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

Knowledge Pool

Sustainable Energy Action Plan (SEAP)

What is a Sustainable Energy Action Plan (SEAP)?

A Sustainable Energy Action Plan is a document that shows how a local authority / municipality aims to reach EU and national 2020 energy targets, through a range of cross-sectoral energy actions. A SEAP covers the entire geographical area of a local authority and uses the results of a Baseline Emissions Inventory (BEI) to identify the best areas of action and opportunity for reaching the local authority’s CO2 reduction target. The SEAP should include actions concerning both the public and private sector; local authorities are expected to take an exemplar role concerning its own building, functions, fleet and operations, thereby demonstrating civic leadership in addressing the energy challenge at a local level. In addition, the SEAP should cover areas where local authorities can influence energy consumption in the long term, with particular regard to interaction with land use planning and energy projections. Once prepared, a SEAP is approved by the elected members / politicians of the local authority. Screening for Strategic Environmental Appraisal (SEA) and Appropriate Assessment (AA) may also need to be carried out, as part of the SEAP development process.

What is the Covenant of Mayors (COM)?

The Covenant of Mayors is the mainstream European movement involving local and regional authorities, voluntarily committing to increasing energy efficiency and use of renewable energy sources within their territories. By their commitment, Covenant signatories aim to meet and exceed the European Union 20% CO2 reduction objective by 2020.

By signing up to the Covenant of Mayors an authority is committed to submitting a SEAP to the Covenant for formal verification within one year of being approved by the elected members / politicians of the authority. Once the SEAP has been approved by the Covenant of Mayors office, the authority is committed to submitting regular updates on SEAP action implementation and CO2 reduction progress, to the Covenant.

The Covenant of Mayors has produced guidance on SEAP preparation which is available to view / download at www.eumayors.eu/IMG/pdf/seap_guidelines_en.pdf

What are the key steps to developing a Sustainable Energy Action Plan (SEAP)

1. SEAP approval by the municipal council (or equivalent decision-making body)

Strong political support is essential to ensure the success of the process, from SEAP design to implementation and monitoring. This is why the SEAP must be approved by the municipal council (or equivalent decision making body).

2. Commitment for a reduction of CO2 emissions by at least 20 % by 2020

The SEAP must contain a clear reference to this core commitment taken by the local authority when signing the Covenant of Mayors. The recommended baseline year is 1990, but if the local authority does not have data to compile a CO2 inventory for 1990, then it should choose the closest subsequent year for which the most comprehensive and reliable data can be collected. The overall CO2 reduction commitment has to be translated into concrete actions and measures together with the CO2 reduction estimates in tons by 2020. For the local authorities that have a longer term CO2 reduction target (for example by 2030) they should set an intermediary target by 2020 for the reasons of comparability.

3. CO2 baseline emission inventory (BEI)

The SEAP should be elaborated based on a sound knowledge of the local situation in terms of energy and greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, an assessment of the current framework should be carried out. This includes the establishment of a CO2 baseline emission inventory (BEI), which is a key CoM commitment. The BEI has to be included in the SEAP.

The BEI and subsequent inventories are essential instruments that allow the local authority to have a clear vision of the priorities for action, to evaluate the impact of the measures and determine the progress towards local energy visions and objectives. It facilitates maintaining the motivation of all parties involved, as they can see the result of their efforts.

The following are of particular interest:

  • The BEI has to be relevant to the local situation, i.e. based on energy consumption/production data, mobility data etc within the territory of the local authority. Estimates based on national/regional averages would not be appropriate in most cases, as this does not allow for accurate capturing of information related to the efforts made by the local authority to reach its CO2 targets.
  • The methodology and data sources should be consistent through the years.
  • The BEI must cover at least the sectors in which the local authority intends to take action to meet the emission reduction target, i.e. all sectors that represent significant CO2 emission sources: residential, municipal and tertiary buildings and facilities, and transport.
  • The data collection process, data sources and methodology for calculating the BEI should be well documented.

4. Comprehensive measures that cover the key sectors of activity

The commitment taken by the signatories concerns the reduction of the CO2 emissions in their respective territories. Therefore, the SEAP has to contain a coherent set of measures covering the key sectors of activity: not only the buildings and facilities that are managed by the local authority, but also the main sectors of activity in the territory of the local authority: residential sector, tertiary sector, public and private transport, industry etc. Before starting the elaboration of actions and measures, the establishment of a long-term vision with clear objectives is necessary.

5. Strategies and actions until 2020

The plan must contain a clear outline of the strategic actions that the local authority intends to take in order to reach its commitments in 2020. It has to contain:

  • The long-term strategy and goals until 2020, including firm commitments in areas like land-use planning, transport and mobility, public procurement, standards for new/renovated buildings, etc.
  • Detailed measures for the next 3-5 years which translate the long-term strategy and goals into actions.

For each measure/action, it is important to provide a description, the local authority department responsible, the timing (start-end, major milestones), the cost estimation and financing/source, the estimated energy saving / increased renewable energy production and the associated estimated CO2 reduction (where available).

6. Effective public consultation and engagement

To implement and achieve the objectives of the SEAP, the participation and involvement of local stakeholders, residents and community groups, business interests and chambers of commerce, educational and institutional facilities and the general public, is essential. The SEAP must describe how these groups have been involved in its development, and how they will be involved in implementation and monitoring (where appropriate)
7. Financing

SEAP actions cannot be implemented without financial resources. The SEAP should; therefore, identify the key financing resources that will be used to finance the actions. For example, regional, national and European financial funding sources and opportunities should be highlighted for actions across sectors. Areas for public / private partnerships could also be identified.

8. Monitoring and reporting

Following SEAP approval by a local authority, continuous monitoring is needed to identify progress in action area, impacts on energy consumption and CO2 emissions to allow for consistency in the SEAP implementation process. Regular monitoring following SEAP approval facilitates a continuous improvement cycle.

Covenant of Mayors signatories are committed to submit regular reports following the submission of the SEAP for evaluation, monitoring and verification purposes. The Covenant requires the submission of a Monitoring Emissions Inventory (MEI), an Implementation Report and an Action Report, providing information as set out below:

Table 1: Monitoring Emissions Inventory (MEI).

The Covenant of Mayor’s office is currently developing a standardised monitoring report system / model to be available in 2014.

Setting up a SEAP Co-ordination Team

In most local authorities energy issues are addressed in different ways across a number of departments including Architects, Engineers, Planners etc. For the purposes of SEAP development it is recommended that the team be comprised of a range of local authority staff from different backgrounds and across departments. This allows for a variety of technical input and facilitates communication to a greater number of local authority staff, than if the plan was prepared by one department. To encourage full senior management support and ‘buy-in’ it is highly recommended that the SEAP team be led by a representative from the senior management team, this person should act as both the local authority’s ‘Energy Champion’ and ‘Covenant of Mayor’s Co-ordinator’. Team meetings should be held on a regular basis and should continue following SEAP approval to facilitate effective SEAP monitoring and continued support to private sector related SEAP actions.

Political involvement

The support of local politicians / elected members is crucial to the success of a local authority’s SEAP. It is recommended that regular internal seminars with politicians should be carried out throughout the SEAP development process. There is also scope for politicians to form part of the SEAP Co-ordination team or stakeholder / community engagement programmes. Where possible, it is advised that a Mayor / senior politician should attend workshops, site visits etc to gain first hand knowledge on energy saving measures / strategies that could be applied at the local level. The up-skilling of such politicians can further institutionalise energy issues within the core functions / corporate strategies of the local authority.

Figure 1: Councillor Caitriona Jones (former Mayor of South Dublin County) meeting Councillor Terry Matthews (former Mayor of Southampton) in September 2011, as part of political partnership exchange carried out under the EU IEE funded Leadership for Energy Action & Planning (LEAP) project.


Community & Stakeholder Engagement

Community and stakeholder engagement is an important element of the SEAP development process, with particular regard to the effective implementation of SEAP actions across sectors. Local authorities can act as effective ‘energy brokers’, bringing energy suppliers of goods and services together with the general public to facilitate effective dialogue between both parties. This was effectively demonstrated during the IEE funded Leadership for Energy Action & Planning (LEAP) project by South Dublin County Council, in which the Council hosted a week long ‘Connect with Energy’ initiative, which comprised an interactive energy exhibition and a range of hour long energy workshops targeted at Council staff and the general public. The Municipality of Maribor also hosted an ‘Icy Challenge’ whereby a model passive house structure with 1 m3 of ice placed inside was built in Maribor’s central square and left for one month between May and June 2012. A public competition was launched for citizens to guess the amount of water that would melt after one month. These are two interesting examples of community and stakeholder engagement exercises that local authorities could consider as part of SEAP development.

Lessons learnt – practical recommendations

It is strongly recommended that the SEAP should be prepared in-house by local authority staff, with additional technical support provided by a local energy agency or other expert advisors. In this way local authority staff can be up-skilled in developing evidence based approaches to energy policy and planning, that can be developed further and integrated into other work areas i.e. by Planners in the plan making process and by Architects in refurbishment / upgrading of local authority housing stock.