ECONOMIC GROWTH

Future Forum: Poor energy planning 'causing barriers to green growth'

A lack of co-ordination in how the energy system is planned is causing barriers ‘not only to decarbonisation and retrofit, but to green economic growth’, The MJ Future Forum has heard.

A lack of co-ordination in how the energy system is planned is causing barriers ‘not only to decarbonisation and retrofit, but to green economic growth', The MJ Future Forum has heard.

Speaking at a session at The MJ Future Forum in Tring, Hertfordshire, energy infrastructure lead at West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) Kate Ashworth highlighted the importance of energy system planning,

Ashworth pointed to the UK Central site in Solihull, that includes Birmingham airport, the NEC, large mixed commercial and domestic developments and the HS2 transport interchange.

She told delegates: ‘There's a lot happening on this site over the next 10 years. However when it comes to energy systems planning, that's not always visible to the [energy] networks.

‘We know a huge amount of funding is going into the networks to account for this growth, however if they don't have sight of where this is happening, how do they prioritise where that reinforcement takes place?'

Following a year-long programme of work by WMCA, the combined authority presented data to National Grid ‘that by 2023 projected a huge uptick in the amount of industrial and commercial space allowed to go on that site.

She added: ‘That's important because it means they could potentially use that evidence to go back to the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem) and say, "hey, we'd like some more cash, because here is going to be a really important opportunity for us and we have got the evidence to show it". It's about trying to forsee that Grid problem before it happens. The better we can plan, the better we can help overcome that.'

On ways to apply this approach across local authority and regional geographies Ashworth emphasised ‘that some of the answer might be found in a framework called Local Area Energy Planning'.

She added that this cross-sector whole-system planning framework is ‘quite resource intensive', but strategic innovation funding from Ofgem is looking to do ‘some of the work around Local Area Energy Planning, but in a digital environment, so [it's a] a digital tool'.

‘That's very important. Then your plan becomes something that adapts and changes, and the data as it changes can be pulled back into the tool. So it becomes a lot more dynamic, a lot more up to date, and a lot more credible in terms of data. The other benefit of having this in a digital environment is it's shareable. It's not just energy people speaking to energy people.'

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