13 Sep 2021
Power generation is responsible for 27% of UK greenhouse gases. The most significant way to reduce emissions in this sector are with home energy efficiency measures and renewable energy. Transforming this sector could lead to all our energy coming from wind, wave and the sun, as well as the UK economically benefiting from developing new industries built on our naturally abundant renewable resources.
Councils should enable and support the growth and use of green energy, ensure energy is not wasted, and prevent the development of new fossil fuel extraction.
What councils should do
Friends of the Earth has identified the amount of renewable energy capacity in every council area and suggested a minimum target for more renewable energy developments.
Points 29 to 35 in our Climate Action Plan for councils suggest councils should:
29. Significantly grow renewable energy generation through identify areas suitable for renewable energy in the local plan and/or through issuing a new Supplementary Planning Document.
- A council’s Local Plan is a land-use planning document for the area. It identifies what developments are allowed and where they can be (e.g. housing development, amenity, etc.). Friends of the Earth research has shown that in too many cases suitable sites for renewable power are not being identified. If we want more renewables, more suitable areas must be available in Local Plans. If a local plan already exists the council can issue a new ‘Supplementary Planning Document’ to facilitate the growth of renewable power in the area.
- In some built up areas allocating sites for renewable energy may not be possible. However, integrating renewable technologies within new and existing development is always an option that should be considered.
30. Switch street lighting to well-designed and well directed LED lights.
- Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council is switching all its street lights to LED lights and in the process is making sizable savings in money and energy.
31. Reduce energy used by the council on its own estate.
- Councils own buildings such as offices, community centres and homes. The energy used in these spaces can be reduced through insulation, better energy management systems, and the use of heat pumps (which capture heat from the outside air and use it to heat hot water).
32. Require the integration of renewable energy such as solar thermal, PV or heat pumps in council developments and, as much as possible, within private - and public sector developments.
- Cambridge City Council is requiring renewable energy in some new housing developments. Solar thermal panels absorb heat from the sun and use it to heat water whereas solar PV panels create electricity from sunlight.
33. Support the development of renewable energy and energy storage.
- With an increasing amount of our energy provided by renewables it’s important to store some for times when production is lower (e.g. if there aren’t strong winds or if it isn’t sunny).
- South Somerset District Council is investing in energy storage to enable use of renewable energy instead of gas when electricity demand is high or renewable power generation is low.
34. Oppose fracking and other fossil fuel extraction, and where opposition on fracking has been overturned, support peaceful protest. (Applicable in England only).
- Unfortunately, the Local Plan can not rule out the development of fossil fuel extraction. The local planning authority (a unitary council or county council) should reject applications for fossil-fuel extraction on climate change grounds. The world is already awash with fossil fuels and over 80% of current reserves need to remain in the ground. The last thing the world needs is more sources of fossil fuels to be developed.
- Even if councils oppose fracking, this decision can sometimes still be overturned by central government. In this case it’s vital to support local groups campaigning against fossil fuel extraction, for example by attending or speaking at local meetings or rallies when invited.
- Local councils can oppose fracking by supporting any local and national calls to ban the industry.
35. Divest from fossil fuels and invest in renewable energy projects.
- Councils invest billions of pounds in fossil fuel energy companies through their pension funds. Making money from fossil fuels is dirty money and funds climate change. Local authorities should urgently remove these investments, and instead invest in clean energy.
The government has a major role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from power, particularly by ensuring that renewable energy developments are guaranteed to be able to sell their electricity in preference to gas or coal-fired energy. The government also needs to increase the Carbon Floor price – a tax on fossil-fuel generated electricity – which has been instrumental in drastically reducing coal-fired electricity in the UK.
In addition, the government must rule out the development of new fossil fuels, for example by banning fracking.
The government restrictions on the development of onshore wind power in England should also be removed to allow for more onshore wind to be built on sites councils have identified in their Local Plan. On-shore wind is now the lowest cost energy development.
The Code for Sustainable Homes, or an equivalent standard, should be reinstated. This would require all new homes to meet a net-zero CO2 standard through a variety of means, including renewable energy installation.
Onshore wind: is its delivery being hampered by a lack of identified areas in Local Plans? https://policy.friendsoftheearth.uk/reports/onshore-wind-its-delivery-being-hampered-lack-identified-areas-local-plans
Solihull Metropolitan Borough: saving carbon, money and the night sky by changing lightbulbs. https://takeclimateaction.uk/stories-network/solihull-metropolitan-borough-saving-carbon-money-and-night-sky-changing-lightbulbs
How climate friendly is your area? https://takeclimateaction.uk/climate-action/how-climate-friendly-your-area-enter-your-postcode-see-results-your-community