In the year since the first Local Authority Energy Index was published the energy scene has changed significantly, both at the global level with falling oil prices, and at the UK national level with a raft of changes to support mechanisms for renewable energy, the ending of the Green Deal, and a commitment to shale gas and new nuclear power.
Despite these apparently negative and purely energy supply focused developments the last year has witnessed a growing interest in improving energy efficiency at the European and local levels. Even with lower oil prices improving energy efficiency remains an economic and beneficial way to provide energy services and it is gaining growing attention from policy makers, investors, Local Authorities and community groups.
As well as direct economic benefits from reduced energy bills the last 12 months has seen a growing recognition of the co-benefits that come with improved efficiency, as well as efforts to value these benefits. Co-benefits can range from job creation and economic development, to greater welfare and satisfaction from occupants of the built environment. We expect increased focus on co-benefits in the coming years which will further improve the business case for an aggressive energy efficiency policy, both nationally and locally.
This year we expanded the Local Authority Energy Index from our pilot 25 Local Authorities to 103 authorities which combined cover 50% of the energy usage and 50% of the population of England. We have also been able to compare the eight Core Cities in England.
This report considers how the 103 authorities are performing in four areas of the energy agenda; their own estate, housing, the wider community and energy infrastructure.
Many Councils have already taken steps to improve the energy efficiency of homes, offices and local transport both within their estate and outside. Indeed, we recognise the excellent work many are undertaking, usually in difficult circumstances dealing with ‘stop-start’ central Government programmes and always with constrained budgets. Nothing in this report should be taken as criticism.
Leading authorities are proactively addressing the major changes happening in the energy industry and the move towards decentralization and both community-led and municipality owned energy service companies. Despite good progress much remains to be done in all areas.
There is always room for improvement and things to learn from best practice. We encourage the leadership within all Local Authorities to re-consider and re-invigorate their efforts in this vital area. We hope the Energy Index will be seen in this light; recognising and sharing best practice, benchmarking activity where possible and offering a platform for debate.