The Head of Asset Management (Climate Change Lead) informed the Board that the Net Zero Carbon Trajectory Report prepared by APSE (Association for Public Service Excellence) has been received recently and had been reviewed by the Corporate Management Team. The report would be circulated to Board members with an agenda item for general discussion scheduled for the next meeting.
The Climate Change Officer delivered a presentation based upon the report’s findings setting out the Council’s footprint for the period 2019-20, the decarbonisation priority areas and offsetting. The 2019-20 net emissions figure was 8568tCO2, with the gross figure of 8613tCO2. The Council’s gross emissions were broken down into three sections for reporting – Scope 1 (gas and fuel use:60%), Scope 2 (imported electricity:31%) and Scope 3 (indirect emissions:9%). The Council’s gross emissions could be reduced by including exported electricity when accounting to produce a net emissions figure. The source of these offsets are the Council’s eight solar energy panel installations and the Wey River hydro installation. Albeit the hydro installation had not be in commission for much of the year and the offset from that source was expected to be greater in future.
There was a very slight uplift (2%)in emissions on the previous year’s (2018-19) data. But the long term trend was a significant reduction in emissions of 45% from the baseline year of 2008-09. This reduction was significantly influenced by a reduction in electricity due to the installation of LED lighting and the decarbonisation of the National Grid.
There was a notable increase in the total energy consumption by the Council compared to the previous year, electricity by 10% and Gas by 7%. The uplift in gas consumption was as a result of an increase in the number of cold days leading to a larger heating demand, however the reason for the electricity uplift is not fully understood at this point. The presentation continued to look at ways in which energy demand could be reduced by undertaking energy audits and feasibility studies looking at site specific interventions such as the installation of new energy efficient kit such as heat pumps, building management controls, insulation and/or changes in maintenance practices. A pool cover for the Lido to retain heat and reduce its demand was given as an example of what was being looked at currently. It was noted that there the intended feasibility studies would help identify the costs and carbon savings, and so identifying the most effective interventions.
To progress towards net zero the Council should aim to utilise the energy it generated through the photo voltaic and hydro installations (private wire) which would be 100% renewable as well as exporting back to the grid where possible. The report included a supposition that the Council might seek to generate a further 500kWp through on-site renewables which would be consumed on-site. This capacity was not currently scoped and consideration would need to be given to whether this would prove feasible. Alongside rational interventions to reduce demand, a development of this size, where the electricity was consumed on-site to reduce demand from the grid would bring the Council’s emissions for 2030 down to around 3000t. It was acknowledged that costs and competing priorities would be significant factors with such a proposal.
The report concluded that the remaining 3000t of emissions would be hard to reduce. It was proposed that these emissions could be offset by the development of a significant solar array (5mWp) which exports to the grid, reducing net emissions by ~600tCO2 per year. The remaining 2400tCO2 of emissions would need to be offset via an alternative means, such as investment in arboreal sequestration which refers to forest management and tree planting. This could be achieved in partnership with an outside organisation such as the Woodland Trust. Costs for such a programme as set out in the presentation could not be validated at the meeting. It was suggested that reducing emissions could become an internal economic driver for holistic decarbonisation due to the cost of achieving net zero.
It was noted that there was a programme in place to replace the Council’s vehicles from fossil fuel to fully electric as they come to the end of their lives, however the technological developments to support that transition were difficult to forecast as this was a rapidly changing sector.
The presentation set out the capital costs of all of the proposed interventions in the report. For an overall cost of around £6.7m and with a significant saving from not drawing down energy from the grid and through generating its own electricity the Council could make an annual revenue saving of £1m.
Although Scope 3 emissions did not have clearly defined parameters and were not mandatory in reporting it was noted that it was important to progress further scrutiny of the Council’s Scope 3 emissions so as to prevent relying ultimately on offsetting. This includes identifying relevant emissions sources as well as further work to calculate the corresponding emissions as accurately as possible. In accordance with the carbon management hierarchy (avoid, reduce, replace, offset) it was preferred to identify and reduce emissions rather than to rely on offsetting, although it was acknowledged that access to technology and budgets would inevitably lead to a point at which a proportion of emissions remained that would need to be offset to declare net zero. It was noted that the volume of Scope 3 emissions, at around 9% of the Council’s total emission as set out in the report, is likely to increase significantly. It was reported that discussions were underway to understand more about Scope 3 emissions arising from procurement activities that could result in the Council becoming a market influencer. The Council’s commercial assets might also be reviewed to understand additional Scope 3 emissions.
It was suggested that carbon efficiency be an ongoing core feature of the Council’s operational activity where all Council staff understood the impacts and mitigations of their roles
It was reported that UNIS had targeted net zero by 2030 and planned to offset 50% of Scope 1 and 2 emissions as measures and mitigating activity were simpler to address, whilst Scope 3 as difficult to identify and quantify was an ongoing as a piece of work. It was argued that if all parties addressed Scopes 1 and 2, there would be no Scope 3.
The Board heard that there were constraints utilising tree planting as a significant offset vehicle given the need for substantial sized locations, underground utilities, and early years maintenance.
The slides of the presentation would be circulated to the Board.