Cllr Judith Blake 08 April 2019

Unlocking low carbon finance

Unlocking low carbon finance image

In January, I opened a conference in my home city of Leeds where representatives of banks, private investment funds, developers, climate change organisations, local and central government and the wider business community were all committed to playing their part.

It was clear to all that a huge gap exists between the projects authorities have on the table and the money needed - both public and private - to bring them to life.

Post-Brexit there is also the need to replace the European funding previously ploughed into many projects of this type, for example from Horizon 2020 and £1bn between 2014 and 2020 from the ERDF.

Many local authorities across the country are already developing innovative solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help residents living in fuel poverty. Leeds, along with Cambridgeshire, Glenrothes in Fife, Manchester, Nottingham and Swindon were all held up as leading examples at our conference. They are doing this while budgets are tight – not just because we must, but also because it makes good long-term economic sense.

But given these local, clean energy projects have the potential to reduce our reliance on dirty fossil fuels, cut the costs of heating our homes and ensure our residents have clean air to breathe, too many are stuck in the conceptualisation or feasibility stages and need a hefty push towards full commercialisation.

Science tells us we have to act immediately if we are to avoid climate breakdown so why aren’t we? I co-chair the 92-strong UK100 network of local government leaders and to achieve our collective commitment to 100% clean energy by 2050 much more needs doing.

The same applies to local leaders across the country, who will all need to make this same transition for the millions of people we represent, saving our authorities money that could go back into public services and into people’s pockets, while also bringing health and well-being benefits.

The conference was a great opportunity to come together and learn more about identifying these opportunities. However, it will take a combined effort between local and national government to show the private sector just how investable these projects are.

In Leeds we are pleased to be at the forefront of initiatives to unlock low-carbon finance in collaboration with UK100, local authorities and financial partners. This model could and should be replicated elsewhere.

Our energy system is changing from a centralised system, to one where local technologies are becoming more important. Our own PIPES District Heating Network uses heat generated by processing waste at the council’s recycling and energy recovery facility. It is projected to reduce energy bills by at least 10% each year for every household connected to it.

Accessing finance to deliver integrated local clean energy at scale though remains a challenge for many. UK100’s research shows authorities would value a single gateway to apply to for support, citing too many government departments to go to for different pots of money and a system that confuses the authorities as much as it does the investors.

Energy and clean growth minister, Claire Perry, gave the keynote speech at the conference, reaffirming that the Government takes this issue and opportunity seriously.

Working together we can deliver innovation in low-carbon energy infrastructure that will stimulate our local economies, provide growth and boost jobs and training opportunities for the next-generation in our communities. But we can’t waste any time.

I believe the conference kickstarted important conversations, connections and co-operation and maybe now after reading this, you too will want to join us in moving our local areas one step closer to a cleaner, greener UK.

Cllr Judith Blake is leader of Leeds City Council and co-chair of UK100

This feature first appeared in Local Government News magazine.

Impact of tourism tax image

Impact of tourism tax

Rory Alexander explores what the introduction of tourism tax in the UK could mean for local councils.
Highways jobs

Assistant Director

Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council
£88,768
Looking for an Assistant Director for Commissioning and Partnerships based in our newly created Adults and Wellbeing Directorate. Calderdale, West Yorkshire
Recuriter: Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council

Head of Culture and Tourism

Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council
£55,704 - £57,957
As part of the Tees Valley, Redcar and Cleveland, together with our neighbouring boroughs, will be bidding to become the City of Culture 2025. Redcar, North Yorkshire
Recuriter: Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council

Economic Resilience Project Officer - Major Infrastructure

Kirklees Metropolitan Council
£36,876 - £38,813
Exciting opportunity has arisen for exceptional project managers who want to play a leading role in reshaping our... Kirklees, West Yorkshire
Recuriter: Kirklees Metropolitan Council

Executive Director of Children’s Services

Bi-Borough
Up to £165k
Enabling all children and young people to reach their full potential London (Greater)
Recuriter: Bi-Borough

Supported Lettings Officer

Ryedale District Council
£23,836 per annum
Following a successful bid as part of the governments Rapid Rehousing Initiative, Ryedale DC will provide a... North Yorkshire
Recuriter: Ryedale District Council

Local Government News

Latest issue - Local Goverrnemnt News

The March issue of Local Government News explores alternative funding channels that are available to councils beyond the Public Works Loan Board, what hurdles merging councils face in coming together, and how local government is handling GDPR.

This issue also has a special highways and street lighting section exploring how councils can use lighting to embark on their smart city journey and using IoT technology to weather the storm.

Register for your free magazine