Local authorities are increasingly feeling the heat (from a renewable source of course) from central government and Green pressure groups to improve their act on renewable energy and reducing their carbon footprint.
For local authorities, the key driver on climate change emissions originates in the 2006 Local Government White Paper "Strong and Prosperous Communities." This introduced a new performance framework known as the comprehensive area assessment (CAA). In addition, since October 2008, Display Energy Certificates must be displayed in all public buildings larger than 1,000 square metres and those provided for social housing.
More recently, the focus has switched to using renewable energy in public buildings. In particular, the steps that local authorities can take to increase the levels of microgeneration and low carbon technologies. Many options are available, from the use of small scale wind turbines for electricity generation to connecting to district heating systems to utilise otherwise wasted hot water from industry or dedicated biomass plants.
Established by the Carbon Trust in 2006, Partnerships for Renewables has urged public sector organisations in the UK to consider using their land and property to generate renewable energy. It claims this has the potential to provide power for more than 1.5 million households, as well as generating additional revenues from local authority land assets.
The government will be looking to work with local authorities to deliver its objectives, including establishing regional targets for renewable energy generation. The key will be finding the way through the plethora of new technologies and working with partners who share its vision for a low carbon future. Local authorities should consider how any new projects can be achieved using low carbon solutions, not just new building projects but also refurbishments and even outsourcing of services.
Many authorities have already made large strides in this area and others should look to learn from their experience. Wragge & Co's Energy Infrastructure team advises clients on all aspects of renewable energy generation and use, including procuring and operating on-site generation, sale of excess power to the national grid, the setting up and operation of district heating systems and agreements with private sector bodies to work in conjunction with local authorities on these initiatives.