The Local Authority Energy Index

Background

Energy – in the form of electricity and fuel – is essential to the delivery of services that we all rely upon every day; a comfortable temperature, light, motive power, transport and communications.  The systems that deliver our energy, however, are subject to numerous stresses and strains including:

  • threats to energy supplies from physical resource constraints
  • geo-political forces and terrorism – both physical and cyber – threatening energy supplies
  • increasing and volatile energy prices – leading to increased economic and health pressures for many people in fuel poverty
  • global and local environmental constraints.

Over the last few years the large potential for mitigating these problems through improving energy efficiency has been increasingly recognised but, despite being the cheapest, cleanest and fastest way of delivering energy services, the potential for improved energy efficiency remains under-utilized for a number of structural and historical reasons.  It is important to stress that by energy efficiency we mean providing the same level of service, or better, with less energy input – it is not about reducing levels of service.  As well as the obvious energy cost savings and reductions in emissions, investing in energy efficiency has been shown to bring many co-benefits including amongst many others:

  • improved productivity
  • improved health and well-being
  • improvements in local economies through retaining money in the community
  • job creation
  • reduced need to invest in energy supply infrastructure in transmission and distribution systems
  • improved local and global environment.

Work by the International Energy Agency1 highlighted the value of these co-benefits and interest in identifying and valuing co-benefits in the business case for efficiency is growing with major work being undertaken by Marks and Spencer, the UK Green Building Council2 and others.

1 Capturing the Multiple Benefits of Energy Efficiency, International Energy Agency, September 2014

2 http://www.ukgbc.org/press-centre/press-releases/uk-green-building-council-launches-new-project-health-wellbeing-and

Local Authorities and energy efficiency

Local Authorities have many touch points with energy and can affect levels of energy efficiency in different ways. They own or control considerable portfolios of non-domestic buildings that use energy, some of which have the potential to become local energy hubs. They provide services to vulnerable people, many of whom will be affected by fuel poverty. Some authorities own or control residential property portfolios, and they can impact energy use in other buildings within their area through planning policies and programmes designed to help local people and businesses improve energy efficiency in both domestic and non-domestic stock. Local transport policies, as well as decisions about Local Authority fleets, can also influence overall energy efficiency although transport is not yet included in the Index.

Local Authorities in the UK and around the world have shown leadership in energy efficiency and we believe all authorities are well placed to make a significant impact on improving energy use within their areas. We believe that those authorities which proactively address this matter will reap benefits through improved health and welfare, improved finances and local economic development.

The Local Authority Energy Index, developed by Knauf Insulation, provides a measure of Local Authorities’ work on energy efficiency. It uses a combination of quantitative and qualitative measures to produce an overall index of performance in energy efficiency. It is not intended to be critical of individual authorities, and like all indices it has to be interpreted with care. It is intended to show best practice and where Local Authorities can improve their performance. All UK Local Authorities continue to be under considerable financial constraints and our research has found that some Local Authorities have reduced the resources deployed into energy efficiency, including their own internal energy management efforts. We believe this to be a mistake as effective energy management programmes are self-funding – particularly if all the benefits are correctly identified and valued.

The Local Authority Energy Index is designed to be a tool to both measure the state of play in local authority energy efficiency and assist authorities that want to improve performance in this critical area. We envisage developing the Index in future in response to feedback and possibly moving towards including actual building performance data.

Selection of Local Authorities

For this edition of the Local Authority Energy Index we have selected 103 Local Authorities from England covering a range of Metropolitan, London and Unitary authorities as well as a range of geographies. The Local Authorities selected cover 50% of the population and 50% of energy use in England (measured as the total sales of electricity and natural gas), although of course most of that energy use is not under the direct control of the Local Authority. Due to differences in record keeping and policy in England and Wales, we have confined the current study to English Local Authorities, but we envision finding ways to circumvent the challenges presented by these differences and expanding the Index to cover as many Local Authorities as possible – possibly including separate Scottish and Welsh indices.

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