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Special - Spatial Planning and Energy for Communities in All Landscapes Town and Country Planning Association European Union

Knowledge Pool

Module 1: Climate Change and Sustainable Development

1.2 Opportunities and potential benefits from planning for climate change

Seizing the opportunities for successful responses to climate change

Nearly all aspects of climate change will require work to be carried out locally, regionally and across administrative boundaries. Municipalities have many opportunities to implement greenhouse gas mitigation and local adaptation measurers at the municipal level, but for these responses to be successful, the opportunities must first be recognised. Planning for the integration of renewable energies and for improving energy efficiency at the municipal level directly affects communities, people and business. Planning can give local communities real opportunities to take action on climate change by encouraging community based development and active participation.

Realising potential benefits from responding to climate change
There are several direct and indirect benefits that can be achieved through the implementation and investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency measures, for instance:

  • reducing fuel poverty and energy inequality
  • reduced reliance on imported energy and national or international energy suppliers
  • cost savings and reduction of GHG emissions achieved through reduced electricity and fuel use
  • revenue from investment (e.g. through Feed in Tariffs)
  • access funding for community projects
  • reducing the outflow of money from the local area
  • job creation - the growth of new industries and businesses directed at increasing energy efficiency can be a source of job creation and stimulate economic growth in other areas. There is growing demand for energy conservation and renewable energy technologies.
  • local health and environmental benefits through reduced air pollution in the public and private sector by using cleaner fuels for real estates, fleets other industrial or commercial purposes

For practical examples of benefits to communities and to local areas please see the following case studies:

  1. Polperro United Renewable Energy (PURE)
  2. Fowey Renewable Energy Enterprise (FREE)
  3. Wadebridge Renewable Energy Network (WREN)
  4. Penwithick (Domestic Retrofit Pilot): Energy Efficiency for Existing Homes and Ocean Group Penwithick Retrofit Project Newsletter

Municipalities can take on different roles in the planning and delivery of renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. It is useful for municipal staff (including planners) to have a clear understanding of the overall development process for a renewable energy project. With their responsibility for spatial planning, municipalities are in a key position to consider the potential opportunities for, and the benefits of, the implementation of different types of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies at an early stage in the planning process. Furthermore, through planning, municipalities can contribute to the transition of cities to a low-carbon future. There are numerous possibilities for municipalities to develop local energy concepts and to integrate them with spatial planning. For example, through the development of a Sustainable Energy Action Plan (SEAP).


Please see Module 3.8 and the Covenant of Mayors' website (www.covenantofmayors.eu/‎) for more information about Sustainable Energy Action Planning.

Municipality in the role of developer or development partner: Municipalities can be involved as a developer for renewable energy projects, for example, by being or becoming a municipal energy supplier, through developing a new settlement, or in retrofitting existing buildings. The ability to generate electricity or heat from renewable sources may enable municipalities to gain a new source of revenue, though this depends upon national regulation. In some countries, there has been a recent move to try to encourage more municipalities to become municipal energy suppliers which has been initiated from the local scale. The issue of land ownership, whether the municipality owns the land or buildings that can be used, is of key importance for development of municipal renewable energy projects. .

Municipalities can operate as a partner alongside a developer who is implementing a renewable energies or energy efficiency project. The municipality can provide municipal council support for projects, which may help these projects move forward. Municipalities can encourage developers to work with local economic development initiatives to support use of local resources and opportunities. The municipality can also partner with associations, non for profit organisations or community involvement groups. Furthermore municipalities can provide comments and valued input on project design for developers or investors during the consultation process.

Renewable energy projects can deliver benefits to sustainable urban developments, these include:

  • Onsite energy generation that can be used to offset the higher cost of peak power purchasing
  • Offset the higher cost of diesel generated energy
  • Total or partial energy independence
  • Reduce energy costs
  • Reduce the carbon footprint
  • Protect funds
  • Demonstrate environmental stewardship.

For practical examples, please see the following case studies:

Municipality as host: As the owner of properties, municipalities can host projects in return for lease payments or other mutually beneficial arrangements. Municipalities can also authorise the use of municipal properties for sustainable energy projects. Agreements between developers and a municipality can include a benefit for the municipality such as upgrading the roof of a building for a solar installation, or the creation of community benefits e.g. financial support for parks or sports facilities.

Value creation for municipalities: when considering value created through renewable energies projects, it is important to be aware that, in most cases, only a proportion of the total additional value remains with the municipality, not the total added value.

For example, for a wind power plant there are various different economic activities that must be considered including the production of the constituent parts (e.g. rotor blades, generator, tower), the planning and installation (e.g. site development, grid connection), and, the ongoing operation of the system (maintenance of equipment, maintenance staff costs, property costs, leasehold payments) by the operating company, who are paying interest on borrowed their capital, taxes and salaries while earning money from energy produced. At each stage, profit, revenue and taxes aim to be generated, this all has an impact on the value created. 

For practical examples, please see the following case studies:

Related links

Related presentation at SPECIAL Training Week in Berlin/Germany, September 2013

Benefits for communities – Renewables and Efficiency by Benjamin Dannemann, German Renewable Energies Agency, Berlin.