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Communities for the nation; how the government beyond Westminster is delivering Net Zero

23 June 2021

ENA's Director of External Affairs, Ross Easton, discusses how gas and electricity networks are working together to support local authorities to shape the energy system of a Net Zero future.  


At a recent British Chamber of Commerce event, Polly Billington the Director of UK100, made it abundantly clear that there is no Net Zero without local authorities. A sentiment which rings true for us too. Our unparalleled geographic footprint - reaching every community in the country - and intimate connection with the communities we serve has shown time and again how invested local authorities are with their area’s infrastructure - energy and otherwise.  

To effectively deliver the decarbonisation of heat, industry and transportation, there is an urgent need to acknowledge that different solutions will work in different places. What’s more, the best- placed people to determine those solutions are often the local authorities in the area. 

Two thirds of all local authorities have now committed to Net Zero by 2030 and are developing their plans to deliver it – plans which their local networks will be instrumental in supporting. Two of our members, Electricity North West and Cadent, are working closely with the Greater Manchester Combined Authority on their Greater Manchester Spatial Energy Plan. Under Andy Burnham’s mayoralty, the authority has set incredibly ambitious targets of at least 80% emissions reduction by 2050. Over two thirds of this roadmap is to be delivered by the Combined Authority – a stark difference to an energy market which has for decades been driven by policy determined in Westminster.  

We recognise that local authorities are central to the master-planning of their regions, through programmes like the Greater Manchester Spatial Energy Plan. And fundamentally, the energy networks want to save time for those local authorities, supporting them as they build a more prosperous and low- carbon future. In some cases, network companies have even loaned staff to provide the institutional expertise which is sometimes missing. 

To this end, facilitated through our Open Networks project, gas and electricity network operators have been consulting with local authorities to shape a service aimed at helping with their growth, clean air, and decarbonisation and Net Zero plans. Working across transmission, and electricity and gas distribution networks, this feedback will be used to help steer the design of the ‘whole energy system’ service and how it will be taken forward as a robust, enduring framework. 

As part of this consultation process, we hosted two virtual events last week alongside community energy and engagement specialists Regen to help shape how gas and electricity networks can work together to better support local authorities, regions, and governments with the delivery of spatial plans, investment, and decarbonisation.  

The events explored stakeholder appetite for a new ‘whole system’ process where local development and decarbonisation plans can be assessed jointly for their implications across the local energy infrastructure, helping identify issues and opportunities in these plans. It also invited feedback on plans for how the service might be delivered and an opportunity to provide examples and ideas for how the energy networks together can better support local authorities in the future. 

To hit Net Zero, we are not only going to need every tool in the toolbox, but every piece of insight from every expert available, especially those in the communities delivering the transition.  

About us

Energy Networks Association (ENA) is the industry body representing the energy networks. Our members include every major electricity network operator in the UK. The electricity networks are at the heart of the energy transition. They directly employ more than 26,000 people in the UK, including 1,500 apprentices. They are spending and investing £33bn in our electricity grids over the coming years, to ensure safe, reliable and secure energy supplies for the millions of homes and businesses reliant on power every day.

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