Integrated Planning for Net Zero: Greater Manchester case study

As part of our Integrated Planning for Net Zero series, we’re highlighting our research on Greater Manchester’s trailblazing local area energy plans. This research was commissioned by Connected Places Catapult.

Energy plans to meet net zero targets

Using £3m funding from UK Research and Innovation, Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) has been working on an ambitious project to test a region-wide local energy market. Part of this includes the creation of Local Area Energy Plans (LAEPs), in partnership with the 10 district councils that make up the combined authority. This is the first energy area plan in the UK at this scale. Greater Manchester is leading the way when it comes to taking a whole systems approach to decarbonising energy systems.

The combined authority has a target to be carbon neutral by 2038, and all of the districts in the area have declared a climate emergency. In recent years, low carbon has become more of a political target, and it is embedded in every local authority business plan in Greater Manchester. Creating local energy action plans was seen by all districts as a necessary and welcome step to identify appropriate interventions to meet targets.

The overall ambition of the project was to provide a strategic overview of how to respond to Greater Manchester’s energy needs now and in the future. The LAEPs bring together data to consider how retrofit, heat decarbonisation, energy generation and electric vehicle infrastructure can be deployed to meet net zero targets.

Creating bespoke energy plans

The project set out to outline bespoke geographic plans for energy decarbonisation, build consensus between key stakeholders of local energy priorities and set out the best and most efficient interventions to achieve decarbonisation of the whole energy system.

“Having a whole system approach breaks down the barriers of one team looking at heat networks and another team looking at retrofit and another team looking at planning policy and another at growth and economic, bringing it all together, and in theory you’ve then got a plan that straddles all areas.” Sean Owen, Head of Low Carbon, Greater Manchester Combined Authority.

Together, all 10 districts wrote a joint specification for the data collection and analysis and commissioned a range of external agencies to gather the information required. This included:

  • stock condition assessments and future model assessments for 1.2m homes
  • condition assessments and future model assessments for all public sector buildings
  • land assessments (including land earmarked for growth, land designated for natural capital)
  • electricity network capabilities (including peak demand, network constraints and future modelling)
  • electric vehicle charging needs (and information about on street parking capacity).

The process of data collection and standardisation was relatively straightforward due to the existing positive relationships and shared vision between the various partners – local authorities, Ofgem, Electricity North West, Cadent and Transport for Greater Manchester. The project team set a schema for all the information gathered. This meant that all the data followed a consistent format and was therefore easy to interpret and compare – helping to build a shared understanding across districts and departments.

What do LAEPs look like?

Bury Council were selected for phase one of the project and therefore were one of the first to complete their LAEP. Bury now have a much better understanding of what a transition to a decarbonised energy system looks like.

They have been able to assess the scale of the challenge, how many properties they need to retrofit, and what the implications (both positive and negative) might be for their economy and residents. The LAEP identifies actions for specific locations based on all the data collected. This includes recommendations on retrofit measures, solar PV capacity, investment levels and appropriate energy generation methods for any given area.

Informing change through an integrated approach

The LAEP approach in Greater Manchester has provided a clear geographic plan for energy decarbonisation and sense of prioritisation. Teams such as planning, transport and economic development can use the data to prioritise interventions. For example, the LAEP included an analysis of areas where there is limited or no off-street parking and therefore where transport teams and other partners (such as developers) need to provide electric vehicle charging hubs.

The data collected allows Greater Manchester’s local authorities to target future funding to deliver on these energy plans. Greater Manchester have been extremely successful at attracting funding (e.g. Public sector decarbonisation scheme and the Green Homes Grant). They attribute this to the quality of their data.

Finally, the LEAP exercise has given a strong sense of the opportunity. While the transition to decarbonisation can be seen as a challenge because of the cost, Bury see the chance to use this to develop a whole green industry. The LAEP provides the data and confidence both internally and externally to invest in the green economy locally.


For the full version of this case study, including key lessons learned check out Connected Places Catapult’s report.

If you’re interested in Future of London carrying out research for your project, email Hannah Gibbs. Find out more about our services here.

Read more about our work on net zero here.

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