UK cities offer renewable alternative to Big Six

Cities and local authorities across Britain can provide alternatives to the 'big six' by creating affordable renewable energy, according to a new report from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR).

The report, ‘City energy: A new powerhouse for Britain’ (Scroll down for full report), states that Britain’s cities should take on the challenge of tackling the energy crisis and contribute to the nation’s renewable energy targets.

According to IPPR, investing in low-carbon energy infrastructure and engaging in the energy supply market will lower bills for low-income households and create more jobs and growth for cities.

The report recommends that cities should work with the Green Investment Bank on developing low-carbon infrastructure and encourage local authority pension funds to sign up to the Principles for Responsible Investment.

It also advises the Government to create a Local Authority Energy Unit within DECC; to bring cities and local authorities together and share expertise on energy efficiency programmes.

Leading the way

IPPR director Nick Pearce said: “Around the world, cities are spearheading the transformation that must occur in the energy sector. In Germany, for example, the city of Munich has already invested €900m in renewable energy projects and it has plans to invest a total of €9bn which will enable it to supply the entire municipality of one million people with renewable electricity by 2025.”

The report highlighted the work of a number of cities to drive forward renewable energy policy:

  • Aberdeen: the use of hydrogen as a fuel is being explored, using excess power from renewable generation to perform water electrolysis. 
  • Bristol: the Bristol Solar City project aims to install 1GW of solar PV capacity by 2020, working with local community groups to invest in installations on council properties rent-free. The city was named European Green Capital 2015. 
  • Manchester: 600 air-source heat pumps will be installed into council-owned homes linked to a ‘smart’ system which will reduce the levels of electricity used at peak times when prices are highest. 

Manchester City Council leader Sir Richard Leese said: “This report highlights something we have known for a long time; that the energy market needs to be shaken up and city regions can provide a serious alternative to the Big Six.

“A series of collective energy switching schemes organised by the Greater Manchester authorities recently helped thousands of people reduce the size of their bills, while innovative air-source heat pumps are also being installed in hundreds of homes across the region to reduce the amount of electricity used at the most expensive times of the day.”

Environmental group Greenpeace welcomed the report, stating that cities can be the catalyst for moving Britain’s energy away from the ‘big six’. Executive director John Sauven said: “Dynamic cities like Bristol and Manchester have already started to take a lead in delivering clean energy for local people.

“Now it’s time for national Government to do its bit to support a movement that can bring a more accountable, affordable, cleaner, and smarter energy system.”

REPORT: City energy: A new powerhouse for Britain

Matt Field

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