Smarter energy for a more efficient authority

Following on from July’s waste management Top 10 list, September’s issue sees us investigate how well local authorities across the UK are improving their energy efficiency

In April, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) awarded funding worth £24 million to help develop clean and efficient heating systems to 13 local authorities across England. The funding is the first from a £320 million pot earmarked to support heat networks, which have been dubbed ‘central heating for cities’ and have the potential to reduce heating costs, in some cases by more than 30 per cent.

The scheme is expected to run over five years and will enable up to 200 heat networks to be built, while leveraging around £2 billion of wider public and private investment. Winning entries at the building stage include four projects in London, two in Manchester and one each in Sheffield, Crawley and Colchester. Support was won at the planning stage by projects in Trafford, Islington, Buckinghamshire and Middlesbrough.

Following on from this, the government introduced a £35 million investment in energy innovation projects in June, with the aim of delivering clean growth and affordable energy as part of the Industrial Strategy. The investment, coming from the BEIS Energy Innovation Programme, will go towards smart heating systems and innovation in using hydrogen as a potential heat source.

A month later, the government and energy regulator Ofgem launched a plan to bring smart energy technology into homes and businesses, outlining plans to save up to £40 billion by removing barriers to smart and battery technology, which will reduce costs for consumers.

1 - Gateshead Council
At the start of 2017, the Gateshead District Energy Scheme unlocked a £1million boost to its revenue after becoming a partner of demand response company Flexitricity. The scheme provides low-cost, low-carbon heat and power to homes, public buildings and businesses across the centre of Gateshead, with the council-owned Gateshead Energy Company’s combined heat and power (CHP) system adding 4MW of electricity generating capacity to the National Grid.

The first of its kind and scale in the North East, the futuristic-looking District Energy Centre houses a small but highly-efficient power station which will generate and supply low-carbon, low cost energy for up to 350 local homes and businesses via a new underground network of high voltage ‘private-wire’ electricity cables. The centre is capable of capturing up to 85 per cent of the waste heat created during the energy generation process, which can then be fed directly to public buildings an homes via a network of underground heat pipes.

Martin Gannon, leader of the council, said: “This is an important project which will give our area a real cutting edge. Our District Energy Centre is twice as efficient as a conventional power station, and far greener, and we can pass on some of those cost efficiencies to local people and businesses in the form of cheaper heat and power. This alone will make a real difference to people’s lives. However, the commercial advantages offered by cheap heat and power will be obvious to incoming businesses and we believe this is likely to drive up demand for business space here in Gateshead, something that should help to generate much-needed new jobs. We are also helping to substantially reduce Gateshead’s carbon footprint.”

Gateshead Council is also half way through a pilot in which the council has introduced the use of electric bikes for staff business use. Encouraging staff to travel by bike contributes to the council’s aim to reduce the number of car journeys made and encourage more sustainable methods of transport.

Gateshead District Energy Scheme

2 - Cornwall Council
Cornwall has long been at the forefront of the country’s transition towards low carbon energy. 25 years ago the first commercial windfarm was installed at Delabole in north Cornwall. Today, Cornwall’s abundance of natural energy resources supports around 750MW of renewable energy and the council is looking to the future.

In February 2017, Cornwall Council established an exciting new ambition for the region’s energy future which will see lower energy bills, greener and more affordable homes and transport, and the potential development of a new locally-owned energy company. The vision for Cornwall’s Energy Future identifies ambitious targets for 2030 which are designed to ensure residents, communities and the local economy all benefit from the low carbon energy transition.

The region’s devolution deal is the first devolution deal to include a set of specific commitments around energy which are designed to tackle some of the barriers to creating a local energy market in Cornwall. £35 million has been invested across a series of pilot projects which include trialling new ways of managing energy generation and local supply to tackle grid constraints, creating new revenue opportunities for energy projects and supporting enhanced community involvement in the local energy market.

To date, the council has invested in 8MW of solar PV and established a £2.5 million revolving loan fund to support community energy projects, which can spread the benefits of energy ownership across Cornwall’s population.

Geo Jubilee Pool - Cornwall

3 - Oxford City Council
Through a wide range of energy conservation projects, Oxford City Council has helped reduce more than 6,000 tonnes of damaging carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from being sent into the atmosphere. Last Summer, the council reported that its carbon tonnage reduction is equivalent to taking 1,553 medium-sized cars off the road and keeping them off the road every year - a topical equivalent given the government’s plans to limit the number of vehicles on the road and improve air quality.

Improving the energy efficiency of its social housing stock, the city council has installed external wall cladding on 76 houses, removing 73tCO2/y, while also installing cavity wall insulation on 320 houses, removing 130.74tCO2/y. On top of this, solar panels have been installed on 69 houses as well as Larkrise Primary School, Oxford Bus Company and Norbar Torque Tools in Banbury. The projects have reduced the emissions to the atmosphere every year by about 950 tonnes.

The council’s efforts to reduce the carbon emissions of its estate has seen the installation of LED lighting, high-efficiency boilers, insulation and new heating controls, totalling £1.1 million of energy efficiency upgrades.

The Energy Resources for Integrated Communities project, a £1.2 million programme to highlight how a local smart energy system can save a community money, was named Residential Building Energy Project of the Year in the Energy Awards in 2016. The aim of the project is to show how battery storage in households can lead to far more solar-generated power being used locally, benefiting both local people and the environment.

4 - Bristol City Council
In 2015 Bristol became the UK’s first ever European Green Capital in recognition of its sustainable, low carbon living. Over the last few years, the council has pursued an ambition to be carbon neutral by 2050 by developing a multi-million pound solar investment programme and introducing a match-making service to make sustainable energy more accessible to local communities. Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, the council is investing in local energy projects which encourage local solutions to community-specific energy challenges, as well as leading UK-wide meetings to offer best practice advice.

A total of £58,132 was given to 11 successful projects in Bristol at the end of last year to reduce energy use, move towards cleaner and renewable sources of energy and take measures that can help meet their energy needs affordably.

The aforementioned heat network will supply low carbon heat to buildings across Bristol through a network of underground pipes connected to a number of energy centres including biomass boilers and gas combined heat and power (CHP) plants. Although the CHP plants will initially run on gas, the capture of waste heat to heat water and buildings results in a more efficient use of the fuel and lower carbon emissions.

Additionally, a fleet of more than 100 new low-emission buses powered by gas could soon be introduced to the Bristol region in the next few years after a multi-million pound government grant was secured.

Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees, who began his time in office by giving the green light to the next phase of a multi-decade major infrastructure project to build a heat network across the city, said: “Bristol City Council is one of the leading local authorities supporting community energy. Our approach is still being developed, tried and tested to get even better results, but it already has the potential to become a model of best practice nationally. We can really see the benefits for our communities and for the city, so it’s only right that we spread the word.”

5 - Aberdeen City Council
Following the success of Powering Aberdeen and Earth Hour last year, in which both the council-run programmes won a Green Apple Award, Aberdeen has continued to pursue its ambition to become a leading sustainable economy in the UK.

In October 2016, the city council approved proposals for a £150 million Energy from Waste facility to be built in the city and provide low cost heating for the Torry area, while a month later council officers gave their full support to the Donside Hydro Scheme, a pioneering community-owned energy project which harnesses energy from the neighbouring River Don to create electricity to be sold to the national grid.

The funds generated from the scheme will contribute to a community fund, with Aberdeen Community Energy anticipating that the fund will generate up to £400,000 back to the community during the first 20 years of the scheme’s operation.

Furthermore, the £333 million Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre, due to open in 2019, will host the largest fuel cell installation in the UK. Supplied by Doosan Babcock, the on-site energy centre will provide power, heat, and cooling to the building, providing a total electrical output of 1.4MW, reinforcing both the credentials of fuel cells as a leading technology in the low-emission, high-efficiency combined heat and power market and Aberdeen’s plans to be a leading, low-energy city.

6 - Liverpool City Council
Merseyside, along with North Wales, has the highest average cost for gas and electricity in the country – with the average default bill of £1,197. On the flip side, the region also has one of the lowest average incomes in the country, with residents paying 7.7 per cent of their average income on energy – the highest in Britain.

Liverpool City Council has therefore announced the creation of a new not-for-profit energy company, the Liverpool Energy Community Company (LECCY), to tackle fuel poverty in the city. LECCY will offer competitively priced gas and electricity cheaper than that offered by the Big Six and will offer advice to households to help them move off costly prepayment meters and on to cheaper direct debit tariffs.

It is claimed that the company could save a medium user of gas and electricity over £250 per year compared to the most expensive Big Six tarif. Further fixed rate deals for Liverpool are in the pipeline and will be announced in the coming months.

As of last December, government statistics suggested that Liverpool had already achieved a staggering 18 per cent reduction in carbon emissions since 2012. As a result of a number of energy saving initiatives and investment in renewables, Liverpool City Council believes that the cut could double to 35 per cent by 2020 – surpassing the 20 per cent target set by the EU Covenant of Mayors.

Since 2012, the city has seen a 550 per cent rise in registered renewable energy installations and produced 558,000 fewer tonnes of CO2 at a rate of 70,000 tonnes per year – the equivalent of 280,000 double decker buses.

Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, who leads the city region on carbon reduction, said: “I want Liverpool to be the greenest city in the UK – to be a beacon for others to be inspired by. A low carbon economy makes total sense on an environmental, financial and health level – and we are already beginning to reap the dividends even in just the short period since I signed the city up to the EU Mayoral Covenant. What really excites me is the will to achieve more across both the public and private sectors and thanks to this report we can have the confidence to press ahead and make some truly monumental decisions that will transform Liverpool’s position to a world leader in carbon reduction.”

7 - Islington Borough Council
In the face of huge government funding cuts, Islington Council has expanded its energy efficiency programme to reduce energy use, cut costs and generate income. In 2016, over £400,000 was invested in three key energy saving schemes - a new LED lighting retrofit, a new cold isle air conditioning system and a new 30 kW solar PV system.

The 50 per cent reduction in output, resulting from the LED lighting project, is estimated to result in an annual energy saving of £35,000 per year, meaning the project will payback within seven years and then continue to deliver savings for the rest of the 25 year lifespan. The cold isle containment system, held in the basement that hosts the main council servers, reduces the duty on the air conditioning units and offers savings of over £30,000 per year by cooling the systems in a ‘pod’ unit - meaning only only the air within that pod requires cooling. On the Highbury building roof, the 30 kW array compromises 100 solar panels in an east to west configuration and will provide an estimated annual income of around £5,000, offering an eight year payback.

In total, over 1,800 solar panels are generating energy from the sun on the council’s buildings, generating potential savings of £1.5 million over 30 years. More than 900 panels have been installed at the Waste Recycling Centre, more than 850 at Sobell Leisure Centre and more than 100 at the customer service centre in Upper Street.

Claudia Webbe, executive member for environment and transport, said: “These solar panels are a win-win for the council and residents. Not only will they significantly reduce the council’s carbon footprint and electricity bills, they will also generate much-needed income, helping to reduce the pressure on the council’s budget in the long-term and help protect us against fluctuating electricity prices. We also managed to install them in time to catch the higher payment rate for energy fed back into the National Grid – the government has since cut the funding so brutally that new schemes are currently not viable.”

Smarter energy for a more efficient authority

8 - Glasgow City Council
Just this month, Glasgow City Council’s executive committee approved a £5 million Affordable Warmth Programme in the city. The programme, which aims to deliver energy and efficiency measures to homes and buildings across Glasgow in both the public and private sectors, is funded by the Scottish government and includes measures to improve external wall insulation and replace central heating, windows and boilers, as well as the connection of Dalmarnock Nursery to Dalmarnock Energy Centre.

Kenny McLean, City Convenor for Neighbourhoods, Housing and Public Realm at Glasgow City Council, said: “Improving energy efficiency and making the heating of homes and buildings more affordable brings environmental, financial and social benefits to Glasgow. The council's work on these programmes has a significant impact on fuel poverty and health inequality in the city, and makes properties in the city more sustainable as well as providing a boost to people and companies in Glasgow's construction sector.”

9 - Peterborough City Council
Peterborough City Council was awarded the top prize in the Efficiency, Environment and Innovation categories at this year’ Local Government Chronicle Awards, with the judges praising the council’s initiatives to generate renewable energy alongside projects such as the Peterborough Energy tariff and a scheme to reduce the council’s overall energy consumption. Such policies have resulted in more than 6,000 households in the region switching to Peterborough Energy in less that two years.

Aside from the Peterborough Energy tariff, a project called Empower Peterborough offers residents free solar panels on their homes. Households on the scheme are expected to benefit from an energy saving of roughly £200 every year and own the operating PV system at the end of the 20-year term. The solar systems are installed by Empower Peterborough CIC, a partnership between the council and Empower Community, a social enterprise.

10 - Surrey County Council
In March 2017, Action Surrey’s Streets Ahead project was recognised at the South East Energy Efficiency & Healthy Homes Regional Awards. Funded by the former Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), the £2.5 million programme provides grant funding towards the insulation of non-cavity wall properties - benefiting 464 individual properties across Surrey. The success of the project last year has encouraged the council to launch a fuel poverty-based programme across the county this year, upgrading the boiler and heating systems of lower income households to lower their energy and heating bills.

The Surrey Energy and Sustainability Partnership is a collaborative group involving the county council, all 11 borough and district councils, Surrey Police and Action Surrey. It aims to improve the energy efficiency of homes across Surrey, with a particular focus on supporting vulnerable households, as well as investigate opportunities for and enable supply chains for local renewable resources. All 12 council's have plans in place to improve efficiency and there is ongoing sharing of opportunities and lessons learnt.