This year’s Big Energy Summit in Warwick was our biggest yet - featuring over 150 delegates, speakers, sponsors and exhibitors. Charlotte Banks, APSE Energy Research and Project Officer, reports back on a seminar buzzing with ideas on municipal energy.
The 2019 APSE Big Energy Summit took place on 14 and 15 of March in Warwick. The overarching theme of the summit was ‘energising local government’ and focused on areas such as the local authority role in related UK policy developments, learning about best practice from existing projects, getting the best out of energy opportunities and local authority assets, investing in energy and renewables, as well as much more.
When opening the Summit, Head of APSE Energy, Phil Brennan, acknowledged the rapid developments occurring in the energy industry and the growing scope of the local authority role in these developments. This is going from strength to strength with APSE Energy playing a key role in supporting local councils across the UK. A huge variety of presentations, workshops and case studies allowed the delegates to engage in a plethora of topics.
In attendance at the summit were 150 delegates, speakers, sponsors and exhibitors which enabled plenty of opportunities for lively discussions, networking and ideas sharing across the two-day summit.
Key themes that emerged from the Summit included the need to: -
• challenge the status quo of energy management if we are to move further forward;
• take a long-term approach for infrastructure projects;
• appreciate the need to accept and work within a rapidly changing sector;
• use the support that is out there not only from APSE Energy but from BEIS and elsewhere;
• clarify your commercial approach;
• realise that the more scale a project has the more likely it is to attract sector funding;
• hone your planning and project management skills if you’re working towards a climate emergency declaration or similar;
• understand the need to invest in appropriate skill and training both policy-related and technical;
• get a grip of data – yours, your customers’, your technology’s, your suppliers’ – it will be fundamental to how the success of future projects.
A key area to highlight from this list is the discussion regarding Climate Emergency declarations. A variety of delegates in the room were from councils who had recently declared a Climate Emergency and set a carbon neutrality target, and others were in the process of doing the same. This backdrop informed a lot of the discussion and placed emphasis on how engaging in the energy agenda is vital for councils to achieve these targets and how it will require involvement and commitment from the entire council.
The lack of capacity and resources in many local authorities to meet local, national and international targets was raised repeatedly as an issue throughout the summit. However, there is a growing momentum for renewable energy projects and new business models within those councils who are considered to be forward thinking and paving the way for others to follow, such as Nottingham, Dumfries and Galloway, Swansea and Warrington. ‘Support’ was a word that was used regularly throughout the summit and highlights the culture across local government of ideas sharing and the openness of councils to share their best practices and lessons learnt.
This year the summit was sponsored by BEIS, and Patrick Allcorn, Head of Local Energy at BEIS delivered a presentation which outlined the support that BEIS can provide for councils and the BEIS perspective on the local authority energy agenda. This included his preference for spreading existing experience and expertise across the sector.
The idea of challenging existing practices emerged strongly from the summit – whether that is challenging how the council’s corporate energy is purchased, what your council considers an asset, the authority’s approach to investments, or who leads the council’s approach to climate change issues – it was recognised that doing what we have always done won’t get the best results.
We hope that all of the summit attendees enjoyed the two days as much as we did! We are now looking forward to the Scottish Energy Summit in October and next year’s APSE Big Energy Summit 2020, as well as a range of other events in between.