Setting a baseline
The term ‘setting a baseline’ refers to the process of understanding the existing position in your local authority area with respect to current energy use, current levels of carbon emissions from buildings, vulnerability to flooding and so on. In particular, setting a baseline enables you to gain a better understanding of the position of your local area with regards to the national route map for low carbon transition.
The toolkit doesn’t set out in this section the detail of how to create your baseline as the nature of the baseline will vary depending on the policy you want it to support. Instead you should use section this to gain an understanding of the principles involved and then refer to the relevant policy objective sections for detailed guidance – starting with the policy objectives introduction page.
For sustainable energy planning, the baseline will give you a snapshot of current and potential developments. This means that you will be able to understand where, geographically, energy use is occurring and therefore carbon emissions are being created.
For adaption, the baseline will capture the adaptive capacity of existing communities and proposed development as well as allowing you to understand the current risks and vulnerabilities of your area.
Whilst the principle is similar for both sustainable energy and adaptation baselines, the processes are different and are outlined below.
The sustainable energy baseline will be the foundation for finding opportunities to maximise your area’s generation of renewable energy and will provide part of the evidence base required for Climate Change PPS policy development.
You should be aware that a regional assessment of various sustainable energy resources and potential has been carried out by Regen SW and you should clarify with them whether the information you need for your baseline is already available before undertaking the work yourself or commissioning someone to do it for you. Details of the regional resource assessments can be found here
In basic terms, your baseline will include information on:
- The total energy consumption for the area
- Places that consume energy, both heat and electricity – i.e. homes and businesses and potentially the energy they consume
- Publically owned assets with significant energy consumption – i.e. schools and hospitals as well as colleges, MOD facilities and so on and potentially the energy they consume
- Places that produce energy – e.g. Industrial processes with waste heat, waste incinerators, existing district heating schemes, energy from waste plants, power stations and so on and potentially the energy the produce
- Planned new development of any of the above and potentially the likely energy they will consume
Depending on the scope of the baseline, it may also include:
- The resource for renewable and low carbon energy – e.g. where is there space to grow wood fuels (biomass), where unconstrained sites having potential for wind power are.
Actually mapping the district’s sustainable energy assets and potential will help identify opportunities for future development by allowing the spatial relationship between each to be clearly seen.
In particular, mapping will point to likely candidates for decentralised energy projects which match generation capacity to the end-user, be this a business, public building like a hospital, a social housing cluster or an area of densely populated private housing. The proximity of such features will increase the likelihood that they will feature in opportunities for decentralised energy due to the greater efficiencies of systems that avoid transmitting energy over large distances.
Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping is well suited to this task. The idea behind GIS is that areas can be identified on a map from their attributes. For example, an area of high energy consumption could be shaded red, clusters of social housing shown as a blue dot or areas of social depravation hatched in red.
Setting the baseline involves identification of current risks and consideration of the area’s existing adaptive capacity, to help develop an understanding of local vulnerability. If your local authority is signed up to NI188: Adapting to Climate Change it is important to find out which department is leading this and work with them on delivery of this indicator. For more information in the NI188 see the section on monitoring and reviewing.
To achieve Level 1 under NI188, local authorities are encouraged to start by developing a Local Climate Impacts Profile (LCLIP). This is an important step in setting the baseline which seeks to develop an understanding of the significant impacts from weather and climate on the authority and partners’ services. The LCLIP process will help demonstrate physical vulnerabilities specific to the locality and the extent to which the community is currently prepared and able to respond to weather events. This may not be planning led but it is important to capture any spatial implications which can be addressed through planning and to acknowledge where they are best tackled at the corporate level.
For LCLIP case studies click here
Stakeholder engagement is important in order to help you identify current vulnerabilities. A vulnerability assessment is an important step in understanding the adaptive capacity of an area and identifying priorities.
GIS is a useful tool for visualising the evidence base. Many of the data sets used for sustainable energy can be interpreted from an adaptation perspective, such as using the age and mix of housing to identify retrofitting opportunities. Socio demographic data will also be useful for adaptation and will help to identify priority areas. Point data can be applied, so that vulnerable populations are identified, including schools, hospitals and care homes for example.