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Metro Mayors back major regional energy planning reform

Ofgem’s CEO, Jonathan Brearley, hosted seven Metro Mayors and local leaders from across England on 30th November to accelerate local planning reform that will cut red tape and help regions across Great Britain create roadmaps to get to net zero.

The summit follows the regulator’s announcement earlier this month that it will create detailed regional energy plans across Great Britain to improve local energy planning and speed up decarbonisation.

Ofgem has set out ambitious plans in recent years to target investment at offshore and onshore power generation, grids and networks, in particular through our accelerated strategic transmission investment (ASTI) framework. This next stage will ensure cleaner, greener energy is distributed to businesses and households across Great Britain.

The Regional Energy Strategic Planners (RESPs) will work with organisations at a local level including Combined Authorities, local government, gas and electricity industry, to plan and build the infrastructure needed in different parts of the country and attract investment for projects. RESPs will also provide resources and tools to support local authorities to speed up energy planning, and improve accountability.

The roundtable saw Ofgem’s CEO host Mayors and representatives from the Electricity System Operator (ESO), to discuss how new regional planning roles will help to bring together the current patchwork approach to planning. This will help to create roadmaps for how local energy systems need to be developed to reach net zero by 2050, and decarbonise the UK’s electricity system by 2035. The ESO will become the new independent Future Systems Operator (FSO) in 2024, and will be the delivery body for RESPs.

The ongoing discussions, facilitated by Ofgem, are a significant step forward in reforming how local energy systems are planned. They will give Mayors the opportunity to guide how the RESP roles are designed to deliver trust and local buy in, and share insights and best practice and challenges from their region.

The attending Mayors were Andy Street, Mayor of West Midlands Combined Authority, Steve Rotheram, Mayor of Liverpool City Region, Tracy Brabin, Mayor of West Yorkshire, Jamie Driscoll, Mayor of North of Tyne, and Nik Johnson, Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. Councillor Gerald Cooney also attended as deputy for Greater Manchester’s Mayor, Andy Burnham, while London’s Deputy Mayor Shirley Rodrigues attended on behalf of Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.

Jonathan Brearley, CEO at Ofgem, said:

“Metro Mayors have set out ambitious plans to meet every region’s net zero targets, and we must work together to make sure we can deliver cleaner, greener energy to every city, street, home and business in every corner of Great Britain.

“We’re working hard to create a modern energy system by ending unacceptable delays to renewable power and halving the time to build new transmission networks. The new RESP roles will end the patchwork approach to energy planning by defining tailored regional strategies so Mayors can unlock investment, create green jobs, cut through planning red tape, and speed up the building of vital energy infrastructure.

“The creation of the Future Systems Operator (FSO) will provide a once in a generation opportunity to design an energy system that works for everyone, and I look forward to collaborating with leaders from across Great Britain in the future to transform the way energy is planned and delivered at a local and national level.”

The new reforms are part of Ofgem’s wider agenda, together with the Department of Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ), to create a more decentralised, decarbonised energy system, which promotes more flexible and efficient energy use.

North of Tyne Mayor Jamie Driscoll said:

“COP28 is happening right now. International cooperation is essential if we are to tackle the climate crisis. We also have to work together as a region. That means industry, regulators, regional and national government all getting round the table to find solutions that reduce emissions and lower energy bills for households and businesses. A Regional Energy System Planner which dovetails with our Net Zero plans could bring great benefits to the region - breaking down silos and unlocking our green potential. Boosting our renewable energy, reducing bills and upgrading our electricity grid cannot wait – the time to act is now.”

Councillor Cooney, Greater Manchester’s Lead for Infrastructure said: 

“We welcome Ofgem’s proposals to establish Regional Energy Strategic Planners especially given their commitments to include democratic accountability by supporting and building upon the advanced work already underway across Greater Manchester to achieve our target to be carbon neutral by 2038.”

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and chair of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), said:

“Since it was set up in 2017, the Energy Capital partnership has worked hard to give the West Midlands a voice in energy system planning - so it is great news that we have been heard by Ofgem with this announcement, the most significant step-change in devolving energy decision-making for decades.

“Improving energy infrastructure is not only a crucial for us to meet our #WM2041 net zero pledge, it will create warmer more efficient homes for our residents, support our businesses to reduce energy costs and reach net zero, and decarbonise our transport systems.

“It will also generate new jobs and skills opportunities to drive the green economy and pull together public and private finance to overcome barriers to growth. All powered by smart technology and some of the cutting-edge digitalisation projects that Energy Capital are developing, and fundamentally led by partners through a genuine place-based regional approach.”

Dr Nik Johnson, Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, Said:

“My commitment lies in advocating for a comprehensive review of our energy planning framework. Our goal is twofold: to expedite results and to align with the evolving needs of our swiftly growing areas, all while ensuring minimal impact on existing bill payers. I see the establishment of Regional Energy Planning bodies, infused with democratic input, as a pivotal opportunity, provided it is executed with precision.

“To position our localities as 'intelligent clients' in the regional context, we must possess the requisite evidence and expertise for meaningful contributions to Regional Planning. Although we are set to undertake evidence gathering through a voluntary and unfunded Local Area Energy Plan, the significance of this effort cannot be overstated.

“Fortuitously, we enjoy robust technical support from our electricity operator, UKPN, especially concerning Local Area Energy Planning. However, maintaining consistency across regions is paramount, given the involvement of various operators due to regional geography.

“Ofgem’s proposal of using the extent of Sub-National Transport Bodies for regional geography, placing us within the England Economic Heartland STB geography, has the potential to better acknowledge local ambition and needs.

“I recognise the importance of effective communication between neighbouring regional processes, particularly when dealing with new network infrastructure that spans two regions. The envisaged Regional Plans are designed to be 'cross-vector,' encompassing all energy sources for a holistic approach to our energy future.”

Notes to editors:

Decision on future of local energy institutions and governance | Ofgem

Ofgem announces tough new policy to clear ‘zombie projects’ and cut waiting time for energy grid connection | Ofgem

Earlier this month Ofgem announced a series of measures to transform how local energy systems are planned and operated. As part of this work, Ofgem will also introduce a new market facilitator function that will delivering joined up flexibility markets. The market facilitator will be responsible for market coordination, implementation, monitoring, and strategic leadership. Ofgem will soon be publishing a consultation looking at which entity should deliver this new function.  

The decisions follow the regulator’s review into the effectiveness of institutional and governance arrangements at a regional level to support delivery of net zero at least cost, and the case for alternative approaches. Ofgem also consulted on the proposals earlier this year.  

Summit attendees

  • North of Tyne, Mayor Jamie Driscoll
  • West Yorkshire, Mayor Tracy Brabin
  • Liverpool City Region, Mayor Steve Rotheram
  • West Midlands, Mayor Andy Street
  • Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, Mayor Nik Johnson
  • Greater Manchester, Councillor Gerald Cooney
  • London, Deputy Mayor for Environment and Energy Shirley Rodrigues
Channel website: https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/

Original article link: https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/publications/metro-mayors-back-major-regional-energy-planning-reform

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