Curb your carbon

Saving energy makes sound business sense for any organisation and local authorities (LAs) are no exception to the rule. In fact, it could be argued there is even more of a business case for LAs and government bodies to embrace energy efficiency to set the standard for the private sector. But time for local authorities to sign up to the Carbon Trust’s Carbon Management Programme is running out at the end of March 2010, so I’d urge businesses to contact us as soon as possible.
Councils have a huge sphere of influence and a duty to promote the social, economic and environmental well-being of their community, but often it takes an outsider’s view to identify the weak spots in terms of energy efficiency. The Carbon Trust’s Local Authority Carbon Management Programme provides councils with technical and change management consultancy, as well as guidance to help them realise carbon savings and critically, to cut costs.   
As significant energy users – the local government sector currently emits almost seven million tonnes of CO2 per year – there is a huge opportunity for LAs to reduce their energy use and save thousands in energy costs. These savings can then be put to good use in other areas, such as improving public services, whilst making a positive contribution to the environment.

Carbon management
The Carbon Trust’s five-step Carbon Management Programme provides a structure for organisations to mobilise their organisation by establishing a carbon management team, set forecasts and targets, identify carbon reduction options and plan implementation. This structured approach provides essential and detailed guidance and tools to support LAs in implementing action plans.  
One local authority that has already taken advantage of the Programme is Coventry City Council. In early 2008 the council applied to join the Carbon Trust’s Local Authority Carbon Management programme, and worked with Carbon Trust consultants to calculate its carbon footprint for 2007, which came to 37,400 tonnes of CO2. Buildings made up 70 per cent of this total, with 17 per cent generated by street lighting and 13 per cent from transport. 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, and put in place a carbon management team to generate ideas for how to better manage energy. In an effort to engage employees from the beginning, the council also 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. These included installing LED lighting in communal areas of public council buildings, replacing all street lighting with lower wattage alternatives, and the introduction of energy wardens.
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, or about 15,000 tonnes of CO2 and £2.75 a year.

Cutting emissions
Another good example of successful carbon management planning is The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council.
Driven by environmental legislation and the prospect of attractive cost savings, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council enlisted the Carbon Trust in 2008 to help it create a carbon management plan. The goal is to cut emissions by 40 per cent by March 2014, and save £1.5 million a year.
A six-year comprehensive carbon management plan was drawn up in August 2009. The projects that have been evaluated to date – which include energy efficiency actions around buildings, schools and street lighting – will save the council 5,400 tonnes of CO2, equivalent to annual savings of £700,000. The drop in carbon output will be 22 per cent – more than half the 2014 target.
Generally, the Carbon Trust finds most significant areas of energy saving potential are aligned to maintaining a comfortable working environment for staff, such as heating, lighting, office equipment and air conditioning. Yet there are simple measures which can be taken to reduce costs without reducing the comfort of staff and visitors. The highest cost for LA buildings is heating which accounts for 67 per cent of energy consumption and presents clear carbon reduction opportunities.

Reducing heating temperatures by just 1°C has no impact on the working environment, but can cut fuel consumption by eight per cent – facilities managers can shave up to a third of their building’s heating costs by implementing other simple energy saving measures:   

  • Checking internal temperatures – Ensuring room thermostats and radiator controls are on the minimum settings required for comfort and environmental control. The general recommended temperatures for most local authority buildings is between 19-21°C
  • Staff habits – Manage employee habits and encourage staff to report any areas which are cold, draughty or too hot. 
  • Keep the heat in – Open doors allow warmed air to escape and cold air to enter, the thermostat then senses a decrease in temperature and automatically switches on heating needlessly.  

Lighting accounts for eight per cent, of energy expenditure within LAs, yet there are many simple and inexpensive ways to reduce the energy consumption and costs associated with lighting without compromising health and safety and comfort levels:

  • Switch off policy – Appoint a single person in a group to ensure lights are switched off.  
  • Inappropriate use of blinds – Unnecessary use of blinds can result in occupants turning on internal lights needlessly resulting in energy waste.
  • Labelling light switches – Posters and stickers encourage staff to only select the lights they need and switch off lights in unoccupied areas.

Ventilation & air conditioning
Providing employees and visitors with comfortable internal temperatures and adequate fresh air is achievable and getting it right can save money.

  • Naturally cool for free – As simple as it sounds, natural ventilation and cooling relies on air flow between openings on opposite sides of a room or building or rising warm air being replaced with cooler air sucked in through windows or vents.
  • Mechanical ventilation – is becoming increasingly used in new LA buildings or retro-fitted in older buildings during refurbishment. This is to counteract the heat gains from lighting, staffing, and office equipment. The more heat that is generated the harder the cooling system needs to work to maintain the desired temperature which in turn consumes more energy.

Office equipment
IT and office equipment accounts for four per cent of energy consumption in LAs and is one of the fastest growing energy users in the business world, with electricity representing 15 per cent of total energy consumption in office buildings. This figure is expected to double by 2020. A single computer and monitor left on 24 hours a day will cost around £45 a year, switching computers off out of hours and enabling stand by features could reduce this to less than £10 a year and prolong the life span of the equipment.

  • Turn off and power down – Most equipment does not need to be left on at all times, so ensure PCs etc are switched off when not in use.
  • Match equipment to the task – Try to print in batches to allow the printer to spend more time in stand-by mode. 
  • Minimise cooling loads – Place heat emitting equipment, such as photocopiers and printers in a separate naturally ventilated area with good airflow.

Local authorities have a clear responsibility to set an example when it comes to tackling climate change. By taking these simple measures and introducing energy efficient technology, local authorities can expect to achieve considerable cost savings which can be used to improve public services. They will also be leading the way in reducing carbon emissions which is positive both for the environment and the local community.

For more information
For further information on the Carbon Trust’s Carbon Management Programme please contact the Carbon Trust team on 0800 085 2005 or