European Structural Funds to Deliver Low Carbon Performance

Local Enterprise Partnerships are currently occupied by the task of developing their ‘Growth Plans’ – strategies that set out how they will turn around their economies and deliver growth. In simple terms, they are looking for ways in which they can deliver jobs and improve their own share of the UK’s GVA.

LEPs are, and were, set up to deliver economic growth. Only now are they being asked to take a broader role, recognising the need to influence and lead policy, strategy and delivery of housing, transport and, increasingly energy and waste infrastructure.

Whilst many have argued for ‘City Region’ leadership on energy and waste matters it is only now that the EU Structural Funds are in development for the 2014-2020 period, that LEPs are fully engaging. Whilst the settlements for LEPs from Europe have been lower than any of us would have liked, the funding available to LEPs to deliver on key strategic objectives means they are all playing the game. The UK Government issued clear guidance and expects EC Combined Structural Fund proposals to be submitted for review in early October. The timescale is tight, and runs parallel to the development of the overarching Growth Plans.

Across the 39 LEPs, stakeholders from the public, private and voluntary, community and faith sectors are actively engaging in shaping their EU plans. Sheffield City Region, where I am based, is hosting a consultation event on Monday 9th September, to facilitate this process.

A key objective and a priority of the UK Government is investment in ‘low carbon’ activities and falls across 4 areas:

  1. Stimulating the supply chains and capacity for delivery on domestic energy efficiency including skills investment;
  2. Developing non-domestic energy efficiency;
  3. ‘Whole Place Solutions’ – which broadly expects investment in larger scale infrastructure and investments;  and
  4. Research and development.

There’s an excellent presentation available on the framework at  and updated guidance available from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills.

The opportunity to integrate low carbon activity in to Growth Plans in the 39 LEPs across England is facilitated and incentivised by the availability of EU funding over the next 7 years. Whilst the funding is relatively modest, there is an expectation that around 20% of each LEPs settlement must be directed towards low carbon activity. The real trick is to integrate it across the wider skills, supply chain, education, health, energy and transport objectives. To do that LEPs probably do need to have a bigger role in energy strategies. Watch this space.

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