Executive Summary

This Index is designed as a tool to measure the state of play in local authority energy efficiency and to assist authorities that want to improve their performance in this vital area.

For this second edition, 103 Local Authorities have been selected from England.  They cover a range of Metropolitan, London and Unitary authorities, as well as a range of geographies and diverse socio-economic conditions.  The selected authorities account for 50% of the population and 50% of energy use in England.

All UK Local Authorities continue to operate under considerable financial constraints.  As last year our findings suggest that in response to these challenges, many have reduced the resources they deploy into energy efficiency measures and programmes including internal energy management efforts.  We consider this to be false economy as sound energy management programmes are self-financing.

Four areas have been used to compare the different approaches taken by Local Authorities.

Energy management of own buildings

A major way in which Local Authorities can affect energy use is by implementing and maintaining an effective energy management programme within their own property portfolio.  The following areas were used to assess different approaches.

Targets and plans – Most of the Local Authorities sampled have carbon emissions reduction targets, and most of the published carbon reduction plans incorporate intentions to reduce energy use and increase renewable supply.  However, only about one third of the sample (30) have a published, formally adopted target for reducing corporate energy use with a funded energy efficiency programme.  If carbon emissions are used as a proxy for general energy use, some measures will not be assessed correctly.  This may mean that some energy saving benefits, including cost reduction, are missed.  Many Local Authorities have stated ambitions to install significant renewable energy measures in their own estate and within the wider community, and 29 had published their commitment in terms of a quantified target for generation capacity and/or green electricity procurement.

Independent assessment – Almost one third (28) of the assessed Local Authorities have commissioned an independent third-party audit of their energy use. Uptake of the internationally recognised ISO 50001 tool, which creates a standard reporting framework, remained scarce among the selected Local Authorities but interest appears to be growing which reflects growing interest and uptake of ISO 50001.

Performance and organisational membership – With the wider sample of authorities we saw a wider range of DEC ratings for authorities’ primary service centres with a range of G to B.  In future years we would like to expand beyond looking just at the primary service centre and potentially into examining real performance data.    Within the group 65 of our selected authorities were either signatories of the Local Government Association’s Climate Local (LGACL) signatories programme, members of the European Covenant of Mayors or the C40 Cities group.  Membership of these types of bodies shows some level of commitment to the energy efficiency agenda, and may be a good source of information and possibly assistance, but in itself is no substitute for leadership and sound, well managed energy management programmes.

The top five scoring authorities on the energy management criteria were Coventry, Peterborough, Leicester, Southampton, and Cornwall County Council.

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Improving energy efficiency in the community

Proactive Local Authorities are developing programmes to encourage local building owners – both domestic and non-domestic – to undertake energy retrofits, and the majority of the selected Local Authorities have some type of programme encouraging retrofits in at least the domestic sector.  Planning and development policies drive energy efficiency over the longer term, and 55 of the selected Local Authorities have adopted planning policies imposing rules for new development that exceed the national building regulations in their building energy efficiency or onsite micro-generation capacity requirements.

Local Authorities can also encourage community wide and grass roots community-led energy efficiency programmes aimed at households and other building owners or users.  The overwhelming majority of the selected authorities do support such programmes in some form.  The majority of the selected Local Authorities have policies or programmes in place to support the community-led development of renewable energy micro-generation projects.  Changes to support mechanisms which affect the financial viability of community generation projects are likely to impact on this indicator in future.

There were 20 Local Authorities who scored equally on these criteria.  The 20 were: Bedford, Camden, City of London, Coventry, Hammersmith and Fulham, Haringey, Islington, Kingston-upon-Thames, Leeds, Merton, Oxford, Sefton, Sheffield, Southampton, Southwark, St. Albans, Sutton, Walsall, Westminster and Woking. 

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Improving energy efficiency in housing

The average percentage of households in fuel poverty among our selected authorities was 12.8% but with a wide range from 5.1% to 22.8%, compared to the 2013 national mean of 10.4% for England.  For this reason among others, improving energy efficiency in housing should be a major focus of both national and local efforts to address energy problems.

This report uses the number of CERT measures per household and the total number of ECO and CESP measures as proxies for local authority effectiveness at delivering these programmes.  CERT ran from 2008 to 2012 and CESP ran from 2009 to 2012.  ECO began in January 2013 but has been severely affected by funding changes.  Considerable local economic benefits were achieved through the implementation of CERT and CESP insulation measures in the form of FTE jobs and inherent GVA added.  In the 2014 Index we reported on the number of households benefiting from loft insulation and cavity wall insulation but as DECC no longer maintains the database  we have used data from the National Energy Efficiency Data Framework (NEED). This includes anonymised data from Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) for properties in a given area.

The leading five authorities in energy in housing are Milton Keynes, Knowsley, Manchester, Rochdale and Wigan.

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Energy infrastructure

Local Authorities can play a major part in the development of energy infrastructure and their potential role(s) are increasing as the energy system moves away from the old centralised model to a more decentralised, “presuming” model.  We have chosen to look at four areas where Local Authorities can be active.

District heating and local electricity networks – Among the selected Local Authorities 56 have implemented some form of District Heating and/or Combined Heat and Power, ranging from small systems to major district heating schemes.  The last year has seen an increase in interest in District Heating and heat networks and we expect to see this interest being converted into more schemes over the coming years.

Municipally owned or led energy or energy service companies – There are 15 Local Authorities who have established a municipal energy supply company or Energy Service Company (ESCO), or are committed to doing so and a further nine report that it is under consideration.  Full implementation of these policies will take time but we believe that these developments offer the potential to seriously disrupt the energy market and bring many benefits to consumers, as well as providing a new revenue source to Local Authorities.

Installation of micro-generation – Installed micro-generation capacity spanned a large range (from 2.6 to 258.4 watts per capita) among our selected areas which reflects many factors.  However, the direct impact of local authority programmes on such activity is hard to determine from available data.

Installation of low energy LED street lighting – Conversion of street lighting from conventional lamps to highly efficient LEDs is a major opportunity for Local Authorities operating street lighting to reduce energy consumption and costs.  We have included street lighting conversion programmes in the index this year due to their importance.  A high proportion of the authorities (83) had some degree of street lighting conversion either in progress or planned.  We expect to see further growth in street lighting conversions in coming years. 

The five leading authorities on energy efficiency in infrastructure are Nottingham, Woking, Rochdale, Bristol and St. Albans.

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General Indicators

Two further indicators have been used to compile the Index alongside the four categories set out above.

A measure of domestic energy use per capita.  This measure is affected by the historical quality of the housing stock in energy terms (i.e. levels of insulation and air tightness) and the nature of the housing stock in terms of density and spatial layout.

Energy use per Gross Value Added.  This indicator is largely determined by the structure of industry and commerce in an area, but is relevant to the wider picture of energy efficiency and usage.

It needs to be recognised that primary factors affecting these two indicators are outside of Local Authority control.  However, related secondary factors do have specific links to Local Authority activity.  Including these indicators in this edition of the Index enables Local Authorities to track the impact of local policies on the energy consumed by people and businesses over time.

The five lowest energy usage per capita authorities were Tower Hamlets, Newham, Cornwall, Southwark and Hackney.  This probably reflects above socio-economic factors.  The five authorities with the lowest energy usage per GVA are Wandsworth, Hammersmith and Fulham, Lewisham, Haringey and Oxford.  As noted above these indicators are more for comparison over time within a particular geographical area than for comparing authorities.

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Results and Conclusions

Different areas of the country face different pressures.  However, the following suggestions are broadly relevant examples of best practice, and should be of use to Local Authorities wishing to make significant impacts in their areas.

  1. Energy management in own buildings:
  • Set a public target for energy reduction and report progress against that target.
  • Commission a third party audit and M&V of operational energy use data.
  • Adopt the ISO 50001 tool to improve energy management.
  • Have a comprehensive rationalization strategy and retrofit programme for Council buildings and other local authority building stock.
  • Develop local micro-generation, especially on Council-owned property, or purchase low or zero carbon energy.
  • Implement energy efficiency as a procurement criterion.
  • Run education and behaviour change campaigns among council employees.
  1. Energy in the community:
  • Initiate programmes to encourage building retrofits in all building types including information and access to funding.
  • Explore opportunities to partner with energy companies (for ECO) and raise public awareness and understanding of these programmes.
  • Support community-led micro-generation projects and fast-track related planning permission. (This advice may change in the light of changes to the support mechanisms for renewable micro-generation).
  • Adopt planning rules in advance of national building regulations (where possible).
  1. Energy in housing:
  • Design programmes to access maximum available funding from schemes such as ECO and EU funds.
  • Promote uptake of ECO and ensure that vulnerable residents receive maximum benefit.
  • Provide information on domestic energy efficiency, renewable energy and available grants and discounts.
  1. Energy infrastructure:
  • Review opportunities for developing District Heating, Combined Heat and Power and other energy infrastructure including generation and storage.
  • Consider the opportunity for a municipal energy company / Energy Service Company (ESCO).
  • Initiate a programme to convert street lighting to LED and explore financed solutions for LED conversion.


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Final League Table

Final RankingLocal AuthorityFinal Score
4Bristol, City of71.01
7Tower Hamlets67.74
10City of London65.34
19St Albans60.69
20Hammersmith and Fulham60.66
30South Gloucestershire57.89
37Milton Keynes55.82
38Barking and Dagenham54.89
42Kingston upon Hull, City of54.43
46Bracknell Forest54.07
50Richmond upon Thames52.59
56Kingston upon Thames50.89
60Waltham Forest49.71
61Kensington and Chelsea49.63
64Newcastle upon Tyne48.96
73North Somerset45.21
77Cheshire West and Chester44.56
78County Durham44.19
81Cheshire East43.34
90St. Helens40.50
92South Tyneside39.04
93Brighton and Hove38.56
94North Tyneside38.52
102Telford and Wrekin31.06
103East Riding of Yorkshire28.50
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