ECC Media Release | City Council Scoops Environment Award

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17 March 2016

City Council Scoops Environment Award

LGA Awards - Group shot

A green-thinking council has won recognition at the highest level for its efforts to become an energy-neutral authority.

Exeter City Council beat off tough competition from dozens of other local authorities to win the Environment Award at last night’s Local Government Chronicle Awards in London.

Judges described Exeter’s submission as an “Excellent project, well-funded and supported and able to demonstrate achievements.”

The reward recognises the City Council’s work over recent years to reduce its carbon footprint and encourage others to do the same. By bringing in environmentally-friendly initiatives like solar panels and energy efficient lighting, the Council is able to save money and protect the environment at the same time.

The City Council is striving to become an energy neutral council by 2050.

Cllr Rachel Sutton, Lead Councillor for City Development, said: “I am delighted that the LGC has recognised the work we are doing at the City Council. Thanks to a whole host of green-thinking initiatives we will see a massive 37% reduction in energy consumption here at the Civic Centre and throughout our other buildings.”

The delivery of a vast programme of energy efficiency and solar PV projects, including some ground-breaking initiatives over the last year will bring about savings and a gross income of over £500,000 per annum. This is of huge benefit to the Council, reducing budgets and protecting Council services, as well as supporting the community and businesses.

Pioneering Solar PV canopies – the first of their kind in the UK – have been placed on two city centre car parks, and the latest installation is a 1.5MW array at the Council’s Livestock Centre. This is believed to be the largest roof top solar array in the South West, with 5,246 panels.

The PV array completed in December, follows the installation of a new roof on the building, funded by the savings and income generated by the solar panels. The array will produce 1,404mwh of energy a year, enough to power 335 homes and save 790 tonnes of carbon a year.

The Council also recently completed a solar PV installation at the former Electricity Building – now the Quay Climbing Centre – which enables the Council to sell renewable energy generated at a discounted price to the leaseholder. A second scheme of this type has also benefited the Exeter CVS at Wat Tyler House.

Other highlights have seen the City Council install Park & Plug car charging points in car parks around the City and the local authority’s involvement in the setting up of district heating networks like the one at Exeter Skypark and in the near future at the Monkerton housing development.

– Ends – 

LGA award

#LGCawards | Becoming an Energy Neutral Council




Exeter City Council has been nominated for two awards in the LGA Awards 2016

Environment Award [sponsored by Repic]

This award is awarded to mark excellence in any aspect of councils’ work in environmental services, including sustainability, recycling, refuse collection, and street cleaning. Entries will be judged on the innovation of their submissions and the extent to which it has improved the environment in their area and/or the efficiency of service delivery.

Submissions should focus on:

  • A full description of the project and its aims;
  • A detailed explanation of costs, how it was funded and where the expertise for it came from;
  • The impact of the council’s work on the lives of local people, for instance by showing how their concerns led to a positive response;
  • Evidence that the project has met its goals.

Award entries will be judged upon:

  • The extent to which the council’s work was an innovative response to a significant concern and potentially can be replicated in other areas;
  • The quality of the outcomes obtained from the project, for instance in improved or more efficient services;
  • Evidence of buy-in to the project or its goals from members of the local community or external organisations.


  • Bristol City Council
  • Cambridgeshire County Council
  • Exeter City Council
  • Keep Britain Tidy
  • Lincolnshire County Council/Keep Britain Tidy
  • London Borough of Lambeth
  • London Borough of Tower Hamlets
  • Public Power Solutions, a Wholly Owned Company of Swindon Borough Council
  • Staffordshire County Council

Efficiency [sponsored by National Audit Office]

Councils face continued pressure to reduce costs and increase their efficiency. Many have now reached the point at which further efficiency can be achieved only by innovative approaches and new relations with citizens and partner organisations. The focus is on how to secure “better for less”. This award is intended to highlight how the most imaginative councils are facing this challenge.

Submissions should focus on:

  • Outlining your savings and efficiency targets for 2013-14,  2014-15 and beyond, the extent to which you achieved those targets and the evidence you use to both set targets and measure performance against them;
  • How you have used the pressure to cuts costs to prompt organisational change and secure improved outcomes;
  • The main drivers of and barriers to securing efficiencies;
  • How you have engaged local citizens, service users and partner organisations in this work.

Award entries will be judged on:

  • The scale of the council’s ambition and the extent to which it has succeeded in achieving it;
  • Whether securing savings and efficiencies has driven service improvements;
  • The process the council adopted, including stakeholder engagement;
  • The quality and use of the evidence base available to the council.


  • ENGIE & North Tyneside Council
  • Exeter City Council
  • Hampshire County Council and Argenti Teleheathcare
  • Leeds City Council
  • London Borough of Ealing
  • London Borough of Newham
  • Peterborough City Council
  • South London SEN Commissioning Programme
  • Thurrock Council

The submissions for both categories were based on this document

Becoming an Energy Neutral Council

Exeter City Council is a cost efficient, forward thinking Council, working to reduce its carbon footprint and encouraging others to do the same. A new commitment to make real change and deliver Exeter’s aspiration to become a lead sustainable authority has been embarked on. The goal is to deliver long term financial and carbon savings as Exeter strives to become an energy neutral council. This ambition is supported by an innovative programme of energy efficient and renewable initiatives, financially supported and already producing substantial savings.

The City Council’s target is to reduce its base load energy consumption, deliver financial savings and cut carbon emissions to support Council services as well as supporting the community and business.

Building a Sustainable Council

Consumption across all council assets increased in 2012/13 at a rate of 19%. This pattern of energy consumption was unsustainable and presented a real threat to the ability of Exeter City Council to continue to provide quality services. As a result a new fully enabled commercially driven Energy Team was established in Corporate Property Assets to drive forward a Renewables and Energy Efficiency Programme. The team laid down an ambitious programme to achieve energy reduction, to generate renewable energy, to be an energy neutral Council. In addition, the programme would tackle carbon produced (4500 tonnes in 2012/13) with a 20% reduction achievable by year 3.

The Renewables and Energy Efficiency Programme

Solar PV installed in early 2013 to four main Council facilities proved far reaching and demonstrated the value of renewable technology. To date the PV array’s at the Council’s Civic Centre, Oakwood House Office, Materials Recycling Facility, and Museum Store has exceeded the Government’s performance data by 32%; subsequently the project is predicted to break even within 5 years and will provide an index linked income stream for a further 15 years. During the first full year of operation, the 180kW PV array delivered an income of nearly £48,000 and saved 82 tonnes of carbon.

Exeter Citizen, Winter 2013
Exeter Citizen, Winter 2013

The innovative Renewables and Energy Efficiency Programme included further PV installations to Council buildings, including a pioneering Solar Canopy Car Park project (PV arrays to the top deck of car parks), an installation on the Grade II listed Royal Albert Memorial Museum, City Climb Centre and a 1.5MW array to the Council’s Livestock Centre. In addition, the Climb Centre, Car Park Arrays and Livestock Centre all provide energy to other organisations. Using a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) the Council has become an energy provider, selling discounted renewable energy to its leaseholders, supporting local business and the voluntary sector with cheaper energy bills.

3D image of Livestock Centre 1.5MW array (currently being installed)
3D image of Livestock Centre 1.5MW array (installed December 2015)

Real Innovation – Solar Canopy Arrays on Multi-story Car Parks

The Solar Canopy arrays are installed on two of our largest City Centre Car Parks, our most complex solar project to date. The solar Car Park project has broken new ground, not only in the South West, but also nationally and represents innovation that can be shared. The PV arrays will provide an income of over £50,000 per annum over 25years, generating 285,227 kwh per year of renewable energy, and saving 150 tonnes of CO2 per year. They present:

  • Zero Carbon. Linked to low energy lighting installed, a zero carbon parking service is achieved.
  • Dual Benefit. The Car Park Canopy structures provided undercover parking, providing for more attractive parking, happier customers and increased parking revenue.
  • Technical Innovation. The Solar canopy project is a UK first and provides a workable structural and parking solution.
  • Solar EV Charging. Car Park Users will be able to charge Electric Vehicles for free using renewable energy.
  • Community Benefit. Local installer, local design and engineering, visible profile promoting the benefits of solar PV, and sale of energy to local voluntary group based in a building next to Car Park.
John Lewis Car Park Canopy 150kw array, under Construction.
John Lewis Car Park Canopy 150kw array, under construction
Mary Arches Car Park 150kw Canopy array in operation
Mary Arches Car Park 150kw Canopy array in operation

Other energy efficiency measures in buildings

It can be seen that renewable technology provides for enormous cost savings and delivers long term income. By the same token, key energy saving projects are vital if Exeter is to reduce consumption and to make for a sustainable property asset.

An LED lighting replacement project at the Council’s main offices has proved a huge success reducing consumption by 60%, demonstrating significant long term energy and cost savings of £32,000 per annum. Additional benefits include reduced maintenance and improved lighting which has made for better working environment.

LED lighting has also been effectively installed in city centre car parks, again reducing electricity consumption, in some cases up to 65% (see snapshot below- Harlequins Car Park). As well as reduced maintenance/ administration costs the lighting is significantly improved, making for well lit and safer car parking.


Screen shot 2016-03-16 at 14.34.19

The success of the LED project is shared with residents to promote the benefits of LED, featuring in the Council’s quarterly newspaper delivered to every home in the City.

Exeter Citizen, Spring 2014
Exeter Citizen, Spring 2014

Further energy efficiency schemes include removing paper towels and installation of low energy hand driers, water saving devices which have delivered savings of over £20,000 per annum since installation in 2013, and replacement of the incumbent oil fired boilers that heat the Civic Offices with gas boilers..

The new efficient boilers allow for a saving of over £28,000 per annum and the removal of oil provides a significant carbon saving. The space left as a result of the clearing the existing oil tanks provides a new bike store for staff, encouraging green travel.

Future energy saving measures planned include staff engagement projects to reduce consumption further, to tackle the unoccupied base load of the Civic Offices, utilising low energy kitchen facilities. This will not only deliver a financial return, but make for an improved and more creative working environment.

All in all the Civic Centre has been transformed into an energy efficient building, benefiting from significant cost and carbon savings, as well setting an example of best practice. This is clearly demonstrated by the energy consumption graph below.

Civic Centre energy consumption (kwh’s)
Civic Centre energy consumption (kWh)

Real Change

The Council’s aspiration for Energy Neutrality, through self financed investment in renewables and other energy saving schemes, forms an essential cornerstone to achieving a 20% reduction in carbon emissions, whilst essentially safeguarding public services through income generation.

A strategy to deliver an Energy Neutral Council is one built on:

  • Maximising our Commercial Business Opportunities. All projects are delivered on the basis of a robust business case. The income and savings delivered create new income streams which support key Council services.
  • Leadership. Exeter has been able to share its expertise and influence local residents and business as well as influencing the national energy agenda.
  • Wellbeing. Energy projects can help to improve wellbeing and supporting community energy schemes, and to assist in reducing fuel poverty.
  • Sustainable Economic Development. Energy projects present an opportunity to stimulate growth by generation of local jobs.
  • Energy Security. A consistent, reliable and affordable energy supply providing greater sustainability, energy security and protection against environmental and carbon taxes.
  • Carbon Reduction. Lover environmental impact, improved well being for the people of Exeter. A low carbon City.

Real Savings

To date the savings are clear, with energy consumption of the Council’s total estate cut by 2.5milllion kwh. Based on projects completed up to December 2015 a reduction of 15.25% is achieved in 2015/16 and a gross income of £319,000. Moreover projects recently completed, all within year 2 of the programme will provide for considerable decline in consumption, a reduction of 37% in 2016/17 and a gross income of £522,000, with a carbon saving of 24%.

ECC - Total energy use
ECC – Total energy use

The above is the work of a dedicated and enthusiastic Energy Team of two people, that in itself demonstrates real achievement. The projects realised are substantial and already provide real and significant savings, demonstrating leadership for community benefit. The Energy Team’s individual expertise has gained support from elected members, enabling all projects to be self financed by the Council. Future projects planned and future development of the Renewables and Energy Saving Programme will ensure Exeter continues to reduce energy consumed, increase renewable energy generated and achieve its aspiration to be an Energy Neutral Council.

Other Projects and Collaboration

The following projects demonstrate Exeter is fast becoming a lead authority, one that is collectively making ground breaking steps to be a truly low carbon City, and one that sets a standard for all.

Electric vehicles

Last year, the Council underwent a fleet review by the Energy Saving Trust. This indicated that savings could be generated by the replacement of life-expired vehiclesby electric rather than petrol or diesel versions. Generally our vehicles do not travel beyond our compact administrative area, so the limited range of such vehicles is not an issue. The first phase of a new electric vehicle fleet is underway with electric pool cars and small operational vans already in service.

Exeter Citizen, Summer 2014
Exeter Citizen, Summer 2014

The above acquisition was made possible by our success with a bid to OLEV in 2013, which has provided for seven twin charging points. The chargepoints are called ‘Plug and Park’ Stations and the design is a highly visible one promoting Electric Vehicle use. The chargepoints are situated in key city locations, including car parks where they are available for public use. Drivers pay the normal parking charge but do not have to pay for charging.

Low Carbon Task Force

The Council is an active member of the Exeter and Heart of Devon Low Carbon Task Force, an association of public and private sector organisations reporting to the Growth Board for the area, including local authorities, Chamber of Commerce, Eon, the University of Exeter, and the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital (RDE).

The Task Force drives the delivery of a low carbon economy, working to:  Develop low carbon heating and power solutions in the Exeter and East

Devon Growth Point.  Explore opportunities to develop a city centre heat network.  Help local businesses to save energy and adopt new technologies.  Develop Eco opportunities to eco-refurbish homes.

District Heat Networks

The Council is working with key stakeholder and the Low Carbon Task Force to develop goals listed above, including two district heat networks in Exeter. Such a system is already operating in Cranbrook, this takes heat from a CHP plant to dwellings in the town and the Skypark employment area.

A similar scheme is underway for Monkerton, a strategic development area in the east of the city, with a site available for a CHP plant to which major landowners have signed up. A further scheme, as part of a city centre regeneration project on thecurrent Exeter bus station site, includes retrofitting some existing large premises such as the RDE, and linking to a new Energy from Waste Plant at Marsh Barton. The Council is working with partners on a delivery model, including an Energy Supply Company with public sector involvement to deliver the city centre scheme.

The Council has used planning conditions and section 106 obligations to ensure that new development in the relevant areas is designed to be compatible with a district heating network, and to connect to such a network when it becomes available. Section 106 obligations have also secured essential financial contributions.

Low Emissions Strategy

In 2013/14 the Council was awarded Air Quality Grant funding by DEFRA to develop a Low Emissions Strategy for Exeter. This is important because the city was designated an Air Quality Management Area where nitrogen dioxide concentrations exceed objectives because of traffic emissions. The strategy will deliver innovative and sustainable ways to reduce nitrogen dioxide emissions, working with key stakeholders to ensure that carbon and air quality policy are mutually beneficial, and improve the health of those living close to the busiest roads.

Sustainable Procurement

The Green Accord is a proven environmental accreditation scheme developed by Exeter City Council, Global Action Plan and key local businesses. It has received national acclaim (see national award recognition below), endorsement from the audit commission and is a standard used by other public bodies such as Exeter University and the MET Offce.

The Green Accord is an accreditation that drives sustainability and addresses the environmental responsibilities facing those who procure. It demonstrates best practice and the reduction of environmental impact through the whole supply chain, by demanding practical actions and the instigation of alternative working practices. To date the scheme has helped hundreds of businesses to make efficiencies, improve working practices and reduce operational costs, not only providing for environmental savings but also improved business worth.

Screen shot 2016-03-16 at 14.49.48

Exeter City Council was announced WINNER of the Environment category at the LGC Awards 2016 ceremony on the evening of 16 March 2016.

LGA Awards - Group shot

LGA Award - Trophy


My Storify feed: 16/03/16 | @LGCawards #LGCawards