Low Carbon Energy Networks Support Programme

The aim

The aim of the project is to develop a six year support programme to help local authorities and their partners to set up and expand low carbon energy networks such as district heating and cooling and local electricity generation and distribution focused on key economic development sites. This will result in businesses located and attracted to these sites and connected to these networks benefiting from improved productivity, environmental performance, and energy security.

The scope

The audience is local authorities and their partners seeking to set up or expand the existing pipeline of over 20 low carbon energy networks for key economic and regeneration sites across the West Midlands and covering all the LEPs.

Help would be provided through a shared technical resource to help support this pipeline of projects and sites through expert independent advice.

The activities

The shared technical resource of 2-3 people and a pool of associates would be managed by an independent body. This also helps across a wider range of projects that may require support at different times. This team would be tasked with developing the pipeline of low carbon energy network projects for key development and regeneration sites by:

  • helping local authorities with procurement exercises of existing or new local energy schemes
  • advising local authorities on local development applications and policies when the site is suitable for developers to either install or link up to a local energy network
  • helping with access to external funding and building on good practice

Although the team is primarily focused on low carbon energy networks other activities could include:

  • The application of ‘smart grid’ technology to help the energy production and use across a local area
  • The uptake of existing energy efficiency funding and invest to save programmes for existing non-domestic buildings within a local area.

The outputs and results

In terms of EU funding requirements the overall outputs and results would be:

  • Number of enterprises receiving support (if they were part of the local energy network or non-domestic building energy efficiency support)
  • Greenhouse gas savings (through energy, waste, carbon reductions)
  • Additional renewable capacity installed

Based on the current pipeline of existing and proposed low carbon energy network schemes if a proportion of these were expanded or set up then through reduced carbon and energy costs this could produce an additional  £5-20m of businesses benefit.

The budget and timescales

The project is being developed as part of the new EU funding programme. Therefore it is proposed to start in 2015 with the set up of the unit, publication of the project pipeline, and annual progress reports.

Estimated costs at this stage vary depending on what is required from the core team to build local knowledge and capacity and that of associates. Therefore it is estimated at £100,000-200,000 core costs per year. Ideally the programme would support all 6 West Midlands LEPs, but as a minimum at least 3.

At this stage it is estimated that either this project would fit within a technical assistance style budget. If not the match funding required by the EU funding would be secured either through ‘in-kind’ contributions from partners, and the alignment of existing and future Government support funding for energy schemes and initiatives.

The partners

SWM has developed this project as part of the West Midlands Low Carbon LEP Leadership Network work programme. This has included extensive stakeholder workshops and a joint statementwithin the six LEP EU strategies on which cross-LEP low carbon priorities to work on together. This project is one of them. Our role within the project would be to provide an independent body to host the team, provide overall project management, and lead on the marketing and coordination activity through our support for the West Midlands Energy Managers Network.

Encraft is one of our SWM members and associates. We have worked with Encraft for many years to provide independent technical energy advice from the Birmingham Energy Strategy, to planners training, housing retrofit, smart grids, and local energy networks. They would be providing the core team.

We have a range of other SWM members who have expertise in this area such as EBRI, Cofley, Skanska, Carillion, Birmingham City Council, and Coventry City Council. They would be providing additional expertise and advice to the team.

DECC Heat Delivery Unit have worked with SWM and our networks to help secure external funding for several West Midlands schemes. We would continue to work closely with DECC to maximise the expertise and resources from the unit.

Black Country LEP has expressed an interest in leading this and several other of the cross-LEP low carbon programmes on behalf of the other five West Midlands LEPs. In the same way other LEPs are leading on other cross-LEP themes such as access to finance.

Further information

For any overall project queries, or if you are interested in aligning your existing energy infrastructure support service or want to be considered as a future provider please contact SWM enquiries@swm.org.uk.

Project updates

4/7/13, 20/8/13, 25/11/13, 4/6/14– Stakeholder workshops with LEPs and local authorities, and energy infrastructure experts.

Oct 2013-March14 – Helped organise and support a series of West Midlands workshops for DECC to promote help and funding for local heat networks. As a result several local authorities secured funding.

June 2014 – Published map and pipeline of current low carbon energy networks in the West Midlands. Also to meet demand from local authorities we reviewed current good practice and local schemes to produce a procurement implementation guide for district energy.

25/9/14 – Update project page and West Midlands European Service circulates to all the LEPs together with other cross-LEP programmes.

January 2015 – Further round of DECC funding for heat networks. Through SWM networks and support our regions gets the overall highest share of national support.

25/9/15 – Questions over eligibility for which part of the EU funding programme prevent any early applications. However Greater Birmingham LEP build on concept and appoint a project manager to coordinate the range of £200,000 CHP studies they have secured  through the previous DECC funding.

19/10/15 – SWM member Birmingham City Council secure funding and put out to commission research to help develop idea further, together with potential funding streams.