Blog: Master-planning and future-proofing: making the transition to a low carbon city

low carbon stockAs it looks ahead to the Scottish Renewables Low Carbon Cities Conference in Edinburgh next week, the Scottish Cities Alliance said an ‘Infrastructure-first approach’ to energy developments is crucial.

How do we plan and create the infrastructure and regulatory frameworks for smart, sustainable cities of the future? The Alliance’s low carbon officer Amy Braddick will outline how we could do that at the Scottish Renewables Low Carbon Cities Conference in Edinburgh next Wednesday (22 February).

Amy will explore how we alter the existing structural and regulatory infrastructure in our cities to make them ready to adopt renewable and low-carbon solutions. This is Scottish Renewables’ first ever Low-Carbon Cities Conference which aims to explore the wide variety of opportunities for Scotland’s cities to embrace the transition to a sustainable, clean, green economy; reducing energy costs and tackling fuel poverty, while attracting low-carbon investment and jobs, and building Scotland’s industries of the future.

Amy will talk about the Alliance’s vital role leading projects across the seven cities to develop a common approach to district heating in new developments across their planning authorities. This includes a common approach to Local Development Plan policy and supplementary guidance to ensure consistency in messages from the cities on district heating.

To assess whether a new development should be required to take forward district heating, the project has developed an energy statement template to be completed. That enables the developer to highlight the technical and financial parameters they have considered in assessing the viability of district heating at a site. This is not only valuable information which demonstrates consideration of district heat but allows an early stage conversation to be held between the Local Authority and the developer. Where a district heating project is viable for the developer it allows the local authority to understand the details of the project at an early stage, influence its development and where opportunity may exist for retrofit of district heating in adjacent premises.

The Alliance is undertaking the third and final part of this project, to determine how an energy statement would be assessed, to review of the skills and resources in the local authorities to establish who would complete this assessment and what training, skills and resources would be needed to able to do this effectively.

The work completed to date has identified that planning has an important role to play in taking forward, as described in the recent planning consultation, an infrastructure first approach particularly related to energy. What is clear is from this project is that this cannot be done by planning alone. Although the project is not complete, the multi-stakeholder workshops have so far highlighted the need for support for planners, across the skills areas identified, to be able to review an energy statement that is both from in-house staff and from expert organisations.

The Alliance project is timely, as the Scottish Government has released the Local Heat and Energy Efficiency Strategy and District Heating Regulation Consultation which asks for views on bringing forward a regulatory duty for Local Authorities to produce Local Heat and Energy Efficiency Strategies. It is anticipated that these strategies would complement Local Development Plans in an authority area. In addition the Scottish Energy Strategy Consultation requests views on the formation of a Government Owned Energy Company which could among other activity could act to “support existing and new schemes and initiatives”.

The output of the Alliance project will be fed in to the skills and resources questions that are posed in the district heat consultation and will highlight if there is a need for support for activity such as energy statement reviews from the proposed Government Owned Energy Company.

In order to provide a real life context around the opportunities and challenges that these projects offer cities, Alastair Brown, director of infrastructure for Stirling Council will discuss the actions Stirling have undertaken and are planning to undertake including the development of planning for eat and the structures and support that are in place or are required, specifically for a city to take forward this type of planned approach.

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