Renewables body calls for localised energy policy

Localised policy is the key to developing renewables in South West England, the region's renewable energy agency said in response to the Government's energy review.

Regen South West proposed ways of giving local government more power on the renewables front in the areas of house-building, electricity generation, heating and carbon emission control.

Regen SW chief executive Matthew Spencer believes that centralised policymaking hinders the delivery of renewable power:

“We think Government is overlooking the huge benefits of giving more responsibility to local organisations to deliver sustainable energy solutions.

“Government needs to strengthen local planning policy quickly if renewable electricity targets are to be met, and if it wants to avoid new house building increasing UK carbon dioxide emissions.”

The Government will have to find ways of speeding up the spread of renewables regardless of its decision on nuclear, he said.

Specific suggestions include letting local authorities make zero-emission designs for new buildings mandatory, obliging District Councils to set their own renewable electricity targets and introducing financial incentives to encourage the use of renewables for heating.

The zero carbon requirement for new build would be a strong measure, but one that many local authorities would like to introduce, Matthew Spencer told edie.

“But at the moment this would not get past the ODPM. The obvious way to do this is giving local authorities the power to require zero carbon for big developments,” he said. Developers would be compensated by paying less for the land used, and over time the requirement could be expanded to all developments.

Without the zero-carbon requirement for new build, the large settlements planned for the South West will contribute an annual 700,000 tonnes of CO2 by 2020, the agency estimates.

The use of renewable energy for heating would help the Government reduce its dependence on fossil fuels. Gas is not available for 400,000 homes in the South West region.

“The main alternative for households with no access to gas is heating oil, which has a very high carbon content,” said Matthew Spencer. For areas located too far from a gas pipe, heating could be provided from renewable sources such as geothermal, he said.

Goska Romanowicz

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