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Energising energy management

Energising energy management

Head of APSE Energy, Phil Brennan explains why COVID-19 responses within local authorities should not exclude the role of energy managers and those tackling climate change and renewable energy initiatives.

Whilst quite rightly councils have focused on the immediacy of a response to COVID-19 there are longer terms issues which are emerging from the debate around the pandemic and our response to it. The Government has acted quickly to promote support from the big energy suppliers for those on pre-payment meters and those in danger of fuel poverty for example. From a wider perspective, re-assurances were given about the national grid’s ability to cope with extra demands on it as a result of changes in working arrangements for many. As it turns out overall demand has dropped and renewables are making up a much greater portion of generation due to recent weather conditions.

Energy, climate and sustainability are intrinsically linked of course. Looking globally. It has not taken long for images to circulate on social media of the world’s hidden views, from previously smog obscured images of the Taj Mahal, to the normally traffic congested streets of Rome, now clear in spring sunshine. If there is a small glimmer of positivity coming from COVID-19 it is that we can do things differently and make a real difference to the world in which we live.

There has been a huge shift in behaviours over the past month in the UK mirrored across the world. The nature of the dramatic changes we are seeing in order to stop the spread of the virus is leading to empty streets, people restricted to home, changing work arrangements, huge public sector spending and a knock on effect on local and global economies – a situation very few would have imagined pre pandemic. It is the imminence of the threat which has prompted the response and a good thing too.

Those with responsibilities in the energy and climate change field will be thinking ahead. How can we apply the actions and lessons from the current emergency to a climate emergency which many perceive to be too far into the future to need such radical responses? Perception is vital here – the message about climate emergency is spreading but it needs to happen more quickly.

Local authorities manage in the here and now as well as looking to the future. In terms of energy the actions we take now must fit with our future plans and it is vital that in our post-COVID-19 period we re-energise climate emergency action plans. In the short term there are really benefits to managing energy more efficiently and spreading that message to local businesses too. So, if like many other councils COVID-19 has distracted you from focusing on the climate emergency, in terms of the larger scale projects, we would suggest that you can still make a difference to your goals by focusing on energy prices and energy consumptions.

In discussions with Mike Chan from APSE Energy partners Beondgroup, we have looked at the responsibilities councils have to keeping their local businesses informed on energy matters. The main issues we spoke about included:-

  • the need for business to check renewal dates for contracts – many will end at this time of year and the ‘deemed rates’ that kick in if renewal is missed are very expensive;
  • some contracts have minimum usage levels which will result in penalty charges – check your contracts for these;
  • read your meters if your demand has reduced – relying on estimates will put money in the suppliers’ pockets and impact your cash flow;
  • if you have to cancel direct debits you may be charged security deposits to continue supply thereafter – be aware;
  • avoid short terms contracts if that is all your supplier is offering – they are expensive;
  • some suppliers are not quoting for certain sectors – don’t panic there are plenty of alternative suppliers out there.

Some of the above advice is directly applicable to local authorities as large energy users.

It is also highly relevant to large and small businesses in local areas. Many of these do not operate with any capacity to manage energy use on a regular basis – they agree on a price they like for the term of the contract and sign up. When their focus is elsewhere, they can fall into the kind of trap noted above so this kind of advice is very helpful to them. By spreading this message local authorities can support their local economies especially the SME sector and hopefully contribute to a stable national economy post COVID-19.

There will be a renewed focus on risk management and emergency planning once we are past the pandemic stage – energy and climate change will be at the heart of that debate globally, nationally and locally with councils having a fundamental role to play.


To find out more about APSE Energy email Phil Brennan on pbrennan@apse.org.uk


Promoting excellence in public services

APSE (Association for Public Service Excellence) is a not for profit unincorporated association working with over 300 councils throughout the UK. Promoting excellence in public services, APSE is the foremost specialist in local authority frontline services, hosting a network for frontline service providers in areas such as waste and refuse collection, parks and environmental services, cemeteries and crematorium, environmental health, leisure, school meals, cleaning, housing and building maintenance.






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