SEAP and SECAP - examples of member activity

A number of local authorities in Scotland have developed, or are developing, Sustainable Energy Action Plans (SEAPs) and Sustainable Energy and Climate Action Plans (SECAPs). These bring together policy and action plans to create area-wide approaches to emissions reduction and sustainable energy. SECAPs additionally incorporate climate adaptation plans. This case study aims to provide an overview of SEAP and SECAP activity in Scotland and provide some insights into the challenges and benefits of this approach.  

Key Legislative Drivers

  1. The Draft Climate Change Plan (RPP3) sets out how Scotland intends to meet ambitious emissions targets over the period 2017-2032.
  2. The new Energy Strategy sits alongside the draft Climate Change Plan. It takes a whole-system view of energy, including policy on transport and heat as well as electricity and energy efficiency. The Strategy highlights the need for smarter local energy models that will link to national developments.
  3. The Cleaner Air for Scotland Strategy sets out the Scottish Government’s proposals for delivering further improvements to air quality.


Other Key Drivers

The EU Covenant of Mayors programme was established by the European Commission in 2008 with the objective of engaging and supporting local government to commit to reaching the EU climate and energy targets. It is not a requirement to be an EU member state to sign up to the Covenant.  

From 2015, signatory councils pledge to actively support the implementation of the EU 40% GHG-reduction target by 2030 and agree to adopt an integrated approach to climate change mitigation and adaptation and to ensure access to secure, sustainable and affordable energy for all.

Signatories who signed up to the Covenant of Mayors between 2008 and 2015 have made the voluntary commitment to go beyond EU's 2020 targets of 20% in terms of reduction in CO2 emissions, but are invited to renew and extend to the 2030 commitments.

When a council formally signs up to the Covenant of Mayors programme, this triggers the development of:

  • a Baseline Emission Inventory (BEI) that quantifies the CO2 emitted in the council’s territory
  • a Risk and Vulnerability Assessment (RVA) that measures the level of risk by analysing potential climate hazards and assessing the vulnerabilities on the signatory’s territory
  • a Sustainable Energy and Climate Action Plan (SECAP), which must be submitted within two years of the official decision to join the Covenant, and which outlines the measures and policies they will implement to achieve their targets.
  • monitoring reports assessing the progress of the SECAP every two years after submission.


Which Councils in Scotland are Developing SEAPS and SECAPs?

Scottish local authorities with active commitment to the Covenant of Mayors initiative are: Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire, Dundee, Dumfries and Galloway, Edinburgh and Glasgow. Stirling Council is a Covenant of Mayors member through its work with Mayors Adapt. COSLA has acted in each case as official “Covenant Supporter”. COSLA has provided three papers on the Covenant of Mayors programme, in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

Fife Council and Highland Council have developed, or are developing, a SECAP outside of the Covenant of Mayors programme, or in preparation to becoming a signatory.

Dundee City Council is working with Fife Council and COSLA to prepare a business case that will outline the level of resources required to support Scottish local authorities in developing SECAPs.  It is hoped that this will lead to a partnership project supported by funding.


Examples of Approaches Taken

Aberdeen City: Powering Aberdeen SEAP

Aberdeen’s SEAP, Powering Aberdeen: Aberdeen’s Sustainable Energy Action Plan was approved by full Council in October 2016. A Powering Aberdeen Programme Manager has been appointed to oversee and coordinate the SEAP.

Aether Consultants were engaged to develop a Baseline Emissions Inventory for 2005. A Monitoring Emissions Inventory for 2012 was also produced to illustrate progress from the baseline year. Following a series of stakeholder workshops an emissions scenario report was produced by Keep Scotland Beautiful and Aether, setting out the different emission reduction scenarios which might arise in Aberdeen on the basis of different actions. Following this, emission reduction targets were established. The overall targets are a 31% reduction in carbon emissions by 2020 and a 50% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 from a 2005 baseline.

The SEAP is delivered through five themes: leadership and behaviour change, energy efficiency, resource efficiency, alternative technologies and low emission society. Key projects include: the development of Aberdeen’s district heating network, a new energy from waste facility and an anaerobic digestion plant at the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre, establishing a community hydro scheme on the river Don, the replacement of street and other lighting with LED lights, improving energy efficiency of housing stock, expansion of Aberdeen’s fleet of hydrogen buses and dual-fuel hydrogen vehicles, and supporting the uptake of electric vehicles and infrastructure.

An annual progress report for the period October 2016-October 2017 was submitted to the Communities Housing and Infrastructure Committee in November 2017.

City of Edinburgh: Power to Change SEAP

The Power to Change, Edinburgh’s Sustainable Energy Action Plan 2015-2020 was published in December 2015. The SEAP's overall target is to reduce carbon emissions by 42% by 2020, from 2005 levels. The most recent data available, published in June 2016, shows that Edinburgh has reduced CO2 by 26.6% over the period 2005 to 2014.

The SEAP will be delivered through five programmes: energy efficiency, district heating, renewables, resource efficiency and sustainable transport. Actions include: energy retrofit programme for non-domestic buildings, installation of energy efficient street and stair lighting, publishing an Edinburgh District Heating Strategy and heat map and taking forward at least three major district heating schemes, establishing an energy services company (ESCo), Energy for Edinburgh , publishing a new policy on renewables, increase in use of bio-fuels, development of an anaerobic digestion facility, enhancing electric vehicle charging infrastructure, working with large employers on staff travel planning, and promotion of active travel.

In addition to the city’s SEAP, the Edinburgh Adapts Climate Change Adaptation Action Plan 2016-2020 was published in December 2016.

Dundee City SECAP

In 2016, Dundee City Council’s Policy & Resources Committee approved that: the Council become signatories to the Covenant of Mayors programme and commit to reducing the city’s carbon emissions by at least 40% by 2030 and; through the Dundee Partnership Environment Steering Group, prepare a Sustainable Energy and Climate Action Plan (SECAP) for the city to deliver significant environmental, social and economic benefits.

The Dundee Partnership are currently developing a SECAP for the city which will provide the leadership, commitment and planning necessary for the transition to a low carbon Dundee. It will have a shared vision and objectives with the Tay Cities Deal of supporting sustainable economic growth, reducing social inequality, and enabling entrepreneurship and innovation.

Covering six programme areas of energy efficiency, resource efficiency, renewables, district heating, sustainable transport, and adaptation, the SECAP aims deliver an emissions reduction of 40% by 2030 from a 2005 baseline. The Plan will include baseline data, projects at their appropriate scale, finance options and address future challenges. It will provide a transparent and robust ‘route map’ which demonstrates how the city will take action to achieve its future emission reduction target(s).

In order to take the first steps in preparing its SECAP, Dundee City Council have commissioned Aether consultants to prepare its Baseline Emissions Inventory (BEI), Monitoring Emissions Inventory and projected Business as Usual emissions to 2030.  This work is expected to be complete by end of January 2018. The BEI (for a baseline year of 2005) will provide an intuitive and engaging evidence base which can be used to start to involve and galvanise stakeholders, identify and scale emission profile of the city and indicate where the most opportunity for reducing emissions may reside in the context of the emitting sectors (e.g. residential buildings, commercial buildings, transport etc.). This evidence base will help the City Council and stakeholders to make key decisions regarding the strategy and target for the SECAP.

Fife Council SECAP

Fife Council are in the process of developing a Sustainable Energy Climate Action Plan (SECAP) for the Fife region. The SECAP is being developed in preparation to becoming a signatory to the Covenant of Mayors, and Fife has committee approval to sign up to the programme. Fife chose to wait to sign up to allow officers more time to develop the initial data analysis and documents.

Fife is considering using a local energy masterplan approach as part of its developing SECAP, and has already piloted a local energy masterplan methodology in Burntisland. The Community Energy Masterplan for the community of Burntisland and the accompanying methodology paper provides full details of the approach. The Burntisland Energy Masterplan aims to reduce community carbon emissions by 80% by 2050, and to reduce total final energy consumption by 30% by 2030 (compared to 1990 levels).

Over five months Fife Council worked to engage with the whole of the Burntisland community to transfer knowledge around energy, carbon, climate change and choices of low carbon technologies. Local people needed to feel confident they were making informed decisions. To do this the project had an office on the local high street four days a week and ran 18 events within 18 weeks.

Alongside a series of consultation meetings and workshops with the community, and working with consultants Ramboll Energy and the University of Napier, a ‘whole energy system’ for Burntisland was mapped out, addressing heat, electricity and transport options including storage opportunities.

The Fife data within the Scotland heatmap and other public datasets were used as the basis for the analysis. Topics considered were: demand side management options for Burntisland; delivering renewable heat and electricity to customers in Burntisland; linking local energy demand with local renewable energy generation, and the potential for co-location/combining technologies for example wind and solar; energy storage potential in Burntisland; and sustainable travel options for Burntisland.

The lessons learnt on communicating carbon reduction and behaviour change at a community level are now being developed into a 2-3 year engagement programme for the whole of Fife. This will be linked with the SECAP programme, the new Resources (waste) Strategy, the push towards a circular economy, sustainable transport, biodiversity and the Local Outcome Improvement Plan (LOIP). The continuing engagement programme will take a joined-up, holistic approach to community needs and will continue to deliver community decision making in a similar way to the Burntisland project.

Glasgow City: Energy and Carbon Masterplan

Glasgow City Council published its first SEAP, the ‘Sustainable Glasgow’ report, in 2010 outlining its vision and actions for a low carbon future and setting a target of 30% for the reduction of carbon emissions by 2020 across the city.

Following European funding through the STEP UP initiative, an ‘enhanced SEAP’ was developed for Glasgow. The Energy and Carbon Masterplan (ECMP) and associated Executive Summary was published in 2014. The development of Glasgow’s enhanced SEAP is described in some detail on the STEP UP website. The approach is further detailed in a report to the Sustainability and Environment Policy Development Committee from October 2015.

The ECMP is in the process of being reviewed and updated. The Masterplan sets out a blueprint for how Glasgow can reduce its carbon emissions by 30% by 2020. It outlines 33 Key Actions aiming to reduce carbon emissions in the transport, domestic, and industrial/commercial sectors and ensure Glasgow can continue to successfully reduce carbon emissions.

Successful delivery of these 33 Key Actions requires the support and collaboration of public sector, private sector, community groups and citizens, especially those involved in the industrial, commercial and transport sector, due to the Council’s limited influence on these sectors. The essential projects in the ECM include: increase of renewable energy production in the city, including wind turbines project and solar PV panel arrays; development of district heating networks; increase of sustainable transport modes, including shifting from private cars to car-share, public transport, cycling and walking; decarbonisation of the transport sector, including electric buses and electric vehicles; generation of energy from waste (the GRREC project) and; behavioural change.

North East SEAP

Aberdeenshire Council is developing a SEAP for the region as part of a wider action plan, the North East Scotland Sustainable Energy Action Plan (NESSEAP). NESSEAP encompasses Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire, Angus and Moray Councils. Aether consultants have been involved in the development of the North East SEAP and Keep Scotland Beautiful was also involved in delivering stakeholder engagement workshops during the early stages of preparation. This plan is currently undergoing a Strategic Environmental Assessment and is expected to be ratified during financial year 2017/18.

Benefits, Challenges and Lessons Learned

Benefits of SEAPs/SECAPs

  • Allow councils to assess and quantify current carbon emissions across the territory, and establish a baseline.
  • Allow for the setting of goals and targets for area-wide emissions reduction, energy and climate adaptation responses (if adopting a SECAP approach).
  • SEAPs and SECAPs allow for an integrated and strategic approach, setting out the measures that will be undertaken in order to meet targets.
  • Signature to the EU Covenant of Mayors programme can act as a lever to drive forward progress, and also allows for continued monitoring.
  • Can raise the profile of the projects being undertaken as part of the SEAP/SECAP within a council.

Challenges of the SEAP/SECAP Approach

  • In terms of funding, establishing the baseline and setting targets is a costly part of the SEAP process. But, the costs for collating annual emissions updates are relatively small. For example, Aberdeen City are planning to collate future emissions updates internally.


  • In terms of funding more generally, it has been found that it is easier to secure funding for particular projects, but much harder to secure monies that contribute to overall strategy. Often, it is found that projects are moulded to fit funding streams.


  • It can be challenging to integrate the SEAP/SECAP into a council’s wider work, and maintain awareness and buy-in in the face of administrative and political change. For example, in Aberdeen City, because there is a general city-wide focus on energy, energy elements of the SEAP have been embraced more readily than other aspects.


  • Calculating emissions reductions can pose challenges, for example when energy efficient cladding is added to a residential building, and no energy data for individual homes is available. The fact that many projects covered in a SEAP/SECAP are long-term projects that take time to reach fruition, can also make it difficult to show short-term emissions savings.


  • Maintaining external partnerships, and engaging with the community, requires sustained effort.

Lessons Learned

  • Localised approaches, as taken in Fife, provide a powerful opportunity to engage communities on climate change and emissions in a tangible way. Engagement success was due to close partnerships with community groups, councillors, community council, local businesses, Fife Council departments and individuals.


  • The fact that Aberdeen City Council have a Programme Manager working full-time on coordinating the Action Plan and engaging with external stakeholders is seen as an important asset to the Aberdeen City SEAP. The Programme Manager is also tasked with looking for new and complimentary opportunities.


  • Integrating governance as much as possible into existing structures helps to embed a SEAP. Aberdeen City has sought to increase the number of practitioners within working groups, rather than senior people, which has been more effective for delivery.


  • SEAPs/SECAPs can provide important overarching strategic direction to Local Heat and Energy Efficiency Strategy (LHEES) work, which is more prescriptive and less broad-ranging.


  • To maintain external partner engagement, Aberdeen City has  focussed on being an 'enabler'. It has been found that stakeholders need and prefer to have a clearly defined role or remit. Approaching partners to engage on specific projects and focussing on working with those that are keen to engage has been beneficial.

Other Key Documents

Aberdeen City Council

  • Aberdeen City Council sought approval from the Economic Development Sub-Committee in March 2009 to join the Covenant of Mayors scheme.
  • In May 2016 a paper was put before full Council seeking approval for the draft of Aberdeen City’s SEAP. Full Council were then asked to approve the final draft of the SEAP in October 2016.
  • The document Powering Aberdeen: In The Making covers the process of how Aberdeen City engaged with stakeholders during the development of the SEAP and the development of their Baseline Emissions Inventory, which was delivered by Aether Consultants.



Glasgow City Council

  • Glasgow City Council sought approval from Councillors to join the Covenant of Mayors initiative, achieving formal adhesion in August 2009.
  • A report to the Sustainability and the Environment Policy Development Committee from February 2016 provides an update on emissions reduction and project delivery.
  • A City Carbon Emissions Update report from March 2017 provides an update on progress towards the city achieving its target to reduce carbon emissions by 30% by the year 2020.





Aberdeenshire Council

  • Aberdeenshire Council was successful in seeking approval from their Infrastructure Services Committee in May 2009 to join the Covenant of Mayors scheme.



Key Contacts



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