Local areas in the UK are responding to the energy crisis by taking a place-based approach to deliver affordable, sustainable and accessible energy infrastructure plans as they strive to decarbonise and create resilient, net-zero energy systems.

Our energy experts are working closely with local authorities, energy providers, businesses and other local stakeholders to identify the investments and decisions they can take now, to plan for the future and meet the UK target of net zero by 2050.

Local Area Energy Planning

Local Area Energy Planning (LAEP) is a pioneering planning approach which addresses the whole energy system, to deliver an evidence-base for change and set-out a plan for implementation. Arup has delivered the UK’s first LAEPs in a range of areas, from coastal counties in Wales to densely populated London boroughs. We’re also working with the Scottish government on similar programmes for Local Heat and Energy Efficiency Strategies (LHEES).

Pembrokeshire Local Area Energy Plan

We worked with Pembrokeshire County Council to develop a LAEP to reflect the council’s support for exploring the potential of hydrogen, and to outline short and long term route-maps to achieve a net zero carbon energy system by 2050. We identified seven priority interventions, including network upgrades, transition to heat pumps, and building retrofit for the local government to action immediately, in conjunction with a set of five-year energy proposals. 

Total collaboration and stakeholder engagement

A successful LAEP cannot be delivered through a simple tool and needs the close involvement of local stakeholders to inform area-based investments. Working in partnership with local authority leaders in Pembrokeshire, we developed a programme of local engagement including workshops, interviews and group discussions with representatives from industrial, domestic, transport, tourism, and agriculture sectors. This level of collaboration, drawing on local insight was vital to define a series of strategic goals that reflected the diverse contribution different local community members could make towards decarbonisation. A people-centred approach, empowering local actors, in conjunction with our robust energy analysis meant the LAEP gained unanimous agreement and Pembrokeshire could begin taking steps to reduce emissions immediately.

A digital approach to support decision making

The complexity of interconnected energy systems, new technology and market volatility can result in uncertainty when planning. We helped the local authority to navigate this by carrying out whole systems hourly energy modelling, to ensure heat, power, transport and industrial energy were optimised at every stage of the planning assessment. Using innovative proprietary technology, we modelled four future energy scenarios in 2050 to give local leaders new insight into different potential building retrofit measures and low carbon technologies, bespoke to Pembrokeshire’s energy opportunities and constraints.

By digitally modelling the whole system in our Energy System Optimisation and Planning tool, we showed the rate and scale of change required to achieve local and national decarbonisation goals. This new knowledge enhanced the local authority’s confidence to make decisions, giving them a robust, technical evidence-base to inform their future energy implementation plan.

The unique local energy opportunity

Each local area has a different opportunity to achieve net zero. Understanding a place’s individual needs and engaging local stakeholders is key to exploring the right energy mix for the area, as well as the wider economic potential for energy plans to help deliver jobs and growth. For example, our work elsewhere in Wales, for Conwy, focussed on the potential for offshore renewables such as a tidal lagoon and offshore wind. In Newport, we sought to explore industrial innovation using the county’s established industrial base.

The future of local area energy planning

Whilst many areas share the same core goals, such as decarbonising transport and deployment of renewables, some energy solutions are more applicable in a specific place. A successful LAEP will strengthen leadership, community involvement and cohesion and support related sectors, such as transport and the built environment. By bringing together people and technology, Arup offers network level insights to help decision makers understand the right mix of energy solutions for their local area, and how to rapidly advance their journey to net zero in an affordable and equitable way.