Creating a carbon conscious city

Coventry at nightCoventry is a key area for regeneration, and its council has a history of tackling large scale issues in order to make the city a better environment for its residents, which number almost a third of a million. Its smokeless zone and pedestrianised shopping centre were UK firsts in 1948 and 1955 respectively.

The city’s initial public commitment to reducing carbon emissions came in 2006, when it opted to sign the Nottingham Declaration, which obliges local authorities to tackle the causes and effects of climate change. This was followed up with a Climate Change Strategy for the city which was approved in March 2008.

Also being introduced at this time were new National Indicators (NIs) which would come into effect from April 2008. Three of these require councils to report on emissions from their own operations, per capita emissions from the local area, and how they are adapting to climate change. From 2010 the council will also be encouraged to reduce its emissions under the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme, which comes into effect in 2010.

These, plus the potential cost reductions, made for a compelling case to save energy.

Delivering on the commitment
In early 2008 the Council applied to join the Carbon Trust’s Local Authority Carbon Management service, and it was accepted in May of that year.

“We had considered joining previously,” says Climate Change team manager Michael Checkley. “But the time had not been right for us organisationally.

“With agreement on the Strategy, NIs to report on and the CRC on the horizon, the Council saw the advantages of accessing help in managing our carbon emissions from the Carbon Trust.”

The Council worked with Carbon Trust consultants to calculate its carbon footprint for 2007. This came to 37,400 tonnes of CO2, of which buildings made up 70 per cent, street lighting 17 per cent and transport 13 per cent.

The 2007 total was taken as the baseline figure, and the Council set an aspirational target to reduce those emissions by 30 per cent by 2014 – a reduction of 11,300 tonnes.

On the Carbon Trust’s recommendation, the Council firstly set up a programme board comprising senior managers from each directorate. A carbon management team was also put in place to generate ideas for how to better manage energy.

“Having these two groups has made sure the project has had the necessary time, money and resources devoted to it,” says Michael.

In an effort to engage employees from the beginning, the Council introduced a carbon hotline and accompanying website, which individuals used to suggest over 50 energy saving measures. At the same time, Carbon Trust consultants provided valuable technical assistance so the Council could identify, scope and cost a range of energy saving opportunities across its operations and properties. The final carbon management plan included 53 different measures – including many that had been suggested by employees. If all are completed, they will deliver savings of 40 per cent about 15,000 tonnes of CO2 and £2,750,000 a year.

As of September 2009, the Council had secured funding for 34 of these projects, which together will reduce emissions by 6,270 tonnes. These projects, many already underway, will use ring-fenced funds and an additional £200,000 capital from the Salix loans scheme, which provides funding for public sector organisations who want to invest in energy saving technologies.

As they account for such a large percentage of the emissions, much of the work is focused around council-run buildings. Installing cavity wall insulation, draught proofing and improving the heating controls, should save over 250 tonnes of CO2 a year. The Council has also successfully trialled LED lighting in communal areas of public buildings.

Meanwhile, plans to renew or refurbish all 19 secondary schools in the area will now focus even more on energy efficiency by improving heating and lighting controls, as well as looking at alternative ways to generate energy. Many energy saving technologies are being considered including ground source heat pumps and biomass boilers. The Council expects to reduce emissions by 2,800 tonnes as a result of this work.

Bright ideas
Elsewhere, all 26,000 street lights – currently a mix of low and high pressure sodium – will be replaced with lower wattage alternatives and a new energy efficient system specifically developed for outdoor lighting. This will save over 900 tonnes of CO2 and £122,000 a year.

The night time illumination of street signs and bollards is also being changed, with reflective materials and solar powered LED technology replacing fluorescents and high pressure sodium lighting. This should save 500 tonnes of CO2 and £60,000 a year.

One Carbon Trust suggestion that has proved particularly successful has been the introduction of energy wardens. After a half-day training course from Michael’s team, the wardens go back to their own teams and promote energy saving measures. These include turning off lights and machines when not in use and trying to spot potential energy efficiencies within day-to-day processes.

As of the end of September 2009, the Council had over 100 trained wardens, who, Michael hopes, will contribute to a further 250-tonne CO2 saving, simply by instilling good practice among colleagues.

“The energy wardens have been a huge success,” says Michael. “Raising awareness of the issues was always going to be one of the biggest challenges for us, and this has really helped by making sure there is someone on every team who understands the issues and how we can address them. It also provides a network of enthusiastic and knowledgeable advocates which we can use to cascade new ideas and approaches in the future.”

Future plans
With the 34 priority projects under way, the Council is now looking for funding for the other measures identified as part of the work with Carbon Trust.

It has identified that a further £3 million is required to carry out the additional range of projects that include a voltage optimisation for council offices and an energy management programme at six schools.

The Council is actively looking at ways to secure this funding and has applied for further Salix funding. Coventry City Council is also working closely with Carbon Trust Strategic Design and Advice service to examine the city’s large-scale regeneration plans and identify ways to help maximise carbon reduction opportunities in the future.