Smart design decisions provide smart local energy systems for prosperous communities

Smart design decisions to develop prosperous communities

By Mike Fell, UCL, London 

With countries around the world on lockdown to protect their populations against the spread of COVID-19, many minds are turning to how national recovery packages could mitigate the worst of the social and economic impacts while locking in socially beneficial changes. Could smart local energy systems have role to play? 

The Government’s Prospering From the Energy Revolution (PFER) programme was set up to show how local energy systems could help create prosperous communities across the country, as well as delivering environmental and other benefits. Such prosperity could come from having the energy resources to support local industries, high value employment, better health and wellbeing, affordable bills and thriving local ecosystems – all things post-COVID stimulus packages are likely to need. 

But such benefits are not the inevitable result of the introduction of smart local energy systems. Factors such as who is involved in planning them, and how they are owned, governed, and operated, will all determine whether or not such benefits accrue locally, elsewhere, or not at all. 

What is needed to get good outcomes for society and the environment? 

Working with experts across EnergyREV, we have outlined what we see as the necessary conditions that smart local energy systems must fulfil if they are to lead to the kinds of benefits listed above. We have done this over a range of relevant areas. 

Take skills for example. If your expectation is that a smart local energy system should provide employment, there will need to be sufficient people locally with the skills to do the jobs created – or there should be training options and facilities to provide these skills. Furthermore, you need to be sure that the employment need will be local, not in some remote head office. 

Projects being planned would ideally specifically consider whether these conditions are met in their case and, if not, how they will go about creating these conditions and who can they work with to deliver them.  

Guidance to identify conditions required to deliver a smart local energy system 

To help those involved in planning, or for those who might be affected by a smart local energy system, we have produced a set of worksheets spelling out all these necessary conditions that a smart local energy system must achieve to be delivered.  

Complex interactions within a smart local energy system - see link below to view full image

Together with your collaborators, try working through them to assess which ones your project is already addressing, which you think you still need to address (and how), and which you think you can safely disregard. 

To accompany the worksheets, we have also produced a diagram showing how smart local energy systems might end up leading to various positive or negative outcomes.  

As EnergyREV continues, we will be looking for evidence to show whether or not these benefits do actually come about, how, and for whom. 

Try out the worksheets and please get in touch with any questions or feedback!