The public sector has a key part to play in the fight against climate change, as well as ensuring the security of the country's energy supply. The Public Accounts Committee has criticised the UK's 'unacceptably slow' progress towards meeting its renewable energy targets. Understanding the scale of change required, and the public sector's role in leading the way, is vitally important.
Understanding the opportunities and options is the all-important first step, and this conference aims to provide presentations from leading public sector organisations that share their experiences.
Greening the heat supply is extremely important – heating accounts for roughly half of Britain's carbon dioxide emissions. The Department for Energy and Climate Change recently announced the launch of the world's first Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), which aims to increase renewable heat generation from 1% to 12% by 2020. The £860m scheme aims to encourage the installation of equipment such as renewable heat pumps, biomass boilers and solar thermal panels to reduce emissions and support the existing 150,000 jobs in the heating industry.
The RHI will provide support for those who install renewable heating. Many public sector buildings offer great potential for onsite renewables, and with a rate of return of up to 12%, there is considerable scope for generating revenue. For local authorities and Registered Social Landlords, the RHI will subsidise the costs associated with fitting renewable heating technologies, meaning that revenue from the scheme can be used as part of wider social housing refurbishments. Concern over badly installed heat pumps – cited in a report by the Energy Saving Trust – serves as a reminder that organisations must be fully equipped with all necessary knowledge.
The public sector has great potential as an energy generator. Installation of renewables can help in addressing fuel poverty, assist in securing the country's energy supply for the future, and at the same time provide a steady source of revenue with good rates of return. With some 10% of the UK's land owned by the public sector, this is a time of considerable opportunity. Insights gained from this conference will support public sector organisations in maximising the benefit of this opportunity.
In the recent Local Growth White Paper, the government emphasised its commitment to delivering a huge expansion of renewable energy over the next 10 years. Recognising that community renewable energy projects play a vital role in meeting the national need for secure and clean energy, they will now be allowed keep any business rates generated. Moreover, the planning system has caused hold-ups in the past, but imminent changes to planning powers will make it simpler to take advantage of such opportunities.
With the Energy Bill currently making its way through Parliament, and details of the Green Investment Bank being revealed, there is a great deal to be discussed by the programme of excellent speakers at Renewable Energy in the Public Sector: understanding opportunities.