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Reducing the Council's Carbon Footprint

Our carbon footprint baseline is 203,665 tonnes CO2e. This is made up of lots of different aspects of how we operate as an organisation and deliver our services.

Our annual carbon footprint report for 2018-19 shows that heating of 73 buildings with oil and gas accounted for 61% of our ‘Scope 1’ carbon footprint (scope 1 meaning direct emissions from our own assets). Scope 1 emissions are those that we have the greatest control over. It will not be possible to meet our climate change targets whilst so many of its buildings are heated with gas and oil.

Our Energy Bill

We have over 100 properties and thousands of streetlights and road signage, and highways apparatus, all of which use energy. Annually this amounts to around 20million kWh of electricity (60% used by streetlighting) and around 6million kWh of gas. A handful of our sites also use around 350,000 kWh of oil. Together these produce a carbon footprint of around 8,500 tonnes CO2e (gross) in 2018/19.

To help mitigate the impact of its energy use and reduce carbon emissions we have a range of new and existing actions taking place:

  • We purchase 100% green tariff electricity
  • Our key offices have had solar panels installed to generate renewable electricity
  • Energy efficiency upgrades across the property portfolio
  • Programme to move all buildings owned and occupied* off of gas or oil by 2025

Further information on these project can be found below.

*Please note, not all of our properties are on gas or oil - some are already electricity only. This brings the figure for this programme of works down to around 70 sites. 

The graph below shows our energy related carbon emissions since 2014-15. Our total emissions (yellow) from energy have decreased over time. This is primarily due to decarbonisation of the wider electricity network - there is a greater proportion of renewables service the network, as well as a decrease in consumption through our energy efficiency work. As we purchase 100% green electricity and generates some electricity at our buildings, we are able to use this to off-set our electricity. This produces our "net" emissions (orange). Since 2017 we have been able to completely off-set our GHG emission from energy.

Despite this, we still want to reduce our consumption further as off-setting is never the best solution. Reducing consumption is always our preferred approach.

Our total emissions (yellow) from energy have decreased over time. These emissions can be off-set (orange) and since 2017 the Council has been able to completely offset its energy emissions.
Our total emissions (yellow) from energy have decreased over time. These emissions can be off-set (orange) and since 2017 we have been able to completely offset its energy emissions.

Environment Fund

To fund our decarbonisation goals, a £16million Environment Fund was established in the February 2020 budget. This is primarily to reduce emissions from our own operations, including:

  • Realising our pledge to decarbonise heating at all properties we own and operate by 2025 (£15million over 5 years)
  • Transitioning to electric fleets and installing workplace chargepoints by 2025 (£200,000 over 5 years)

The remaining funds have not been allocated and will be used to support new projects as they come forward.

Its not just energy...

Of course, energy use is not the only source of our carbon emissions. The majority of emissions arise from how we deliver our services. To reduces these we must change how we operate as an organisation, embedding sustainability and climate considerations into how we deliver our services. 

To facilitate this a wide range of work to create a "new business as usual" is underway. This starts with our new civic hub in Alconbury, reaching every aspect of the Council from staff awareness of the issues; to how we make decisions; to how we purchase our goods and services needed to run the Council. 

New Shire Hall

The £18.3m, 3600sqm building set in four acres of former brownfield land at Alconbury Weald will be the nominated work base for up to 700 staff and will feature flexible breakout areas, formal meeting rooms, a public reception, a multi-purpose function room for meetings, and political group meeting rooms.

The new building is being constructed with as little impact as possible on the environment. The car park includes more than 20 spaces with electric vehicle (EV) chargepoints, and below ground infrastructure ready to link up all spaces to EV chargepoints in the future.

Solar panels (PV) panels on the roof will provide a renewable energy source to improve the energy efficiency of the building, and will be  further boosted by the decision to use an air source heat pump instead of gas to heat the building. 

The environmental performance of the building will be further bolstered through a secondary project which is under development to install solar car ports on site. Similar to the projects at Babraham and St.Ives Parks and Rides, the project would see 250kW solar panels mounted on car ports arranged over the Civic Hub's car park - enough to power the EV chargepoints in site. The project would reduce the sites operational carbon emissions by 720 tonnes CO2e. An investment decision on this secondary phase is anticipated in the coming months, with a planning application due to be submitted shortly afterward.

All the low carbon technologies together are expected to meet up to 40% of the building’s expected energy use.

Solar PV Car Port over the car park at New Shire Hall
Solar PV Car Port over the car park at New Shire Hall

Some of our Projects

We have pledged that by 2025 all buildings it owns and occupied will have fossil-fuel free heating. There are around 70 properties in this category that will require moving on to low carbon heating alternatives. To facilitate this pledge, in February 2020 a £16million Environment Fund was established.

The most suitable technologies for heating buildings from renewable sources are Air Source Heat Pumps (ASHPs) and Ground Source Heat Pumps (GSHPs). 

We are running a low carbon heating programme to install air source heat pumps across many of our sites. We have installed ASHPs at 22 of our sites so far. Further ASHP projects are being developed for other sites.

The sites included are:

Site Project Status
33 Haviland Way, Cambridge.  Complete
78 Victoria Rd, Wisbech. Complete
Bargroves Resource Centre, St Neots. Complete
Cottenham Library.  Complete
Ely Library. Complete
Hereward Hall, March. Complete
Huntingdon Community Centre.  Complete
Huntingdon Library. Complete
Larkfield Resource Centre, Ely. Complete
Scott House, Huntingdon. Complete
Victoria Lodge, Wisbech.  Complete
Woodland Lodge, Huntingdon  In progress
Burwell House In progress
Roger Ascham site, Cambridge Complete
Cambridge Central Library Complete
Chatteris Library Complete
March Library Complete
Ramsey Library  Complete
Shortsands Day Centre, St Neots Complete
Stanton House, Huntingdon Complete
Wisbech Library Complete
Bassingbourn Preschool Complete

Information on other energy projects the Council is leading can be found on our low carbon energy pages. 

As an organisation, we need to change our working practices to ensure the way we deliver services also helps to minimise carbon emissions. We are creating a new "business as usual".

There are a number of changes coming forward that will help us on the decarbonisation journey:

Mandatory Climate and Environment training for all Staff

  • To ensure all staff are able to appropriately consider and incorporate climate friendly approaches in their work.

 New Committee Reports

  • Committees and the reports Officers submit to them are how all significant decisions are made. From March 2020 the reports contain a section on "Significant Climate and Environment Implications", based upon our Climate Priority Areas. This will improve decision making and enable officers, Councillors and residents to see the environmental impacts of our work.

 Shadow Carbon Price

  • Any carbon emitted now will have to be removed from the atmosphere in the future. This will come at a cost. Carbon can already be assigned a monetary value following UK Governmental approaches. In November 2020 we agreed that all business cases should incorporate an estimate price for the carbon the project will emit (or save). This "shadow carbon price" will enable a better understanding of the future financial implications of decisions. 

 Considering climate and environment in procurements

  • We spend approximately £0.5billion on services to Cambridgeshire communities. These services cover adult and children services, education, highways management and waste treatment and disposal. We have committed to reduce the carbon footprint of these services by 50.4% by 2030. To do this we are working with the University College London (UCL) to design a carbon calculator and guidance for inclusion in our procurement processes to drive down carbon emissions from service delivery. This work is underway, and the first stage of the project is due to complete in June 2021. This will offer a fair process for evaluating carbon emissions across different service providers. The project won funding from the Local Government Association under their Net Zero Innovation Programme.

Setting out to lead by example, we undertook Renewable Energy Retrofits as part of its Re:fit energy performance contracting programme, which provided guaranteed energy-efficiency savings. 

The projects saw the installation of solar PV onto building roofs, with some sites also receiving bundling energy management optimisation works, LED lighting upgrades and insulation. Together these generation electricity for the site while improving energy efficiency. 

Retrofits have been carried out on 7 council buildings: Shire Hall, Amundsen House, Awdry House, Speke House, Scott House, March Library and  Huntingdon Library.   

The projects also make use of the Feed in Tariff, which was a government scheme where generators are paid for the electricity they generate. To date, the council has earned over £36,000 in FiT payments 

Annual Savings = 379,00kWh = 169 tonnes CO2

Annual Revenue = £52,173 (savings) and £17,485 (FiT payments)

Our Energy Efficiency Fund (EEF), launched in 2016, is a £1million invest to save fund for our buildings to enable installation in energy saving measures such as improvements in heating, lighting and building controls. 

Projects to date have focussed on upgrading lighting to LEDs - a simple but effective energy saving measure. They are 70% more efficient than fluorescent lighting, leading to noticeable reductions in electricity bills. They also require fewer replacements: LEDs operate at a lower temperature making them last up to 25 times longer.

LED lighting also provides a whiter, brighter light compared to fluorescent lighting, so that fewer are required to produce the same lighting levels and the light produced is also closer to normal daylight, which is known to provide a better and more productive working environment.

Over 50 projects had been completed with an investment of  £581,727 delivering annual savings of £131,656 from reduced energy consumption and maintenance costs. A further £45,605 saving is anticipated from 32 projects currently underway.

Site benefitting from the upgrades include: Council Offices, libraries, Children's and Community Centres, Residential Homes and the outdoor education centres. 

We are responsible for many of the streetlighting across the County. In 2018 the Streetlighting Team began its LED Street-Lantern Replacement Project, to upgrade the less efficient lighting adopted since the PFI contract commenced in 2011. The project aimed to reduce energy bills and improve lighting provision in these areas. Prior to the project these streetlights consumed around 1,271,578 kWh annually. 

The project took place between May 2018 and December 2018, with a total of 3,635 lighting columns upgraded, and resulted in significantly reduced energy consumption, saving 743,961 kWh per year - a 59% reduction. 

Using our 2020/21 electricity rates, the energy savings mean that we are saving around £125,000 per year as a result of the LED replacement project.

LED Lighting at Huntingdon Library. The left side has been upgraded, while the right side has not.
LED Lighting at Huntingdon Library. The left side has been upgraded, while the right side has not.