Seven Metro Mayors and leaders of major English cities were among civic chiefs convened by Ofgem’s CEO Jonathan Brearley in a bid to spur local planning reforms aimed at helping UK regions create their roadmaps towards Net Zero.

Friday’s summit follows the regulator’s announcement last month that it will create detailed regional energy plans spanning the UK, aimed at improving local energy planning and speeding up decarbonisation.

Ofgem is looking for more local input to energy planning, as it targets investment inflows into offshore and onshore generation, grids and networks.

Key to the drive is the regulator’s framework for accelerated strategic transmission investment (ASTI). Officials see this as the pathway to ensuring greener energy is distributed faster and at lower upfront cost to businesses and households across the nation.

Newly empowered Regional Energy Strategic Planners (RESPs) will work with organisations at local authorities level including in city halls and gas and electricity distributors, to plan the cable and switches needed in different parts of the country and attract investment for projects.

RESPs will also provide resources and tools to support local authorities to speed up energy planning, and improve accountability.

At Friday’s roundtable Ofgem’s CEO hosted Mayors and representatives from the Electricity System Operator ESO, to discuss how new regional planning roles can improve on the current patchwork approach to planning.

This will help to create roadmaps for how local energy systems need to be developed to reach net zero by 2050, and decarbonise the UK’s electricity system by 2035. The ESO will become the new independent Future Systems Operator (FSO) in 2024, and will be the delivery body for RESPs.

Participants agree local energy systems need better planning. Measures now being enacted are intended to give leaders of big conurbations the opportunity to guide how the RESP roles can deliver local buy in, sharing insights, best practice and challenges from each region.

Among mayors attending were Andy Street from the West Midlands Combined Authority, Steve Rotheram from Liverpool City Region, Tracy Brabin from West Yorkshire, North Tyne’s Jamie Driscoll and Nik Johnson, Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

Deputies for the mayors of London and Greater Manchester also contributed.

The regulator’s boss Jonathan Brearley commented: “The new RESP roles will end the patchwork approach to energy planning by defining tailored regional strategies so Mayors can unlock investment, create green jobs, cut through planning red tape, and speed up the building of vital energy infrastructure.

“The creation of the Future Systems Operator (FSO) will provide a once in a generation opportunity to design an energy system that works for everyone, and I look forward to collaborating with leaders from across Great Britain in the future to transform the way energy is planned and delivered at a local and national level.”

He went on: “We’re working hard to create a modern energy system by ending unacceptable delays to renewable power and halving the time to build new transmission networks“.


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