West Midlands Mayor backs Ofgem regional energy planning reform
Published: Friday 01 Dec 2023
Plans to accelerate local planning reform that will cut red tape and help regions across Great Britain create roadmaps to get to net zero have been backed by Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and chair of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA).
Ofgem’s CEO, Jonathan Brearley, hosted seven Metro Mayors and local leaders from across England to a summit yesterday, Thursday 30 November, following 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.
The West Midlands has been a strong advocate for the need for greater local and regional involvement in energy systems planning to achieve a clean energy future that can reduce residents’ and businesses energy usage and, ultimately, lower their bills, and to achieve the region’s #WM2041 pledge to be net zero within the next two decades.
In 2017 the Energy Capital Partnership was established to draw together relevant experts and stakeholders, from the energy industry, public bodies and the private sector, and universities, to identify the steps required to achieve a fair and just transition to a net zero energy system.
The Mayor 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.”
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 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.
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.”
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