as EV infrastructure or electrification of heat, are also an important part of the LAEP. However, a LAEP does not typically recommend network projects; otherwise, it risks conflict or confusion with existing network operator plans (e.g. RIIO-ED2 in GB or RP7 in Northern Ireland). Rather the LAEP is used to help guide networks to identify where and when their existing plans may help to remove network barriers to project implementation such as grid constraints.

For example, a LAEP sets out future demand (by type) and where on the network the demand will be needed, alongside the impact of that demand on network capacity (and what level of additional capacity maybe needed); this provides an evidence base to support network planning.

In addition, LAEPs set out, spatially and temporally, proposed quantities of local (e.g. renewable) generation. However, the impact on the network of the generation is not always considered (e.g. depending on the size of system as some systems connect to the national/transmission network rather than the local/distribution network). A key role of the LAEP is communicating these examples of network change to support subsequent activity.

With the introduction of the Regional Energy strategic Planners (RESPs) does this negate the need for a Local Area Energy Plan?


In short, no.

A good LAEP will benefit the RESP, because RESPs are a way of coordinating the local with the national and will draw up local data to inform decision making including LAEPS.

What is the scope of a LAEP?


The focus is on decarbonising the energy system (e.g. the production and provision of energy to a local area and it’s built environment).

Technical Scope:

  • Energy efficiency in buildings (both domestic and non-domestic) – e.g. glazing, insulation.
  • Low carbon heating systems (both domestic and non-domestic) – e.g. heat networks, heat pumps, direct electric, or renewable gas heating.
  • Infrastructure for transport – e.g. public and private EV charge point installations.
  • Energy provision – the energy supplied to the built environment, their systems and other energy demands in a local area
  • Local renewable generation – e.g. solar PV, onshore wind
  • Networks, storage and flexibility

Geographic and Spatial Scope:

LAEP aligns best with local authority boundaries but the full scope of a LAEP delivery may consider multiple local authority boundaries if they come together to deliver as – for example – a combined authority (e.g. Greater Manchester, Greater London Authority) summary plan; in this type of example, planning should be broken down into smaller (e.g. LA) areas to provide the required level of detail in both analysis and outputs. Within the geographic area, data should be a detailed as possible, ideally at building level, but can be summated at post code or Lower Super Output Area (LSOA) in Great Britain or Data Zone in Northern Ireland. Working at a higher scale e.g. substation does not provide the detailed outputs in a LAEP that are needed to support the delivery of activity.

Temporal Scope:

A LAEP will plan the decarbonisation of the local energy system out to 2050 but recognises that some local authorities may have set earlier Net Zero targets (e.g. 2040, 2045). A key part of the LAEP is defining near-term actions (those within the immediate 3 – 5 years of delivering the LAEP).

Sector & Emissions Scope:

The techno-economic modelling of the LAEP aligns best with CO2 emissions within the influence of local authorities but the wider analysis and recommendations of the LAEP should consider all greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). LAEP considers emissions from domestic, public, commercial, and industrial buildings and processes and partially covers aspects of agriculture (e.g. agricultural buildings) and transport (e.g. EV infrastructure). LAEP does not cover emissions from waste, Land Use, Land Use Change, and Forestry (LULUCF).

Supply Chain Scope:

LAEP considers the complete end-to-end supply chain in a local context from local energy generation, energy imports into the local area (e.g. from national transmission), distribution, storage, and finally to the point of demand (e.g. buildings or transport).

Energy Vector Scope:

LAEP considers energy network owners/operators in the form of electricity networks, gas networks, and heat networks all at distribution level (transmission of electricity and gas is out of scope). Gas networks also breakdown into future renewable gas options such as hydrogen or biomethane. Lastly, the energy system baseline considers biomass heating and petroleum in the form of oil or petrol and diesel.

Project Lifecycle Scope:

LAEP forms part of the strategic case from which the stakeholders may go on to develop more detailed aspects of a business case such as the economic case, commercial case, financial case, and management case.

Non-Technical Scope:

With the support of local stakeholders, LAEP can also seek to bring an evaluation of wider non-technical factors into the analysis process. These factors include policy, regulation, energy markets, citizen perspectives, socio-economic benefits, energy resilience, and security to list some examples. Other factors may be considered based on the needs and views of the local stakeholders.

Check out the latest LAEP news, insights and case studies

Explore our news, reports, insights, guides, case studies, policy briefs, and more.


Local Area Energy Planning – The Time and Place is Now

Click here for more


Guidance on creating a Local Area Energy Plan

Click here for more


Local Area Energy Planning in Wales

Click here for more

Case Study

From LEAR to a LAEP the Yorkshire way

Click here for more

Case Study

Collaborating with Peterborough City Council to develop a Local Area Energy Plan

Click here for more

Case Study

Greater Manchester LAEPs ahead in shift to Net Zero by 2038

Visit our News & Insights page

Contact us

UK’s leading independent authority on helping local places take real action on the climate emergency. Our pioneering approach is data-driven, collaborative and cost effective.

Contact us

Want to know more?

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