ECC | An Energy Neutral Council – A Renewables and Energy Efficiency Programme Update

At its meeting held on 29 September 2016, Corporate Services Scrutiny Committee considerer the report of the Corporate Manager Property on An Energy Neutral Council – A Renewables and Energy Efficiency Programme Update  

The minutes note:

The Corporate Energy Manager presented the report which provided an update on the second year of the Renewables and Energy Efficiency Programme, feasibility work for a new programme of projects to commence in 2017/18 and the outcome of recently completed greenhouse gas emission data across all the Council’s operations in 2015/16.

The Corporate Energy Manager updated Members on the following:-

  • the Livestock Centre Solar PV – benefits included the sale of discounted renewable energy to leaseholders providing the Council with an additional income;
  • Leisure Centres – Solar PV remains a feasible opportunity for our existing centres;
  • Battery Storage – this would allow the Council to take full advantage of solar energy generated;
  • LED Replacement Lighting in Car Parks– this work will be actioned once a full condition survey of car parks is complete;
  • Energy Monitoring – SMART control – improved and new methods of energy and data monitoring.

Members received a presentation illustrating a drop in CO2 emissions by 29% since 2009, and reduction in energy consumption following the installation of LED and Solar PV at the Civic Centre and Mary Archers Car Park.

There was further investigation required into the possibility of Solar PV at the Leisure Centres and the evaluation of opportunities and systems available to provide an improved method to reduce consumption and minimise costs.  Whilst the installation of renewables was effective, there was still work to be undertaken with regards to the Council’s management and monitoring of its buildings, so to reduce energy usage for the Council to achieve Energy Neutrality.

In response to a Member’s question, the Corporate Energy Manager clarified that the use of battery operated equipment and tools was not in the current programme at present, the focus was on council buildings. The Council was ahead of other authorities in Devon and had recently won the Local Government Chronicle Environment award for the Renewables and Energy Efficiency Programme, demonstrating national recognition.

The Chair commented, that with only a team of two staff in Energy Management, they had still managed to achieve considerable savings for the Council.

In response to Members’ questions, the Deputy Chief Executive stated that if the Energy Team be given more resources then greater efficiency savings could be made.

Members discussed the savings made to date and acknowledged that it would be cost effective for the Council to increase staff numbers within the Energy Management team.

Corporate Services Scrutiny Committee noted the report on the progress made to date, the delivery of all projects included in year two of the Renewables and Energy Efficiency Programme and feasibility work underway for 2017/18.

Onto the actual detail outlined in the report, which provides details of the last project to be completed at the Livestock Centre, further feasibility work planned for 2017/18 and Exeter’s current position regarding consumption and emissions.

Livestock Centre Solar PV 

The 1.5MW array installed in 2015 is thought to be the largest roof top array in the South West and is a significant addition to the Council’s solar estate. The PV array provides a long term income stream, helping to secure a sustainable future for the Livestock Centre. In addition, the solar array involved substantial electrical works and included a separate High Voltage supply to the building. The separate supply completed in May provides the Council with the opportunity to supply electricity to all leaseholders within the building, via a Power Purchase Agreement. The benefits of this include the sale of discounted renewable energy to leaseholders, allowing for greater usage of energy generated on site and providing the Council with an additional income stream.

Year Three 2017/18 – Programme and Feasibility 

The huge importance of the Solar PV projects in year two, and demand on what is a team of two, has inevitably delayed feasibility work. Nonetheless, initial business cases for work planned for year three of the programme are currently being prepared and below is a summary of potential projects identified for 2017/18:

Large Solar PV 

An opportunity to develop a 3.5 MW ground mounted PV array will take the authority closer to achieving Energy Neutrality. Previously a formal grid connection offer could not be authorised by WPD, having announced the grid was overloaded and reinforcement work predicted to take 3 to 6 years. However, a further application to connect has recently been submitted after alternative works by WPD to remove the issue were announced. This is set to be completed 2018/19 and current correspondence from WPD indicates a connection requirement of a maximum 3059kW export will be supplied. Once a formal offer is received a business case can be developed.

Battery Storage 

Battery storage will allow the Council to take control of solar energy use, providing many benefits, including reducing reliance on the grid at peak times and storage for use when needed outside of sunlight hours. Power generated by existing PV can be optimised where excess energy is exported. For example at Mary Arches and John Lewis Car Park, the excess energy could be stored to power lighting at night, providing a further energy bill saving. New savings can also be achieved where energy is needed predominantly outside of sunlight hours (such as for communal lighting), using batteries to store renewable energy generated in the day. In addition, the Livestock Centre array has the potential to supply direct to the grid at times of high demand, as well as utilising stored energy for its own use.

Battery storage is a fast developing technology and options available are being continuously investigated to ensure a viable smart solution is found.

Leisure Centres 

Solar PV remains a feasible opportunity for three of our existing Leisure Centres, reducing operational costs and carbon emissions. This is supported by a recent Energy Survey of the Leisure Centres, and will be further investigated following a building condition survey which will identify centres where new roofs are required.

An outline business case for this work will be prepared as soon as the information is available.

LED Replacement Lighting 

LED has the potential to make for a robust business case where electricity use is high, reducing consumption and carbon, maintenance costs and providing improved lighting. Further sites currently identified include car parks at the Guildhall and Princesshay 2 & 3. Work will be actioned once a full condition survey of the car parks is complete.

Energy Monitoring – SMART Controls 

Improved and new methods of energy and data monitoring will control energy usage through advanced scheduling and better control, optimising management of corporate buildings and in return lower energy bills. In addition monitoring is key to identifying where savings can be made and ensuring consumption information is made available so to feedback and work with the responsible building/service managers.

Advances in technology and communications are providing a more away from traditional Building Management Systems using smart controls that will better, engage building manager, reduce consumption and minimise costs.

Evaluation of opportunities and systems available, and the role of building managers is currently being investigated.

Energy Consumption and Emissions 

Greenhouse gas emission reporting (previously a DECC requirement) involving calculating emissions and energy consumption for all Council operations, is a valuable measurement tool which we use to benchmark. The Energy Officer was unable to carry out this exercise in 2014/15, due to the demands of the Renewables Programme, however the exercise is now complete for both years 2014/15 and 2015/16.

The new data confirms overall CO2 emissions have fallen by 29% (since 2009) and overall consumption has declined. Yet there is a very small increase of 1.37% in carbon emissions in 2015/16 brought about by greater consumption in a number of services. Exact reasons are complex, and could include new energy hungry equipment, longer operational hours, inaccuracies of previous readings, or poor building management.

A presentation will be made at Committee to provide further details of the emissions report, the need for sound energy management across our estate, and the benefits delivered by energy saving schemes in operation..

screen-shot-2016-11-17-at-06-52-12 screen-shot-2016-11-17-at-06-52-18


Peter Cleasby: Small but significant: Exeter City Council’s energy measures [A Green in Exeter Blog, 24 October 2016]


Fracking in the Infrastructure Bill 2015

On Monday 26 January 2015, the Commons Environmental Audit Committee published Environmental risks of frackingwhich concluded that shale fracking should be put on hold in the UK because it is incompatible with our climate change targets and could pose significant localised environmental risks to public health.

The Committee proposed some amendments to introduce a moratorium, linked to the Bill’s clauses aimed at setting a strategy to maximise fossil fuel extraction – see NC 68  and NC 69 in Notice of Amendments [up to 22 January 2015.

FoE Press Release: Members of powerful committee of MPs call for fracking moratorium [22 January 2015]

Later that day, the House of Commons spent a very short time debating amendments the Infrastructure Bill 2015 [Hansard 26 Jan 2015 : Column 574].

In my view, too little time was allocated to the debate – particular when it’s being considered that we are currently seeing a zombie Parliament [ BBC Wales Has Westminster become a zombie parliament? 29 Jan 2015].

Like many people, I was disappointed and confused by some of the Divisions on that day:

Division 137:
Infrastructure Bill — NC 01  — Environmental Permits for Hydraulic Fracturing Activities
Ayes: 223; Noes: 319 – Question accordingly negatived
Had it not been rejected this amendment would have introduced a provision explicitly requiring an environmental permit for hydraulic fracturing activities (otherwise known as “fracking”).

Division 138:
Infrastructure Bill — NC 02  — Shale Gas Extraction in Scotland — Devolution of Regulation to Scottish Parliament
Ayes: 231; Noes: 324 – Question accordingly negatived
Had it not been rejected this clause would have added the regulation of shale gas extraction in Scotland to a list of exceptions to the list of powers relating to oil and gas in Scotland “reserved” by the UK Parliament.

Division 139:
Infrastructure Bill — NC 09  — Moratorium on Onshore Unconventional Petroleum — Review Impacts of Exploitation
Ayes: 308; Noes: 54 – Question accordingly negatived
Had it not been rejected this amendment would have banbed the exploitation of unconventional petroleum (including “fracking”) for at least 18 months and not to require a review of the impact of such exploitation on climate change, the environment, the economy, and health and safety be carried out and published.

Labour’s NC 19 amendment was passed without going to Division because earlier in the debate Energy Minister Amber Rudd accepted the amendment:
“It is this Government’s view that we will accept new clause 19 here,” she said. “But we plan on looking to amend it in the Other Place to replace provision G on the depth with a view to put back the depth at the appropriate level for proper development.”

FoE Press Release: Public pressure forces Government retreat on fracking [26 January 2015] Infrastructure Bill: What it means and what they said [27 January 2015]

I asked Ben Bradshaw for some clarifications on the debate.

It seems that I wasn’t alone, and this is the composite letter I received.

Thank you for contacting me recently about shale gas extraction and the debate and votes on the issue on Monday January 26th during the final (Report) stages of the Government’s Infrastructure Bill. A number of constituents wrote to me about a number of the different amendments (New Clauses). I shall deal with them all.

Firstly, as you are probably aware, if you have studied this issue closely, there is no shale gas near Exeter. I’m attaching  [DECC’s The Unconventional Hydrocarbons Resources of Britain’s Onshore Basins – Shale Gas 2013, which contains ] a map of the distribution of shale gas in the UK, in case you haven’t seen it.

Shale gas distribution
Shale gas distribution

However, as far as those parts of the UK are concerned where there is shale gas, I am delighted that, faced with a Parliamentary defeat, the Government did a complete U-turn and accepted all of Labour’s demands in full. These were contained in New Clause 19, which prevents all shale gas development in the UK unless and until a series of stringent conditions are met.

These conditions and protections have been developed by Labour contained working with organisations including the RSPB, Friends of the Earth and the Local Government Association and drawing on work by Royal Academy of Engineering and other bodies. They:

  1. Prohibit shale gas extraction in groundwater protection zones.
  2. Require shale gas operators to individually notify residents of activity, rather than publishing a generic notice.
  3. Put the payment of community benefit onto a statutory footing.
  4. Introduce a presumption against development in Protected Areas.
  5. Prohibit the use of “any substance” in the frack fluid, as in current legislation.
  6. Ensure that decommissioned land is returned to a state required by the planning authority.
  7. Place an obligation on operators to monitor and report fugitive emissions.
  8. Empower local planning authorities to consider the cumulative impact of multiple developments in their area.
  9. Ensure that there is independent inspection of well integrity.
  10. Require 12 months of baseline assessments.
  11. Require all shale gas sites to conduct Environmental Impact Assessments
  12. Make water companies statutory consultees in the planning process.
  13. Extend the depth at which fracking could take place from 300m to 1000m.

Some of you wrote to me about New Clause 68 – tabled by my Labour colleague, Joan Walley, who chairs the Environment Audit Committee. Her committee published a report on shale gas extraction on the day of the debate. Joan did not push her New Clause to a vote, but Labour’s New Clause 19 delivers in practice everything that was contained in New Clause 68.

New Clause 51 on trespass, was not selected for debate and vote by the Speaker. We believe New Clause 19 deals with the concerns that motivated this New Clause in a more effective way.

Labour abstained on New Clause 9 because we considered it weaker than New Clause 19. New Clause 9 simply called for an 18 to 30 month moratorium during a “review”, with no conditionality attached as to what would happen after that and would have delivered no improvement at all in the regulatory framework.

Labour has always said that shale gas extraction should not happen unless we have a system of robust regulation and comprehensive inspection. This Government has consistently ignored people’s genuine and legitimate environmental concerns.

I’m extremely grateful to you and my other constituents who have contacted me about this issue and helped us keep the pressure on the Government.

The main danger now is that if the Tories win the election they will scrap all these safeguards. The only thing that can ensure this doesn’t happen and our environment remains protected will be the election of a Labour Government on May 7th.

Finally, it goes without saying that UK energy policy needs a massive shift towards low and zero carbon generation. I have been dismayed by the decline in the growth of the renewables sector under this Government. Labour is committed to revitalising the renewables sector and to a binding carbon reduction target by 2030.

I hope this is helpful, but if you have any other questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to get back in touch.

With very best wishes,

Ben Bradshaw

New Clause 68:
Joan Walley, Mark Lazarowicz, Caroline Lucas, Dr Matthew Offord, Mrs Caroline Spelman, Dr Alan Whitehead, Zac Goldsmith, Katy Clark,  Martin Caton, Dr Julian Hupper

Clause 37, page 39, line 17, leave out “the objective of maximising the economic recovery of UK petroleum, in particular through” and insert “not the objective of maximising the economic recovery of UK petroleum but ensuring that fossil fuelemissions are limited to the carbon budgets advised by the Committee on Climate Change and introducing a moratorium on the hydraulic fracturing of shale gas deposits in order to reduce the risk of carbon budgets being breached, in particular through—”

Member’s explanatory statement:
This reflects the conclusions from an inquiry into the Environmental risks of fracking by the Environmental Audit Committee, whose report is published on 26 January (Eighth Report, HC 856).

New Clause 69:
Joan Walley, Mark Lazarowicz, Caroline Lucas, Dr Matthew Offord, Mrs Caroline Spelman, Dr Alan Whitehead, Zac Goldsmith, Katy Clark,  Martin Caton, Dr Julian Hupper

Title, line 10, leave out “to make provision about maximising economic recovery of petroleum in the United Kingdom;”

Member’s explanatory statement:
This reflects the conclusions from an inquiry into the Environmental risks of fracking by the Environmental Audit Committee, whose report is published on 26 January (Eighth Report, HC 856).

Solar PV panels on Exeter’s city council car parks

It’s always risky claiming to be the first…with 14 men and 13 women as part of the ruling Exeter Labour Group on the 40 member Exeter City,  Council, I believe that we are one of the first to come close to 50:50 parity. Each and every time, I take care to qualify this claim.

So when I read on the website of Association of Green Councillors:
05 December 2014
Green councillor wins £200k for Britain’s first solar car park
alarm bells start ringing.

I started to read the article and notice Green councillor Simon Grover on St Albans Council is a little more cautious in describing his victory at the annual budget setting meeting on 03 December 2014 , where he as 1 of 29 who voted through an amendment that approved £200,000 investment in solar PV units for council-owned open air car parks (with a majority of one).

Simon said: “I am not aware of any other UK council car parks that use these, though there will be privately-run ones.”

And he went on to say  that this would be “subject to all the usual planning and costing checks, but work should year.”

But I KNOW that St Alban isn’t the first local authority to place solar PV panels on the top decks of their car parks.

Exeter City Council started to install solar PV panels on the roofs of Council building in March 2013, and by April 2013 Exeter Labour Party were already considering schemes for placing solar panels on other buildings including building canopies above the top deck of car parks.

I sit on Exeter City Council’s Scrutiny Committee: Resources which considered at it’s meeting on 19 March 2014 a reported entitled “An Energy Neutral Council – A Renewables and Energy Efficient Programme

The purpose of the report was “To support a programme of renewable and energy saving initiatives that will assist in the delivery of corporate priorities around improving the environment and maintaining the assets of the city as well as providing essential income and long term savings to the Council.”

The Resources Committee agreed to the recommendations and the report moved on to be considered at the Executive meeting of 01 April 2014.

They RESOLVED that:
(1) progress made to date in delivering renewable and energy efficient initiatives be noted;
(2) proposed new initiatives, included in Phase I and II as set out in the report be endorsed;
(3) the Corporate Manager Property, in consultation with the Portfolio Holder Enabling Services, Deputy Chief Executive and Assistant Director Finance be authorised to approve delivery of further energy saving projects within the Capital Programme funding allocation; and
(4) progress and outcomes of the programme be reported to Scrutiny Committee – Resources on a regular basis.

One of the first ideas to be explored was to  progress the earlier plans to install solar PV panels on the City Council’s car parks.

The plans were reported in the E&E – City Council plans to fit solar panels to Exeter car parks (27 March 2014)

The plans were outlined in an article in E&E in Council plans more than 1000 solar panels over Exeter’s car parks in ‘ground breaking project’ (04 November 2014).

The Planning Committee held on 08 December 2014 considered 2 applications:

14/4623/16:  Installation of photovoltaic solar panels on the top deck of John Lewis multi-storey car park.

14/4624/16:  Installation of photovoltaic solar panels on the top deck of Mary Arches multi-storey car park. 

and both were approved.

So I’m not going to claim that Exeter City Council will be the first local authority to install solar PV panels in our owns car parks – but we are certainly in their with the vanguard with our ground breaking plans.