Partnering with BHESCo to deliver an effective Local Area Energy Plan (LAEP)

What is a Local Area Action Plan (LAEP)?

More than 300 local authorities across the UK have declared a climate emergency proclaiming their ambitions to become Net Zero or Carbon Neutral within the next ten to twenty years.

The UK Government expects councils to submit a roadmap for achieving their net zero carbon goals in the form of a Local Area Energy Plan (LAEP) to help meet our national Net Zero 2050 target.

A well designed LAEP is only effective when completed by knowledgeable, informed local leaders and initiative takers working with experts to produce a comprehensive long-term, executable decarbonisation strategy. 

A successful Local Area Energy Plan will include:

Stakeholder engagement

Cost & financial analysis

Analysis of heat and power demands

Multiple future pathways

Analysis of built & natural environment

Costed solutions to reach zero carbon

Impact of transport electrification

Electricity network impact assessment

Analysis of evolving energy consumption

Overcoming this complex set of challenges will require industry specific experience and expertise that is not related to the social care priorities of most local authorities. Future energy systems planning and design, including their technical and economic aspects, is outside the core responsibilities of many smaller councils. 

To take onshore wind as an example, under the current system no onshore wind farm development can go ahead unless the local authority has drawn up a detailed local plan identifying all areas that would be suitable of onshore wind development. According to RenewableUK, only 11% of local authorities had the time, resources or the inclination to do so.

For this reason, Brighton & Hove Energy Services Co-operative (BHESCo) are looking to partner with local authorities who wish to benefit from our exceptional technical knowledge, comprehensive research, modelling skills and years of community engagement experience in the energy industry.

The world is facing a climate emergency and we must work together to secure a habitable world for tomorrow.

“Treat the earth well: It was not given to you by your parents; it was loaned to you by your children.”

– Lakota proverb

Delivering real change in place of roadmaps and reports

Some parish and city councils have engaged an external consultancy to produce a zero carbon road map which is an important first step. In most cases, no action has been taken to move these plans forward. Most consultants will produce a fact based, aspirational report on decarbonisation and then walk away once the study is released, providing no step-by-step guidance for councils to take action on realising these ambitions.

What use is a decarbonisation report to community leaders when there is no clear instruction on how to proceed?

Where councils have already commissioned a report on local decarbonisation, BHESCo can deliver value by analysing the findings of the report and identifying the low hanging fruit, the projects that require longer term planning and the external events that must occur for projects to be successful, e.g. electricity grid reinforcement planning, electric vehicle charging infrastructure and heat network design.

Having already successfully delivered nearly sixty community energy projects, including three projects containing strategic plans for councils to decarbonise heating systems, BHESCo knows how to turn concepts into reality. Our excellent track-record means that we can deploy proven technologies that will deliver the anticipated performance results, while presenting governance, operational and finance options required.

Because BHESCo’s business model involves the design, development, and ownership models for operation and maintenance of energy assets, we can rely on real world experience when it comes to project design, instead of relying entirely on research and theoretical modelling. 

The importance of people - why accounting for non-technical factors is essential to a successful LAEP

There is much more to consider with decarbonisation of heat and power than just the energy performance of existing buildings and the technical solutions available to improve them. There are many social and economic implications that will result from a transition to 100% renewable energy, which must be considered and discussed with the communities who will be impacted by these changes. An effective energy transition requires the consent and participation of residents, businesses and other stakeholders in the community.

At BHESCo, we understand the challenges that we face in achieving a fair and equitable energy transition. Our community engagement methods engender trust from people, creating a safe environment for people to share views frankly and honestly. 

We recognise that people can be resistant to change. Residents may feel anxious about the ability of new technologies to deliver consistent heating, with the affordable running costs. People may also be concerned about the cost of these new technologies and how the energy transition will be financed.

These are all issues that BHESCo addresses during our decarbonisation campaigns, having developed a number of effective approaches for engagement to meet the needs of different communities. 

Request a BHESCo LAEP Consultancy Workshop

BHESCo are offering local authorities a one to one consultancy workshop where we can review any Climate Action Plans already produced and start to put together the foundations of a Local Area Energy Plan.

These sessions will highlight what is missing and what is needed and how the local authority can begin to close this gap.

The sessions will be two hours long in a set format that can be applied to all local authorities.

BHESCo’s fee will include four hours to review the existing plans and to prepare a set of exercises for the workshops. The workshops will cost £720 +VAT each.

The importance of measurable milestones and a fully costed budget

For a Local Area Energy Plan to deliver value it must include project milestones and timelines which can be measured against quantifiable targets. It should include a step-by-step delivery strategy which is segmented into clearly defined phases and tasks. 

An effective energy plan must include a comprehensive budget, informed by detailed financial modelling featuring a realistic cost/ payback analysis, taking into consideration externalities that will impact specific tasks.

In this way, councils can successfully execute a long-term energy strategy that delivers affordable low-carbon energy to residents and businesses with minimum disruption and maximum cost-efficiency.

Through our years of experience delivering multi-faceted community energy projects, BHESCo has honed an ability for accurate and reliable budget preparation. We take a holistic approach to project development, factoring in such facilitation costs as grid-reinforcement, planning permission applications, structural survey calculations and land ownership consents.

BHESCo has access to truer costs based on prior developments and industry experience, thereby delivering a realistic and informed plan. Naturally, long term plans mean that costs will increase. Elements such as inflation and global events will impact pricing. Therefore, it is our professional expertise, detailed knowledge of the energy industry, and practical experience that will drive the accuracy of any scenario modelling. 

Being able to establish a clear project plan and a fully costed budget will avoid unexpected delays and complications further down the line. Working with BHESCo is your best chance at getting this right.

Why BHESCo is an ideal partner for developing a Local Area Energy Plan

BHESCo’s proven track record in energy project delivery makes us a perfect partner for local authorities who need support with their decarbonisation strategy.

Some reasons why include:

Case Study - Crowhurst Parish Council

Project Background

In 2021 BHESCo were engaged by Crowhurst Parish Council to consider the potential for renewable energy generation and energy saving technologies for properties that fall within the parish boundary.

Crowhurst is a rural village in East Sussex with approximately 890 residents and 333 buildings. The village is not connected to the gas network and most people rely on heating oil or liquified petroleum gas (LPG) to heat their homes.

The feasibility study was conducted in partnership with Energise Sussex Coast and RINA Tech Ltd, with funding provided by the Rural Community Energy Fund (RCEF).

BHESCo's approach

From the outset of this project BHESCo took a ‘Fabric First’ approach to the decarbonisation of Crowhurst, looking to identify ways to reduce the existing energy consumption before moving on to low-carbon energy generation and/ or heating. 

BHESCo identified a selection of building archetypes that were representative of properties throughout the village. We conducted an on-site energy survey of fifty properties and produced a detailed report looking at the low-carbon potential for each location, analysing of the existing building fabric, solar PV potential, low-carbon heating potential, hot water demands, and lighting provision.

We recommended what we considered to be the most cost-effective solutions for each property and forecast the impact these improvements would have on the Energy Performance Certificate. 

Using the data obtained from the 50 properties that were surveyed we were able to develop a model for the rest of the village, drawing conclusions and identifying the most practicable solutions for achieving decarbonisation at scale and at an affordable cost. 

Local Area Energy Plan - Rural Village

Community Engagement

In Crowhurst, we were fortunate to benefit from a highly engaged working group in the Parish Council. They  issued a letter to all residents of the village, which demonstrated council support for the scheme and legitimised the subsequent communication from the feasibility study participants. 

The Parish Council assisted in distribution of all key written material to study participants, giving again a
feel of local engagement not remote working. Their voluntary support was invaluable in keeping project
costs within budget.

The Parish Council organised meetings at the village hall to engage with the local community, providing their support by answering questions and concerns expressed by villagers. 

The work done by the working group resulted in concrete insights via a Questionnaire that was
distributed to the households in the village, and resulted in 96 responses out of circa 300 homes that
were approached.


Following completion of the energy surveys BHESCo issued a summary document of our conclusions to each of the properties surveyed. In the document we recommended what we considered to be the most cost-effective solutions for each property and forecast the impact these improvements would have on the Energy Performance Certificate. 

We presented our conclusions regarding a decarbonisation strategy for the whole village to councillors and residents at an in-person meeting held in the village hall. Our recommendations included the development of a series of shared heat networks powered by ground source heat pumps, the installation of individual air source heat pumps for properties that could not be connected to a network, and a framework for improving the energy efficiency of properties at scale. 

As part of our remit we submitted a full capital investment estimation, accounting for labour, borehole drilling, pipework trenching, design, engineering, technology costs, etc. 

We submitted proposals on a financial model for the project which would include the establishment of a Special Purpose Vehicle, enabling BHESCo to charge residents for the cost of the heat used in their property via a ‘Heat As A Service’ agreement. This would also put BHESCo in a position to own and operate the heat network on behalf of the community.

We identified a number of government grant mechanisms that could be leveraged to support development costs, proposing that the remainder could be raised through a community bond offer. 

Next Steps

Crowhurst Parish Council are in the process of accessing available project development funding from such government initiatives as the Green Network Fund and the Boiler Upgrade Scheme. 

Other Case Studies

BHESCo were engaged by Shoreham Parish Council in 2022 to investigate the most cost-effective solutions for decarbonising this rural Kent community.

The project partners worked together with the Parish Council to identify options for suitable land for renewable energy technologies, taking account of residual value for development, proximity to clusters of buildings and amenity/usage type preservation.

BHESCo used multiple sources to benchmark the current heat demand, and the likely heat demand if residents upgrade their insulation with key measures such as Cavity Wall Insulation, Loft Insulation and Double Glazing. 

We summarised and quantified the best way forwards, presenting clear financial metrics for all options to allow decision makers to make their choices in full awareness of the impact of their decisions.

We modelled the economic lifetimes of system components to work out the suitability for different financing arrangements, for example pipework may last 100 years, but a heat pump may only have a useful service life of 15 years – this is all taken into account when working out the values and revenue flow for constituent parts of the network.

We also conducted intense community engagement, via village hall presentations and then a resident questionnaire to understand the insulation status of the neighbourhood, and we had a 33% engagement rate – as we base our analysis on reality on the ground not on assumed hypothetical profiles as much as possible.

At the conclusion of our research we will present our results to the Parish Council Committee, alongside the full RCEF report.

In 2022, BHESCo were engaged by East Preston Parish Council to consider the potential for renewable energy generation and energy saving technologies at nine council-owned sites within the parish boundary.  

East Preston is a village in the Arun District of West Sussex. Arun District Council declared a climate emergency in January 2020 announcing its plans to be carbon neutral by 2030.

BHESCo conducted an on-site survey for each of the properties identified by the Council, producing a detailed analysis of the low-carbon potential for each location, recommending the most cost-effective solutions for their consideration.

In each case, BHESCo provided an estimate of the installation cost and anticipated annual financial savings. We also included an estimate of the potential solar PV generation capacity (calculated in kilowatt hours) and the associated carbon emissions reductions (calculated in tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent).

Each unique location also featured an analysis of the existing building fabric, low-carbon heating potential, hot water demands, and lighting provision.

Council buildings represent only a small share of the carbon emissions of any community.  The next steps are to prepare an executable plan for the village to support its goal of becoming carbon neutral.

BHESCo engaged the Firle Estate in 2017 by approaching the Estate Manager with a proposal to conduct a feasibility project on how to decarbonise heat for this rural village outside of Lewes in East Sussex. We obtained grant funding from the Rural Community Energy Fund to develop the project.

Most properties in the village rely on fossil fuels as a source of heat, usually heating oil or liquid petroleum gas (LPG). Our goal was to determine an economically viable and environmentally sustainable alternative.

BHESCo decided to pursue a “Fabric First” approach, partnering with RetrofitWorks to create a retrofit energy savings plan for the village to improve the energy performance of the properties, ideally to an EPC of C. To gain an understanding of the existing levels of energy efficiency in the community we conducted twenty energy surveys, in addition to reviewing the EPC data for the entire village.

As part of BHESCo’s conclusions we recommended that each home would then be fitted with an 8.5kW Air Source Heat Pump to provide hot water for space heating and domestic use. The ASHPs would be integrated with remote monitoring devices to enable them to be tuned to the individual usage patterns of the residents.

“By working with BHESCo a technically feasible solution is now in sight that will benefit residents and planet alike and we look forward to continuing our collaboration to try to realise it.”

Alistair Deighton

Firle Estate Manager

Contact Form

If you are interested in working with BHESCo to revolutionise the way that your town or village uses heat and power then please provide your details in the form below and a member of our Projects Team will get back to you to discuss next steps.