March newsletter and Local Energy Efficiency Network update
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March 2015 news
Dear <<First Name>> 

Welcome to the second LEEN newsletter of 2015

In this edition:
  • Local Energy has been out and about. Read our latest news
  • Reminder: Book now for our March LEEN events
  • Local government pension fund invests in renewables
  • The new fuel poverty strategy is launched
  • Local authority winners in the electricity demand reduction pilot
  • Government backs shared ownership of renewables
  • Ofgem consults on non-traditional business models
  • Changes to the DEC regime? DCLG consults
  • And finally... UKIP's energy policy revealed

Local Energy news

In the last few weeks, we've been busy meeting the movers and shakers in the world of community energy; attending DECC's Community Energy local supply workshop in London, the Powering Up North conference in Manchester and, most recently, some interesting seminar sessions at Ecobuild.

We're aiming to establish what role local authorities can and should play in community energy: as planners and regulators; facilitators and funders; providers and consumers; and co-ordinators and advocates. There are lots of new models emerging, some tales of great council engagement and delivery... and a few less-than-positive experiences, of course.

If you have any examples of - or suggestions for - the role councils should take in the development of community energy projects, please get in touch. We'd love to hear from councils, community groups, industry bodies, funders - all stakeholders, in fact.

We'll be at the Community Heat Conference in Birmingham on 10th March and our own LEEN events on 17th/18th March (see below) so do come and say hello.

But it's not all community energy here at Local Energy HQ. Chief Exec Andy Johnston has also been touring the country meeting councils from Cornwall to Newcastle, and points in between, discussing the direction of travel on all things energy-related. 

We're always interested to hear what councils are doing, whether it's renewables, municipal energy, district heating, community energy, energy efficiency... you name it. If you'd like to talk to Andy about your local energy strategy, domestic retrofit, finding partners to work with, or putting funding together, please come to one of our events or drop us a line.

Book now - LEEN events coming soon

Our next events take place in London on 17th March and Manchester on 18th March. To register, please click the links above.

We have lots of great speaker sessions covering community energy, heat networks, and how councils are shifting towards commercial and municipal energy solutions. 

We're also going to talk about the likely impacts of the general election - and you can participate by completing our online survey, as well as joining us on the day. 

For more information, including full event programmes, please see our website.
We still have spaces available but please book now to make sure of your place

Local government pension fund announces £10m backing for community-scale renewable projects

Last month, Business Secretary Vince Cable announced a new investment of £60m by the UK Green Investment Bank (GIB) and the Strathclyde Pension Fund (SPF) in UK community-scale renewable energy projects.

GIB has committed to provide up to £50m with SPF investing a further £10m. The finance will be used to provide equity funding of between £1m and £10m for a broad range of community-scale renewable construction projects including run-of-river hydro-power, onshore wind on brownfield sites such as industrial estates, and biogas projects including anaerobic digestion and landfill gas.

The £14bn Strathclyde Pension Fund is one of the UK’s largest, providing services to around 200,000 people across the public, private and third sectors. It is part of the Scottish Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) and is administered by Glasgow City Council.

Councillor Paul Rooney, Chair of Strathclyde Pension Fund, said:

"There are many great opportunities to generate sustainable, renewable energy at a community level, including here in the West of Scotland – but it can be difficult for even the best-structured projects to access good long-term finance.

“I’m pleased that Strathclyde Pension Fund will be providing funding to innovative projects that might otherwise have been frozen out of the market – and that the investment made by our members in their own future will support the future of our communities, through improved infrastructure and jobs."

Strathclyde is not the first UK LGPS fund to consider community power projects, with the £5.3bn Lancashire Pension Fund committing £12m in 2013 to a solar power plant in Oxfordshire.

Cutting the cost of keeping warm: New fuel poverty strategy published

Energy minister Ed Davey announced the government's new strategy to tackle fuel poverty at Ecobuild on 3rd March, as reported by Building.  

Davey announced a £3m package of funding for pilot schemes designed to tackle fuel poverty, including £1m released immediately for “warmth-on-prescription” projects. Doctors will be invited to prescribe boilers, insulation and double glazing to patients they judge to be ill in part because of fuel poverty.

The remaining £2m will be released “in the coming months” to support other pilots, “not just in health but also for off gas grid, park homes and community energy approaches”, the Department for Energy and Climate Change said in an accompanying statement.

The government’s new fuel poverty strategy wraps together these new initiatives with previously announced plans, including the legally binding target – in force since December 2014 – requiring a minimum standard of energy efficiency band C in as many fuel poor homes as “reasonably practicable” by 2030.

Other measures outlined in the fuel poverty strategy, which covers a period of 15 years, include:
  • Regulations that from April 2018 private landlords cannot rent out energy inefficient properties - homes with energy performance ratings below ‘E’
  • Tackling the problem of fuel poverty in off gas grid properties with a £25m fund to help people install central heating systems for the first time
  • Extending the Energy Companies Obligation scheme to 2017, so a further 500,000 properties are made cheaper and easier to heat.
The fuel poverty strategy is available on the DECC website.

Councils win funding to cut peak electricity demand

A number of local authorities were successful in bidding for funding through DECC's Electricity Demand Reduction (EDR) pilot scheme in January. 

Among those taking a share of the £1.28 million allocated are Cheshire West and Chester Council, Halton Borough Council, London Borough of Havering, Leicestershire County Council and North Tyneside Council. 

All of the successful bidders submitted lighting projects, suggesting that this is an 'easy win' requiring little risk or innovation, and relying on proven technology to deliver kW savings. 

The smallest successful bid was for 100kW savings of winter peak capacity (4-8pm Mon-Fri November-February). Based on the average bid price (£229/kW), this will generate a payment of £22,900 for Cheshire West and Chester Council, helping to fund the installation/upgrade works.

The EDR pilot is testing whether projects that deliver lasting electricity savings at peak times (in kW) - for example by replacing old bulbs with LEDs or improving motors and pumps - could in future compete with generation, demand side response (DSR) and storage in the GB Capacity Market. 

DECC is considering what changes might be required for any future auction. Following evaluation, a further auction is expected next year when more money will be available.

Government backs Shared Ownership Framework 

The Shared Ownership Taskforce launched its final Shared Ownership framework report in November 2014. 

Last month, DECC issued its response to the Shared Ownership Taskforce, confirming that it supports the Taskforce’s guide for increasing the offer of shared ownership to local communities and setting out a number of recommendations for the Taskforce.

Government expects all relevant renewable energy developers to be engaging with this guide and discussing shared ownership opportunities with local communities.

As set out in the Community Energy Strategy, the Government will be undertaking a progress review in 2015. It will focus on the extent to which relevant renewable developers are discussing shared ownership opportunities with the local community and whether meaningful shared ownership offers are being made. 

If progress is limited, then the Government will consider requiring commercial renewable electricity developers in Great Britain to offer the opportunity of a shared ownership to communities. To enable them to do this, Government has taken legislative powers through Parliament, known as the Community Electricity Right, included within the Infrastructure Act 2015.

Ofgem seeks to support change in the energy market

Responding to a wave of new entrants to the energy market, many of which have new and non-traditional business models (NTBMs), Ofgem has published a discussion paper entitled Non-traditional business models: Supporting transformative change in the energy market.

Ofgem recognises that some of these NTBMs could in the future transform the energy market and deliver desirable outcomes for consumers. These include: lower bills; lower environmental impact; improved reliability and safety; better quality of service; and better social outcomes. They want to ensure that regulation does not stand in the way of organisations who can deliver these outcomes.

This paper is intended to start a public discussion on the benefits and risks to consumers of these non-traditional business models, and to explore how they interact with the regulatory system. 

This is likely to be relevant for many local authorities and community organisations wishing to supply energy through municipal or community energy schemes, or via 'white label' or ESCo models, or engaged in other schemes such as 'rent-a-roof' or switching/brokering deals.

The closing date for responses is 20th May 2015.

DCLG consults on Display Energy Certificates

DCLG is currently requesting responses to their consultation Display Energy Certificates: current regime
and how it could be streamlined and improved. 

The aim of the consultation is to understand how the current Display Energy Certificates regime is working and how it may be improved and simplified.

This consultation covers:
  • ways to improve the issue and display of energy certificates in public buildings
  • reducing the burden of compliance to energy certificates, whilst encouraging public sector energy efficiency
  • a call for evidence for anyone who wishes to provide information on public buildings in their care
Local authorities are encouraged to respond, especially to provide evidence of costs, and where DECs have resulted in energy efficiency improvements. The closing date is 11th March 2015.

And finally... 

The Energy Institute recently hosted a pre-election 'energy question time', where four of the parties set out their energy policies. 

Since the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat leaders issued their joint pledge to tackle climate change, we already know that they have agreed to work towards a legally-binding global climate deal, to agree new UK emissions-cutting goals and to phase out unabated coal-fired power.

UKIP, however, offers an alternative future. Their energy spokesman, Roger Helmer MEP,  is quoted as saying that 'Green policies won't cut global emissions'. If UKIP does form a Government after 7th May, they plan to repeal the Climate Change Act, end renewables subsidies and promote shale gas.

Luckily, DECC's latest public attitude poll indicates that few voters are likely to back UKIP's energy policies. As Carbon Brief reports, "In general, people favoured developing renewables, and were broadly supportive of new nuclear and carbon capture and storage. Shale gas was by far the least popular". Phew!

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Upcoming LEEN events

Next events:
Tuesday 17 March - London
Wednesday 18 March - Manchester

Visit our website to book your place.

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