Procuring the Future of Clean Energy

Cllr Jon Burke, Cabinet Member for Energy, Sustainability and Community Services

Local Government is showing the kind of leadership necessary to drive forward the urgent changes required of the energy system, but we could be delivering so much more.

In the South East and London alone, councils, the Greater London Authority, the NHS, and other non-Central Government organisations are spending over £1 billion per year on meeting their energy needs.

Given the unprecedented existential threat of human-induced global warming, the rapid decarbonisation required to limit its impacts, and the challenge of significant government cuts since 2010, it’s essential that the public sector begins to think hard about how its spend on energy can be repurposed to address these challenges. Ensuring that public sector bodies use their - crucially, non-avoidable - spending on energy to individually and collectively secure better social and environmental outcomes for all our residents should be at the heart of future procurement decisions. Merely using energy procurement to ‘keep the lights on’ is no longer an option. 

Although public sector institutions can make a difference in terms of their individual approaches to procurement - as of 1 April 2019, Hackney Council will obtain 50% of its electricity from renewables, directing more than £3m a year towards clean energy - the potential for collective purchasing is much more significant. Doing so will provide greater budgetary insulation against the fluctuating and increasing cost of energy sourced from fossil fuels, catalyse significant reductions in greenhouse emissions at little or no additional cost, and allow greater strategic oversight of support for small businesses and the creation of well-paid, high-skilled employment.

In the face of limited, and often retrograde, Central Government action, Hackney Council is helping to kickstart a movement across local government with the aim of transforming an energy system from one underpinned by fossil fuels, to one characterised by clean and extremely low carbon sources of energy.

That’s why, this week, Hackney Town Hall played host to Procuring the Future of Clean Energy, a roundtable meeting with energy industry experts and Councillors from across London, to begin developing a non-partisan route map for rapid transition to clean energy consumption in Local Government and other public sector bodies. This represents an important first step, with more work to be undertaken to engage with London’s local authorities in the coming months.

Hackney is on a mission to transform the way it generates, supplies, consumes, and purchases energy. This year we are creating our own publicly-owned, publicly-accountable energy company, purchasing at least 50% of our corporate energy from renewables from 1 April, and implementing an energy management system to significantly reduce our consumption of carbon-intensive gas and electricity. This practical work is being undertaken to meet the ambitious obligations of the UK100 agreement, which will see Hackney Council use 100% renewable energy across its full range of functions by 2050.
Cllr Jon Burke, Cabinet Member for Energy, Sustainability and Community Services