Local Area Energy Plans (LAEPs) have been widely promoted as a tool to support heat decarbonisation by providing guidance on optimal decarbonisation pathways for local authority areas. While the methodological development and production of LAEPs has moved forwards apace, attention needs to be given to how such tools work in the field. That was the goal of this scoping study, which examined the initial use of LAEPs in the three UK pilots.
The study delivered the following key findings and recommendations:
- To date, the translation of LAEP advice into tangible decarbonisation actions has been patchy.
- The kind of technical knowledge created for LAEPs was not always useful to local council officers and politicians facing difficult social and economic choices. The reliance on complex energy system modelling created risks that the underpinning analysis of LAEPs was opaque, and that local council staff lacked agency in steering how they were used.
- There is a need for greater learning between plan process development and practice, and for learning-based relationships on heat decarbonisation between different levels and sections of government.
The research delivers valuable insights for practitioners working at the interface between planning, energy decarbonisation and Net Zero, in public and private sectors.