Report calls for smart, local energy system approach to post-pandemic recovery

Smart local energy systems can support the ambitions of a green economic recovery, post-pandemic, according to a paper.

On 15 December, EnergyREV published a report, exploring how smart local energy systems (SLES) can contribute to the UK’s recovery from coronavirus. With the pandemic causing unemployment to rise and firms to close – and more of this expected to follow – it set out how recovery actions should aim to deliver maximum economic benefits. However, for these to be sustainable long-term, the recovery must support and improve the health of society and ecosystems, delivering against objectives such as achieving net zero, environmental betterment, improving climate resilience and social equity.

It outlined how actions in energy-relevant sectors align with these goals, such as improving building energy efficiency, the transition to low carbon heat and mobility, and improving energy infrastructure, before arguing that delivering them through a locally-led, smart approach can enable better value and better targeted, faster, enduring investment and action, serving to strength the recovery.

Local knowledge, for example, can be sued to improve targeting and delivery of measures, such as knowing where the residents who would most benefit from home energy efficiency improvements live. Local actors also have significant local trust and the ability to engage with different groups, which can widen participation in measures. There are planning advantages too, as considering a green recovery from a local perspective allows for the adoption of a whole systems approach. This would take into account wider environmental and other objectives, such as economic goals, and combine them with targets for energy generation, mobility and heat, resulting in cost efficiencies while demonstrating commitment to policy goals, which will increase investor confidence.

Local authorities can also capture co-benefits of investment across areas of responsibility, with the report citing warmer homes for people in more vulnerable circumstances potentially leading to a direct reduction in care-related costs as an example. Elsewhere, customisable and interoperable digital products and services enable local energy system solutions to be more replicable and investible, both within the UK and overseas, allowing for opportunities to scale up.