The UK government has invested £19 million in three pilot projects to encourage local councils to attract investment and deploy renewable power projects to help the country reach its net zero targets.
Two of the projects are Local Net Zero Accelerator pilots, to be granted to the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and the West Midlands Combined Authority. The former council will receive £7 million, and the latter £10 million, with the money earmarked for use in installing new rooftop solar panels and battery storage systems, and building and deploying new buses powered by electricity.
The national government also noted that the project aims to overcome “barriers to attracting private sector investment” for net zero projects on the local level, by granting local councils funds to get projects off the ground, to attract investors interested in supporting projects at scale. The fact that these projects will all operate under the same Local Net Zero Accelerator scheme could also make private funding more straightforward, as investors will have to work with a single government initiative rathe than a range of local councils, which could encourage more private backing.
A further £2 million will go towards the York and North Yorkshire Combined Authority to fund a separate pilot project, based on the Bristol City Leap project. This initiative established a public-private partnership between the city council, Ameresco and Vattenfall, leading to “millions of pounds worth of investment” into Bristol’s energy infrastructure, according to the UK government.
While this project will operate separately to those in Manchester and the West Midlands, the projects, when considered together, could be an effective way of encouraging new investment in small-scale renewable and energy projects.
“The UK is a world leader when it comes to tackling climate change,” said Lord Callanan, minister for energy efficiency and green finance. “But the work we do locally is just as important for cutting emissions and delivering net zero.”
“These pilots will help combined authorities to unlock private sector investment that they can spend on green projects they see fit locally, whether that be retrofitting housing or investing in green public transport networks – all while supporting skilled jobs, building out supply chains and growing our economy.”
The news follows the publication of a report by Energy UK and Oxford Economics, which found that the perceived cost of the electricity production facility and energy infrastructure needed to meet the UK’s climate goals could be an obstacle to new investment in the sector, and the government will be optimistic that its own financial backing for such projects will encourage others.