Civic Energy 01

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Volume 01








Editorial Board Paul O’Brien Paul O’Brien is the Chief Executive of the Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE), taking up his post in 1999. Paul has overall strategic responsibility for the management and development of all APSE’s activities in the United Kingdom. Following an initial career in Scottish Local Government, Paul has represented APSE on a UK-wide basis, serving on various Government forums, and provided evidence to numerous committees on behalf of APSE’s extensive membership. Paul is currently the independent chair of the Northern Ireland Local Government Reform Joint Forum. In his limited spare time Paul enjoys running, football and spending time with his family.

Tim Smit KBE Tim Smit KBE is Chief Executive and co-founder of the Award winning Eden Project near St Austell in Cornwall. Tim’s vision saw a sterile pit transform into a site which boasts worldclass horticulture and startling architecture. Tim read Archaeology and Anthropology at Durham University. Following this he worked for ten years in the music industry as composer and producer in both rock music and opera, before moving to Cornwall where he and John Nelson together ‘discovered’ and then restored the Lost Gardens of Heligan.

Paul Rogerson CBE Paul was Chief Executive of Leeds city council between 1999 and 2010. For much of this period he was also Chief Officer of the Leeds city region partnership. By background, Paul is a lawyer with a keen interest in development and employment matters. He currently works as a consultant with planning and local government lawyers, Walton & Co.

Supporters of Civic Energy ACSeS ACSeS is a members organisation made up from senior in house local government lawyers and other senior officers involved in local government governance. The vast majority of members also tend to hold the statutory position of Monitoring Officer within their respective Councils. ACSeS is actively involved in promoting the highest standards of governance and regularly contributes to policy and legislative debate on behalf of the membership as a whole.

APSE APSE (Association for Public Service Excellence) is a not for profit local government body working with over 300 councils throughout the UK. Promoting excellence in public services, APSE is the foremost specialist in local authority front line services, hosting a network for local authority service providers in areas such as waste and refuse collection, parks and environmental services, leisure, school meals, cleaning, housing and building maintenance. In recent years APSE has developed a wider environmental portfolio looking at how local councils can help to tackle climate change and build a successful renewable energy strategy within the public sector.


Foreword Welcome to Civic Energy, the new publication for local government and the public sector on climate change, low carbon and renewable energy. Now might be a very bad time to address climate change, given the banking crisis, recession and deep cuts in public spending. Despite this, the targets under the Climate Change Act 2008 have been set and the government is committed to achieving them. The policy agenda is already in place, as are the committed funds via the financial incentives of the Renewables Obligation, the Feed-in Tariffs and the Renewable Heat Incentive. So why hasn’t the public sector gone further on climate change? The first issue is awareness. Although climate change officers, sustainability officers and energy managers have known about the opportunities for some time, their difficulty, in many cases, has been getting the ear of the corporate and political management of their authority. The second issue is, of course, funding public bodies of all hues are short of money and the cuts are biting. Were it not for the financial incentives, I would expect little uptake of renewable energy. But the pots of money are there and need to be accessed. Up and down the country, I have seen the same issues arising again and again: the council

does not know enough about climate change or renewable energy; the council is not convinced that these are priority areas; renewables lack the support of the key officers and members; they do not fully understand the wider benefits of the available deals; they do not have any experience in this area. Local authorities that fully understand the benefits of climate friendly technologies are able, not just to meet their environmental targets, but also to meet their medium-term financial strategy too, by using the income streams from the renewable energy generation sources. So Civic Energy is an attempt to draw these threads together and offer a practical, achievable, but overall deliverable, series of solutions to public bodies. Civic Energy aims to raise awareness and promote higher ambitions for low carbon solutions and renewables. The publication will have a mission statement of: “helping the public sector to meet the climate change targets, by developing sound strategies and delivering projects”. The journal will be supportive, written with empathy for those delivering public services, positive in tone and plain speaking in approach. It could also develop as a vehicle to apply pressure to the government for better outcomes for the public sector via public policy, which is an area that is quickly developing, but is still

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heavily dominated by private sector thinking. This is a publication for public sector people. It will provide that missing ingredient: advice and help to gain confidence in this area of work. It will help you understand what you could be doing and ensure that your organisation makes the most of the deals on offer to help meet targets. So welcome to Civic Energy and enjoy the read!

Stephen Cirell Editorial Director

Stephen Cirell has spent a decade as a Senior Officer in local government, and worked for nearly twenty years as Head of local government for Eversheds. In 2009, as Director of the Green Cornwall Programme, he led that authority’s groundbreaking work in this area. Since 2010, he has been an independent consultant, continuing this work to prepare local authorities for every aspect of climate change, but in particular to deliver low carbon solutions and renewable energy.

Cover image City Hall London, headquarters of the Greater London Authority. The building uses a quarter of electricity used by buildings of similar size through using solar photovoltaic panels, recycling heat produced by computers and lighting, and using cold ground water to drive the air conditioning.

Civic Energy is supported by:

Small images courtesy of: © ecodrive © E.ON © Klaus D. Peter, wikimedia

Civic Energy


Contents Strategic direction 5

Renewable energy

Feed-in tariff scheme: government amends extensions provisions Jean-Pascal Boutin, Eversheds LLP


A new paradigm in local government Stephen Cirell


howcase: Woking Borough CouncilS thinking globally, acting locally Lara Beattie, Woking Borough Council


The Green Deal and local government Luke Hildyard, Future of London


Showcase: Wrexham’s rooftop revolution Jonathan Edwards, Wrexham County Borough Council

Plus Board and 1 Editorial Supporters of Civic Energy 3


Gamekeeper turns poacher Haydn Scholes, Wardell Armstrong International


Civic solar: the past, present and future Emma Hughes, Solar Power Portal


Biomass: a growing opportunity for the public sector Graham Hilton, The Energy Crops Company


Showcase: renewable energy opportunities in Preston Mick Lovatt, Preston City Council

Energy infrastructure © Wrexham County Borough Council

© Wrexham County Borough Council




The importance of local public sector collaboration in delivering a low carbon Britain Andy Johnston, Local Energy


Community heating: an opportunity for efficiency, carbon reduction and cost savings Peter Walker

Foreword Stephen Cirell, Editorial Director

Sunbeams in the dark 50 Comment: by Paul Rogerson

Spotlight on solar photovoltaic 10

Showcase: Woking Borough Council- thinking globally, acting locally Lara Beattie, Woking Borough Council


Showcase: Wrexham’s rooftop revolution Jonathan Edwards, Wrexham County Borough Council


Civic solar: the past, present and future Emma Hughes, Solar Power Portal

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The power of a good communications strategy to support renewables Andrew Peacock, Creative Concern Creating a revolving fund for solar photovoltaic technology Paul O’Brien, Association for Public Excellence (APSE) Showcase: Swindon Commercial Services Ltd“If it’s such a great idea, why aren’t all council buildings covered in solar panels?” Bill Fisher, Swindon Commercial Services Ltd

Transportation 37

Electric vehicles and charging infrastructure Matt Trevaskis, ecodrive

Energy efficiency Mae’n digwydd go iawn, fe wyddom hynny, ac fe wyddom hefyd mai’r unig ffordd y gallwn ni ymdopi ag effeithiau newid yn yr hinsawdd yw trwy gydweithio â’n gilydd. Bydd hinsawdd gyfnewidiol yn achosi pob math o broblemau a allai effeithio ar ein bywydau beunyddiol. Bydd gwres annioddefol, sychderau a llifogydd difrifol yn peryglu llawer o bobl, gallai wneud difrod i’n cartrefi a bygwth ein cyflenwadau bwyd a dŵr yn y dyfodol hefyd.

© Flickr team Massachusetts

© ecodrive

Training and skills


Creating a revolving fund for solar photovoltaic technology Paul O’Brien, Association for Public Excellence (APSE)


The new green team David Arnold, UNISON and Paul O’Brien, Association for Public Excellence (APSE)


Showcase: Swindon Commercial Services Ltd“If it’s such a great idea, why aren’t all council buildings covered in solar panels?” Bill Fisher, Swindon Commercial Services Ltd

© Creative Concern

Mae Cyngor Wrecsam yn gwneud ei ran.


Mae nifer o brosiectau lleihau ynni ar fynd yn barod ac rydym wedi pennu targed er mwyn lleihau 50% ar yr allyriadau carbon erbyn 2015/16. Fel rhan o’r prosiect Ynni’r Haul bydd paneli ffotofoltaidd yn cael eu gosod, ar raddfa fawr, ar adeiladau eraill y Cyngor hefyd, fel ysgolion er enghraifft. Ar ben hyn i gyd, caiff prosiectau eraill eu cynnal fel gwres a phŵer cyfunol ym Myd Dŵr, goleuadau strydoedd sy’n ynni-effeithlon a gwella’r cyfraddau ailgylchu. Mae’r prosiectau hyn yn profi’n bendant mai un o brif flaenoriaethau Cyngor Wrecsam yw lleihau allyriadau carbon. Cafodd ymgyrch Pŵer Pobl Cyngor Wrecsam ei lansio er mwyn gwneud pobl yn fwy ymwybodol o newid yn yr hinsawdd, a rhoi gwybod iddynt beth y mae’r Cyngor yn ei wneud er mwyn eu hysbrydoli i ddefnyddio llai o ynni.

The power of a good communications strategy to support renewables Andrew Peacock, Creative Concern

Civic Energy Magazine


Strategic direction

© Eversheds LLP

Feed-in Tariff scheme: government amends extensions provisions

Jean-Pascal Boutin Eversheds LLP In September 2011, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) announced a response to the government’s July consultation on the extensions provisions of the Feed-in Tariff scheme (FiT scheme). These previous provisions had provided for the ability to extend an existing accredited installation within 12 months of its Confirmation Date and still receive the same FiT tariff rate as the original installation. New rules, as a result of the consultation, now apply to all extensions unless they were commissioned and brought to the attention of to Ofgem or the supplier before 18 October 2011. This article examines the consultation, the government’s response to it and what the implications were for the solar photovoltaic (PV) market.

Background The FiT scheme was introduced in 2010 to promote the uptake of small-scale renewable energy generation. There was fast uptake, especially in the solar PV market. The government was concerned about this high level of deployment in the solar PV sector and introduced a fast-track review of the FiT scheme ahead of the general review, which is now currently under way. The fast-track review effectively sought to reduce the generation tariffs (the main payment of the FiTs, paid on the total 5

generation) that were payable for solar PV installations above 50 kW and all standalone installations. The review’s new proposals and new lower tariffs came into effect from 1 August 2011. However, there was still the possibility for developers to benefit from the higher tariffs due to the extensions provisions in the FiTs (Maximum Specified Capacity and Functions) Order 2010 (as amended) (FiT Order). The extension provisions under this previous FiT Order allowed projects to

extend their existing accredited eligible installation for up to 12 months from the date of commissioning, and still obtain the FiT tariff that would have been applicable at the original installation eligibility date. The combined installation would then be treated as having a new total installed capacity, and if applicable, a new tariff code and tariff rate. The eligibility date would remain the same. Following DECC’s announcement that there would be a change to the generation tariff for large-scale solar PV projects and standalone solar projects with an eligibility date on or after 1 August 2011, developers looked to these extensions provisions to enable projects to receive the higher (pre-1 August 2011) tariff support under the FiT scheme. The extensions consultation was a response to the concern that many developers would use the extensions provisions to benefit from the pre-fasttrack tariffs after 1 August 2011.

Key points of the consultation The government proposed a change to the extensions rules so that extensions commissioned within 12 months of the original installation would be treated as a single new installation from the point of commissioning the extension.

The proposals were damaging on various levels. Firstly, there were no timescales for the changes to be implemented. The tariff rate (and size) would be those that applied at the time of commissioning the extension and not as they were at the original installation eligibility date. This would have meant that the entire installation would be subject to the current lower tariff and the extension would be eligible for the tariff for a shorter time. The eligibility period would run from the eligibility date of the original

installation and not the commissioning of the extension. The proposals were damaging on various levels. Firstly, there were no timescales for the changes to be implemented. This meant that there was a period of uncertainty, whilst the consultation was undertaken, as to when any changes made after the consultation would come into effect. Consequently, many risk-adverse developers and investors were put off proceeding down the extensions route in the fear that any changes would be introduced at short notice and, as a result, the large amount of money invested would not see the returns previously envisaged.

Many risk-adverse developers and investors were put off proceeding down the extensions route. The other concern was that the changes proposed meant that the tariff applicable to the original installation would be changed and therefore the entire installation was at risk, rather than just the extended part. Therefore the consultation proposals looked to have a retrospective effect.

Government’s response to the consultation It was no great surprise to see that the government’s response to the consultation confirmed that the government was going to proceed with amending the extensions provisions. However, the government has decided to implement a modified version of the proposals of the consultation. The changes which came into force last month were: • An extension to an installation within 12 months of the eligibility date of the original installation will be subject to the same rules as those applying to an extension which happens after 12 months, namely that: • The tariff for the original installation (excluding the extension) will remain unchanged, but, once it has been commissioned and accredited, the extension will be given a separate tariff code and have a different eligibility period.

© Eversheds LLP

Strategic direction

• Th e tariff for the extension will be based on the aggregate total installed capacity of the original installation and the extension, and on the tariff rates applicable at the eligibility date of the extension. These changes mean that the retrospective proposals suggested in the consultation have not been implemented.

Transitional provisions DECC has also included a transitional provision to address the concerns that FiT generators were unable to extend installations due to a delay in the original accreditation process. Many developers had encountered long wait times, and continue to do so, in receiving confirmation that their initial (pre-1 August 2011) installations had been accredited. Therefore it was unclear how those FiT generators would extend the installation if they had not been granted access to the online systems through which this could be done.

The result of the consultation marked the final blow to the large-scale solar PV market. In the interim period, before the amending Order came into force, the current rules on extensions applied where: • a n extension is made to an accredited installation and that extension is commissioned and notified to Ofgem; and • a n extension is made to an eligible installation that has been commissioned and has applied for accreditation (and is subsequently accredited), and that extension is commissioned and notified to Ofgem.

The result of the consultation did not come as a surprise but marked the final blow to the large-scale solar PV market. Finally getting clarity on when changes were to come into force enabled projects looking to use the current provisions to assess whether they could meet the 18 October deadline. This provided potential investors with more certainty in this regard.

The panic that triggered the consultation highlights the government’s concern about deployment in this area. The transitional arrangements also helped to overcome concern regarding the procedural difficulties of extending an installation when FiT generators had not received confirmation that the original installation had been accredited. The panic that triggered the consultation highlights the government’s concern about deployment in this area. It also, unfortunately, provides another example of why developers are struggling to provide the security and certainty to promote longterm investments in the renewables sector. Jean-Pascal Boutin is a Partner of Eversheds LLP, specialising in renewable and conventional energy and PPP/PFI projects, particularly in the waste sector. He has advised banks, developers, suppliers, the public sector and housing associations on renewable energy regulations and commercial agreements. Jean-Pascal specialises in the electricity and renewable energy regulations (including the associated commercial agreements). Eversheds is an international law firm acting for the public and private sector. They are pioneers in flexible working, dispute management, project management, online services and working globally. They have four main practice groups: company commercial, human resources, litigation and dispute management and real estate. The industry sectors they advise include aerospace, defence and security, central government, education, energy, financial institutions and healthcare, amongst others. 1 Callaghan Square, Cardiff CF10 5BT Tel: 0845 498 8265 | Fax: 0845 497 4919 Email: Web:

Civic Energy


Strategic direction

© Flickr/Ian Carrol

Warrington Town Hall.

Stephen Cirell

A new paradigm in local government and the public sector This article considers the central theme of whether the public sector should take a corporate view of climate change and energy policy, and asks the decision makers, in local government and the public sector, to further integrate the green agenda into their mainstream corporate agenda.

Where are we? During 2011 there has been a paradigm shift in local government and the public sector. Climate change and energy have moved from the preserve of the energy manager, sustainability officer or director of environment, to the centre of the corporate agenda. Prior to this, there were many signs that green issues held little interest for the strategic centre. So what has changed? A combination of government policy and incentives, the financial position of local government and 7

the wider public sector, and the emergence of new threats and opportunities has realigned priorities. In many places now, the proverbial ‘penny’ has dropped that to engage with the issues of climate change is to advance corporate interests in tandem. Indeed, in some areas, it may be the only way to do so.

To engage with issues of climate change is to advance corporate interests in tandem. The obstacle is the limited ‘green experience’ in local government and other public organisations and bodies. The only way to remedy that is for the decision makers on the management team or cabinet to act fast and learn what the power of this green agenda really is, and how to exploit it.

The latest position The creation of Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) was a significant step forwards. Under it, the government’s policy agenda has continued to develop and become more sophisticated. DECC has overseen the passing of the Climate Change Act 2008, and the meat has been put on the bones of that commitment via a whole range of detailed policy papers, stretching from the 2050 Pathways Analysis, through the Carbon Plan, to the UK Renewable Energy Roadmap. Crucial to the policy that relates to renewable energy has been the financial incentives. The Renewable Obligation (RO) had two siblings added, in the shape of the Feed-in Tariffs (FiTs) and the new Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI). All three will encourage more generation of energy from renewable sources and help to bridge the gap between the

Strategic direction current cost of technologies and the holy grail of grid parity. As well as core climate change strategy, the government has set about making changes to every area that impacts on the green agenda, from housing to planning, and from waste to energy distribution. Planning policy needed to be addressed to encourage more heavyweight energy generation infrastructure. Yet at the local level, the increase of permitted development rights was instrumental in encouraging more renewables. In housing, the government has finally admitted that the exclusion of local authorities from new social housing construction was a mistake and has removed some of the shackles preventing future new build.

The move to decentralised energy is clear. The government has made a bold pledge here. The standards of new housing are under constant pressure to achieve new levels of energy efficiency, whether under the Code for Sustainable Homes or energy performance measures for nondomestic buildings. Waste policy has continued to clamp down on landfill disposal, via the landfill tax and policy encourages recycling, energy from waste and anaerobic digestion schemes. The move to decentralised energy is clear. The government has made a bold pledge here: the national energy infrastructure has for decades been centered around the spine of coal fired power stations and pays no regard to the fact that the new, renewable energy sources are predominantly to the west, often off-shore, and precisely where the grid is weakest. It will take a monumental effort to realign the national grid with the renewable energy and decentralised energy position. It will cost over £200 billion too, but that is the scale of change being looked at here. Mentioned above is housing policy, but the Green Deal will attack head-on the necessity to radically improve the energy efficiency of buildings, essential if the targets in the Climate Change Act 2008 are to be met.

Over 40 per cent of emissions come from buildings and the waste of energy is a national scandal. At last, the fundamental problem of raising initial finance to undertake the necessary works is being addressed.

The position of the public sector The last year has been incredibly difficult in the public sector generally, and in local government the cuts have been painfully felt. Ironically enough, this may lead to further enhancement of the green agenda. The recession has been followed by a savage spending round, with the Comprehensive Spending Review 2010 to 2014 (CSR) being one of the tightest in living memory. The CSR decided how much money was available, and the Budget dictated where it would be spent. The green agenda fared reasonably well, no doubt helped by the government’s mantra on election, to be the ‘greenest government ever.’ However, there were still spending reductions to affect action against climate change, such as in the FiTs budget cut. Local government finance therefore inhabits a precarious position. Growth is stagnant and reserves are under pressure from the need to spend. Deposits are earning derisory levels of interest, and the Icelandic banks debacle showed the folly of aggressive high risk investment strategies.

The fundamental problem of raising initial finance to undertake the necessary works is being addressed. Environment work within local government had been slow over recent years. Dragged forward, largely by the efforts of a few dedicated officers, it had failed to aspire to the importance it deserves and the progress in many areas has been only pedestrian. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule, such as in Southampton and Tandridge, amongst others.

What are the new threats? Over this time, a number of new threats have arisen and some older ones been reinvigorated.

New targets from the Climate Change Act, whilst not applying directly to local authorities yet, will find their way into the legal requirements over time. Local authorities may not be focusing as strongly on the carbon footprint of their activities, so much as the cost, but both are intrinsically linked.

Local government finance inhabits a precarious position. On the financial side, the impact of taxes has steadily risen. The landfill tax is mentioned above, and the Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency Scheme has effectively been turned into a tax by the government’s decision not to make recycling payments. The inexorable rise in costs of running a public body is of significant concern. Local government uses much energy and the general view is that energy prices will only increase. The costs of heating buildings is worthy of particular focus, as poor e nergy efficiency investment in the past has taken its toll. However, even keeping street lighting on during the entirety of the nights is now becoming a struggle. Providing services to the same level is also more difficult, but public expectations remain high.

Poor energy efficiency investment in the past has taken its toll. These problems have a social impact too. Fuel poverty is on the rise and will engulf many more people in the coming years. Similar reasons exist for this; not least the poor standards of building that have endured in the UK for generations. Local government often ends up picking up the tab for the social consequences of these wider societal problems. At the bottom of the list of threats is behaviour change. I believe that much of the problems from the green agenda come from a reticence to change our ways, and I believe that this reluctance pervades almost every level of society. Civic Energy


Strategic direction

So what are the new opportunities?

Over time, local authorities will aspire to become energy providers locally. Local authorities have the potential to develop Energy Services Companies (ESCOs), which can ring-fence funds and reinvest proceeds in other green energy schemes. Over time, local authorities will aspire to become energy providers locally; not in any serious challenge to the national energy companies, but in pursuance of local public policy. A good example of this is if a local authority were to embark on a renewable energy scheme, such as a solar or wind farm, then it could zone an industrial estate on nearby land. That way, the authority could offer energy from wholly renewable sources to commercial tenants on the industrial estate and, through this, create and sustain jobs in the local supply chain. Local authority powers are changing. The power to sell electricity not connected 9

© Flickr/Richard Hopkins

There is always another side to the coin. This is best explained by taking the last of the threats mentioned above (behaviour change) and considering it from a different angle. It should not be forgotten that there are different ways to engage with the public, and renewable energy schemes offer much promise here. Other opportunities include: • community leadership in the form of leading by example • improving energy security by not wasting energy and by learning to generate your own energy • the obvious carbon savings • reduced costs and improved efficiency and effectiveness, which is always topical in the public sector. Many of the opportunities come from the government’s financial incentives, the FiTS and the RHI. The RO may also be relevant to the more ambitious authorities. Schemes that capture these funds benefit from an enhanced business case, usually ensuring that they stand out from ‘normal’ capital projects, which do not benefit from any sustainable income stream.

Manchester Town Hall.

to heat was granted in 2011, and powers of general competence are tantalisingly close, under the Localism Bill. Of more interest to large-scale energy generation will be the issues around bonds, public offerings and the ability to retain business rates at local level. These latter powers would be instrumental in unlocking the finances for larger schemes. The current situation may well force local authorities and other public bodies to work together better. Regional strategies for some technologies, particularly biomass, are hugely beneficial. A group of authorities can spread risk and reward far better than any authority on its own.

The way forwards – a vision for the future For the reasons mentioned above, the green agenda is now at the heart of the corporate agenda. Many local authorities and public bodies have recognised that in a time of no growth and substantial cuts, embracing the green agenda offers an excellent prospect of protecting the medium-term financial strategy. This panacea is entirely possible. A single wind farm development can provide a medium-sized local authority with all its energy needs and create a regular income that will last well beyond the current times of austerity. There are many other renewable energy projects that will also have this impact,

often referred to as ‘legacy projects’. Each authority will need to judge what will work for their area. The leading authorities have already moved in this direction and their progress is impressive. For others, it is only the start of the journey, with the realisation of how important the green agenda is only just taking hold.

Embracing the green agenda offers an excellent prospect of protecting the medium-term financial strategy. For authorities yet to rise to the paradigm shift towards the green agenda, now is the time to address this issue. Those wondering how to rise out of the quagmires of cuts and despondency should consider a green path. Awareness is the start, followed by the transformation of knowledge into strategy. Once the goals and aims are clear, the authority can chart a route towards their delivery. The green agenda offers a very rare example of light at the end of a very dark tunnel for public services. Now who wouldn’t want to embrace that? Stephen Cirell is Editorial Director for Civic Energy. Email:

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© Woking Borough Council.

The Albion Square Canopy, Woking.

Lara Beattie Woking Borough Council

Showcase: Woking Borough Council – thinking globally, acting locally Woking Borough Council has been recognised for its long-standing commitment to tackling climate change and protecting the environment. The council has been awarded Beacon status for Sustainable Energy (20052006), Promoting Sustainable Communities Through the Planning Process (2007-2008) and more recently for Tackling Climate Change (2008-2009). This article describes the council’s Climate Change Strategy and, in particular, examples of its sustainable and renewable energy projects which have been facilitated through the Thameswey Group.

Thinking globally, acting locally The portfolio of renewable and sustainable energy projects contributes to the overarching aims of the council’s Climate Change Strategy. The primary objectives of the strategy are the reduction of Borough-wide carbon dioxide equivalent emissions; adaptation to climate change; and promotion of sustainable development. The strategy is aligned with the long-term targets of the UK’s Climate Change Act of at least an 80 per cent cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, against a 1990 baseline. One of the ten key themes of the strategy is energy. Under this theme, the

© Woking Borough Council.

For approximately 20 years the council has invested in energy efficiency and sustainable energy projects across the local authority estate and the wider Borough of Woking. This began with small-scale projects, financed through a fund dedicated to energy efficiency improvements across council buildings. The council established the Thameswey Group in 1999 to make long-term energy and environmental project investments in support of the council’s Climate Change Strategy. This enabled investment in largerscale energy projects with the assistance of private finance and longer-term business and financial plans.

Woking’s Climate Change Strategy document.

council is seeking to generate 100 per cent of the council’s energy requirements from renewable and sustainable sources in order to reduce carbon emissions. When the strategy was adopted in 2002, it brought a change in focus, from the Civic Energy


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Thameswey Group Generally, an Energy Service Company (ESCO) is a vehicle through which energy and environmental services can be delivered. In Woking’s case, the Thameswey Group is wholly owned by Woking Borough Council. It enters into public-private joint ventures to provide energy and environmental projects. It is designed to deliver the council’s action against climate change ambitions. Each project progressed by the ESCO is based on a 20 to 30 year project business plan with an internal rate of return of approximately 8 per cent. The economics of a project rely upon it being a successful generator, distributor and supplier of energy, with retail sales income (plus renewable energy credits where applicable). Energy prices are tracked to give affordable market comparable charges to businesses and to offer charges 5 per cent below a basket of major energy company dual fuel tariffs to residential customers. The approach to local sustainable energy systems is to supply customers on private wire combined heat and power (CHP) and/or renewable energy networks, as well as implementing energy and environmental services in both the public and private sectors. Key success factors are the combination of technical innovation, such as CHP, absorption cooling and private wire systems; partnership with the private sector; financial and commercial innovation; and, the use of a local electricity balancing and trading system. At the time, the creation of the Thameswey Group involved a complex legal process. However, the Local Government Act 2003 saw a change in regulation and made it easier for local authorities to trade and therefore made the process of setting up an ESCO simpler. While at the moment the primary fuel used in Woking CHP schemes is 11

natural gas, efficiencies of up to 90 per cent can be achieved in a CHP system. A conventional condensing boiler can achieve efficiencies of up to 90 per cent as well, but this applies to the production of heat only, whereby CHP deals with heat and electricity production. CHP efficiencies compare favourably to the 30 per cent efficiency of electricity production by a mixed fuel power station. Added efficiency is achieved in Woking’s CHP units due to the local community approach to CHP. All of Woking’s sustainable energy sites operate on a private wire distribution network and have the ability to export and import energy from ‘neighbour sites’ using the local distribution network. This enables energy to be produced where it is needed on a local basis. Added benefits include security of supply (Woking’s sites can operate in ‘island mode’ if there is a failure of the national grid) and the minimisation of distribution losses due to the local supply of energy.

The town centre CHP station is believed to have been one of the first commercially operating energy stations of its kind in the country. The CHP station combines CHP technology, together with heatfired absorption cooling to produce more efficient and sustainable energy services. Electricity is distributed via private wire and heat and chilled water services are distributed via private pipe networks. Customers include: Woking Borough Council’s civic offices; the Holiday Inn Hotel; Big Apple leisure complex and Metro Hotel; HG Wells Conference and Events Centre; Quake Nightclub; Victoria Way Car Park; the Lightbox museum and gallery; and the YPOD YMCA building. Hybrolights Woking’s Hybrolights use a combination of solar photovoltaic panels (PV panels) and a vertical wind turbine to power street lighting columns. The first column was installed and commissioned in June

Sustainable and renenwable projects in Woking

Woking’s town centre CHP station.

A range of energy projects have been developed around the borough. These include the following projects: Town centre CHP station In 2001, the town centre energy station was commissioned. It generates electricity, heat and cooling using CHP technology. The technology means that much higher efficiencies are achieved than conventional power stations. This type of technology is also known as embedded or decentralised generation due to the local production and use of the energy generated. This adds to the efficiency of CHP as less energy is lost in transmission than with conventional, larger-scale, power stations.

© Woking Borough Council.

financial savings associated with smaller energy efficiency projects to the carbon dioxide equivalent emissions savings of larger projects. Whilst recognising that paybacks associated with larger projects going forward would not be realised for 20 to 30 years, the carbon dioxide equivalent emissions savings were immediately evident.

Town centre combined heat and power station Technology Type:

Combined heat and power


Deutz – TBC620 V16


Thameswey Energy Ltd

Annual energy output: 1 352 kWe (equivalent to approximately 1,300 households’ base load power needs, based on 1 kW baseload per dwelling). 1623 kWth (equivalent to approximately 500 households’ heat needs). Supplying energy to: Private wire grid – residential, business and public sector customers Fuel:

Natural gas

Strategic direction 2005. This was initially installed as a demonstration project and in February 2006, following its success, seven more columns were installed.

Albion Square Canopy

Woking’s sites can operate in ‘island mode’ if there is a failure of the national grid. The columns are completely standalone and each one has its own solar battery underground. Because of this, the lighting columns could be installed in more remote or difficult to access areas across the borough in order to increase community safety. The battery, once fully charged, stores enough energy to light the column for approximately three to five days. The solar battery has a lifetime of approximately ten years. The technology has also been

© Woking Borough Council.

Woking’s hybrolight.

Technology Type:

PV panels





Photovoltaic panels:

35,000 PV cells, laminated in 272 glass panels

Peak electrical output: 81 kWp

modified to power two CCTV cameras in the town centre. PV Installations Woking pioneered the installation of PV in the UK. It has a large number of sites on which PVs have been installed during the last 15 years, with a current kWp total of approximately seven hundred, including roof integrated PV tiles on a new development of ten houses achieving Code 5 of the Code for Sustainable Homes. Albion Square Canopy In 2004, Woking Borough Council approved the erection of a steel and glazed canopy above Albion Square, creating a gateway to the town centre from the railway station. The state-ofthe-art structure measures 34 metres in length and 22 metres in width and consists of three 20-metre high tubular steel masts and eleven 6-metre high secondary columns. The masts support a glass canopy from steel suspension cables. The glazed roof includes over 35,000 PV cells, laminated in 272 glass panels, generating a peak electrical output of 81 kWp. The canopy generates an estimated 51,000 to 58,000 kWh per year. Estimates calculate a saving of circa 41 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per year. The energy generated is in excess of that required to light the canopy with surplus energy exported to other council sites via the private wire system.

Hybrolight Manufacturer:

EETS (Energy Equipment Testing Services Ltd), Wales


Thameswey Energy Ltd

Height to PV panels: 8 metres Height to top: 9.4 metres Photovoltaic panels:

Four BP Solar 590 modules, 85 W each

Wind turbine: Vertical axis wind turbine, 100 W Light intensity: 10 lux directly under light, diminishing to 1 lux at 12 metres

Future PV developments Plans are in place to install, before April 2012, 2.3 MWp on a number of larger council properties and a further 2 MWp on smaller individual council-owned residential properties.

Conclusion Woking’s reputation for fighting climate change comes from the variety of renewable energy schemes made possible only through the council’s determination to integrate new technologies into their area. A crucial step was setting up the Thamesway Group to act as an ESCO and therefore having a long-term project business plan.

Lara Beattie is a Senior Policy Officer in Woking Borough Council’s Corporate Strategy team. Lara gained a BSc (Hons) in 2000 and since then has worked in central and then local government. As Senior Policy Officer, a key area of work includes monitoring and developing the council’s climate change strategy and delivering projects that contribute to its carbon reduction targets. Woking Borough Council is the administrative centre for Woking. Situated in the heart of Surrey, in the green South East, Woking benefits from diverse countryside and attractive waterways. The borough is approximately 6,400 ha in size of which 60 per cent is Green Belt land. This area contains extensive heathland, some of which has been designated as Special Protection Area. Latest available estimates show the borough’s population at 92,400. Woking Borough Council Civic Offices Gloucester Square Woking Surrey GU21 6YL Tel: 01483 743013 Email: Web:

Civic Energy


Strategic direction

© Klaus D. Peter

It is probable that there will be millions of households where it will be difficult and expensive to turn them into energy efficient homes.

has recovered its cost through reduced energy bills. It is a sensible measure, and will hopefully play a part in increasing the uptake of products such as loft insulation, cavity and solid wall insulation and more energy efficient boilers. Domestic properties are a responsible for over a quarter of the nation’s carbon emissions, and there are currently around 4 million households in fuel poverty. Oxford University expert Dr Brenda Boardman states: “the energy efficiency of homes is the key determinate of fuel poverty” (Fixing fuel poverty: challenges and solutions, 2009). Therefore the Green Deal serves an important social and environmental purpose.

Promoting demand

There are significant challenges relating to the Green Deal’s practical application; overcoming these will be crucial to for Luke Hildyard the scheme to be successful. Though the Future of London economics of the scheme are viable, both to households and commercial providers alike, this does not necessarily translate into the massive demand necessary to achieve a significant reduction in carbon emissions and fuel poverty. Recent polling from YouGov’s Green Deal – public appetite market research The forthcoming Green Deal, together with the new Energy Company suggests that around 44 per cent of people Obligation (ECO), creates a framework to provide policy tools for the do not find the premise of the Green coalition government to improve the energy efficiency of UK homes. Deal to be attractive. The scheme will However, demand for the Green Deal is unlikely to materialise of its own clearly require further promotion and/or accord. There will be a key role for local government in terms of promoting incentivisation to maximise the possible and delivering the scheme. Councils will also be vital in creating the energy savings. economies of scale that are necessary to bring down costs and make the The number of people interested in scheme more attractive. signing up to a Green Deal scheme at an interest rate of 2 per cent (32 per cent of Amidst get out clauses in government Repayments will be attached to the those polled) falls dramatically to just 12 commitment to carbon emissions property rather than the individual, and per cent at a 4 per cent interest rate, and reductions, and the National Trust-led paid via the energy bill; meaning that 7 per cent for a 6 per cent interest rate. furore over changes to the planning if the original occupier moves home, Therefore, minimising costs and procedure, the forthcoming Green responsibility for paying off the remainder securing the upfront finance for the Green Deal scheme has assumed vital political of the scheme transfers to the new resident. Deal provider as cheaply as possible will importance in terms of demonstrating also be of crucial importance. this government’s promise to be ‘the The Green Deal mitigates The role of the private sector greenest ever’. against the risk of undertaking The scheme is intended to facilitate market The Green Deal is a simple mechanism a costly ‘eco-refurbishment’ that enables a household to install energy solutions to the energy efficiency challenge; efficiency measures to their home at no there is hope that the private sector will help upfront costs. The Green Deal ‘golden rule’ to resolve these issues. A number of major stipulates that the only eligible properties In this way, the Green Deal mitigates companies are hoping to use the Green Deal will be the ones where the projected long- against the risk of undertaking a costly to sell energy efficiency products. term savings on energy bills is greater than ‘eco-refurbishment’, only to move home a DIY stores such as B&Q or Miller the original installation cost. few years down the line, before the process Pattison; high street chains like Tesco

The Green Deal and local government



The role of local government The most obvious way in which councils can increase uptake and reduce costs derives from the fact that they do not need to please shareholders and are only required – in a straitened fiscal climate – to at least cover their costs. Secondly, councils enjoy a generally trustworthy reputation amongst the public. YouGov found that 46 per cent would trust their local authority to deliver a Green Deal scheme, significantly more than for their electricity supplier (31 per cent) or a retail chain (9 per cent). Furthermore, research from the New Local Government Network (NLGN) identified in its 2010 Paint the Town Green report multiple communications channels through which local authorities are able to engage communities. These included

tenants and residents associations, schools and youth clubs or faith groups and other community bodies. A housing association in East Anglia has even partnered with Ipswich Town Football Club to encourage better domestic energy use. Local authorities have good links with all these community groups, which in turn have a visible, trusted presence across neighbourhoods and areas. If enlisted by the council to promote the Green Deal, they could significantly increase demand.

46 per cent would trust their local authority to deliver a Green Deal scheme. Demand for the Green Deal is also intrinsically linked to cost and scaleability. The most obvious way in which the longterm costs of the scheme can be reduced is through economies of scale. The Sustainable Development Commission estimate in the 2010 The Future is Local report that coordinated, area-wide energy efficiency improvements can save 30 per cent compared to the per unit costs of treating each home individually. Local authorities and social landlords are in a strong position to drive this bulk-purchasing of Green Deal measures, particularly by using their social housing estate as a base load. Though it would not be possible to compel social housing tenants to

Cavity wall insulation.

participate in the Green Deal, there are already channels through which to engage them, and an understanding in place that, in their capacity as landlord, the council or housing association will undertake refurbishments on the property from time to time.

Coordinating development In the modern housing environment, creating such a bulk-purchasing plan would involve a number of different social landlords (in addition to those private households whom the local authority was able to engage). The formation of successful and mutually beneficial partnerships with housing associations and arms length management organisations is likely to be one of the most important challenges for local authorities seeking to implement the Green Deal. Equally, for many authorities, it will make practical and financial sense to coordinate Green Deal measures across political boundaries. By working with neighbouring councils, they will be able to create a Green Deal market of sufficient size to interest the investment community in providing the upfront finance for the measures, in much the same way that the GDFC aggregator intends to work, and it has been suggested that local authorities could also join the GDFC. Identifying the right level at which this work should be coordinated (through local enterprise partnerships, for example) and managing partnerships successfully will be critical to the Green Deal’s success. The evidence suggests then, that coordinated, cost-effective action, achieving economies of scale, and targeted marketing that exploits every available communications channel – with local authorities playing a leading role in all instances – are the key to implementing the Green Deal successfully.

Hard-to-treat homes

© Flickr/Bryn Pinzgauer

or Marks and Spencer; and the ‘big six’ energy suppliers have all have met recently with climate change minister Greg Barker to discuss the Green Deal, and will bring their considerable marketing and customer service expertise to bear in driving uptake. A number of these companies also recently formed a ‘Green Deal Finance Company’ (GDFC), through which to aggregate household Green Deal debts and sell them in packages to the financial markets. This would enable them to secure the finance for the upfront cost of the Green Deal measures at a lower cost, and to pass this saving onto customers in the form of lower interest rates.

However, even with demand and eligibility maximised, it is probable that there will be millions of households unable to fulfil the ‘golden rule.’ According to the Building Research Establishment in their 2008 Study of hard-to-treat homes using the English Housing Condition Survey, around 43 per Civic Energy


Strategic direction

© Flickr/Bryn Pinzgauer

Underfloor insulation.

cent of UK homes are classified as ‘hardto-treat’, meaning that the particular characteristics of the property make improvements to its Standard Assessment Procedure (SAP) rating for energy efficiency prohibitively expensive. This could be, for example, because they have solid walls unsuitable for insulation, or are not connected to the gas grid. Equally, many of the 4 million households in fuel poverty are likely to continue spending over 10 per cent of their income on energy bills plus Green Deal repayments, even after energy efficiency improvements have taken place.

It is probable that there will be millions of households unable to fulfil the ‘golden rule.’ A study from the Gentoo Housing Association in 2010, called Retrofit Realities, found that fuel-poor households tend to use improved efficiency to make their house warmer rather than to reduce the cost of their bills. Therefore the elimination of fuel poverty will require supplementary measures to the Green Deal. The Government’s plan for this is the revised ECO, mandating energy companies to improve the energy efficiency of hard-to-treat homes and the homes of the fuel-poor. The current 15

obligation, the Carbon Emissions Reduction Target, requires large energy suppliers to fund specified carbon reduction from priority groups, such as pensioners and low-income households, and technologies, such as home insulation. The new ECO comes into place in 2013, and the exact detail will be of crucial importance to local authorities. Suppliers will be expected to deliver ECO through partnerships with local authorities, so it makes sense to coordinate this programme of energy efficiency improvements with the Green Deal. The focus of the ECO will be concentrated on hard-to-treat-homes and the fuel-poor, although precisely how this will be mandated remains unconfirmed. NLGN’s Paint the Town Green report suggests that the new ECO should contain a specified minimum output, in terms of both carbon reduction and fuel poverty alleviation. These outputs would be measured firstly in terms of tonnage of carbon emissions eliminated, and secondly in terms of the aggregate improvement to the SAP ratings of fuel poor homes. This latter indicator would ensure that suppliers focused on those households in severe fuel poverty, rather than carrying out cheap measures that lift a household living on the edge of the fuel poverty threshold to just above it. The combination of a new supplier obligation and the Green Deal should

create a framework within which local authorities can begin to address the UK’s energy efficiency challenge. Major improvements to the energy efficiency of the housing stock would constitute a significant boost to the coalition government’s green credentials. However, a degree of perspective should be retained when discussing the potential of the Green Deal. Various estimates suggest that in order to meet the UK’s long-term carbon reduction, the average SAP rating across the housing stock would need to be around 81. It currently stands at 50.

Fuel-poor households tend to use improved efficiency to make their house warmer rather than to reduce bills. Furthermore, the law of diminishing returns applies to energy efficiency - the higher a property’s SAP rating, the less cost-effective further improvements become, as the reduction in energy bills becomes smaller and the technologies become more expensive. It is unlikely to be possible to fund these measures across the country via the Green Deal or ECO. Councils will need to take more radical measures, backed by further incentives, to achieve the kind of emissions reductions that the challenge of climate change requires. Luke Hildyard is a Research Associate at Future of London, where he is currently working on a project looking at the implementation of the Green Deal across London. He previously authored research on climate change, energy efficiency and renewable energy for the New Local Government Network. Future of London is a policy unit and forum, which brings together a community of regeneration practitioners focused on stimulating new thinking and sharing knowledge and best practice across the London practitioner network. Future of London Adam House, 1 Fitzroy Square London W1T 5HE Tel: 020 7380 4544 Email: Web:

Buildings: showcase

© Wrexham County Borough Council

The pilot installations on Henry Street, Wrexham.

Jonathan Edwards Wrexham County Borough Council

Showcase: Wrexham’s rooftop revolution Wrexham County Borough Council is currently embarking on a highly significant renewable energy project. The project will see 3,000 council-owned domestic properties across the whole of Wrexham fitted with solar photovoltaic (PV) panels by the end of March 2012. This article concentrates on issues that get to the heart of what is required to deliver successful solar energy schemes. By using the experiences encountered in Wrexham over the past 12 months, a variety of options and approaches to mitigating and overcoming risks are suggested. In many instances there is no right or wrong approach, and some of these risks are more easily overcome than others. One thing is for sure, the chance of not encountering these risks is very low! I am sure that most people are now fully aware of the benefits afforded by solar power, and the positive impacts that a large-scale installation programme can deliver. Who would not be excited at the prospect of generating renewable energy, reducing carbon emissions, addressing fuel poverty, and creating a sustainable and significant income, via Feed-in Tariff, (FiT), all from fitting a few solar panels to the roof of a property? Wrexham certainly is excited by the above prospect, and the council has shown its commitment to carbon reduction by moving forward with this project. It is, however, all too easy to pinpoint the obstacles and barriers that prevent such a project from ever getting off the ground. The review of FiT payments, the still maturing PV marketplace, and the

upfront investment required are just what the electrical networks were designed three examples. for. As such, it poses a potential problem. These are all risks that need to be carefully managed, but should not deter any It is all too easy to pinpoint organisation that is committed to tackling the obstacles that prevent climate change and wishes to create new such a project from ever and innovative ways of income generation.

Early liaison with the Distribution Network Operator Single or multiple PV installations on either a domestic or commercial scale are always going to have an impact on the local electrical network. The installation of solar PV panels not only enables power generated by the panels to be used within that building, but it can also be exported back to the national grid if unconsumed. This is actually quite unique, and is not

getting off the ground.

In Wrexham, for example, with 3,000 PV systems all potentially exporting electricity back into the grid, there is a danger that the existing electrical infrastructure is insufficient to cope with the surge of power being exported. The technical term for this occurrence is known as ‘voltage raise’. Current infrastructure was never really designed for this two-way flow Civic Energy


Buildings: showcase of electricity and the consequences of excessive voltage raise can lead to PV panels not functioning, and a worst case scenario of power cuts in some areas. Developing an early, strong and transparent relationship with the Distributor Network Operator (DNO) is therefore critical. For Wrexham, the DNO in the area, Scottish Power, have proven to be cooperative, helpful and proactive in providing solutions to what is potentially a ‘show stopper’ for any large-scale PV project. Information and data are critical. Providing the DNO with upfront proposals, such as property addresses, property details, system sizes, and system outputs, will enable them to consider the potential impact of the installations, and identify where there may be capacity issues within the network. Being prepared to compromise and work with the DNO has proved to be the best approach in maximising the number of installations that can be completed.

Managing expectations is important in maintaining the credibility and progress of the project. The difficulty for the DNO is not knowing the exact impact that installations will have. The PV market in the UK is still maturing and there are few examples to draw upon. As such, the DNO is applying principles and criteria that are based on assumptions as opposed to facts and hard data. The DNO also have to ensure that any PV installations approved will not affect its ability to provide power to all properties within that area. They also need to be aware of other PV applications that may be pending.

Communications and engagement This is one aspect of the project that needs to be prioritised from the outset. Any project that affects so many people, in many different areas, and to differing extents is always going to require a proactive communications and engagement strategy. This ensures that the right messages are communicated at the right time. 17

Managing expectations on a scheme of this size and value is also important in maintaining the credibility and progress of the project. In some quarters it was interpreted that the approval of Wrexham’s solar project back in January 2011 equated to panels being fitted the very next day! In reality this is not the case, and the approval of the project is just the start. Similarly, not all properties are suitable for an installation and the approach to communications in Wrexham has been to offer no assurances as to who, where and when installations will happen. Getting ‘something for nothing’ can be a cause for scepticism; the installation of solar panels at no expense to the tenant is a prime example of this. Much thought has been given to this issue and only by fully explaining all of the benefits associated with a solar PV scheme will tenants suspicion and scepticism begin to subside. Focussing communication efforts exclusively on tenants (and specifically those tenants having PV) is not advised; this can lead to antipathy amongst other stakeholders. Of equal importance, and it can be argued of even more importance, is the approach and attention given to the wider public within Wrexham, elected councillors and, of course, staff. Engaging with these stakeholders and securing buyin is far more difficult, albeit an essential and worthwhile exercise.

Addressing issues of inequality At the inception of this project it was not envisaged that the fitting of solar panels would create any real sort of ill feeling or resentment. This was perhaps a naïve attitude to have, seeing as 8,000 of our tenants would realise that they are not likely to receive a PV installation. Such ill feeling is not new, and has been experienced on a number of other capital programmes within Wrexham. The additional problem with the fitting of solar PV is that the roof panels are so visual, therefore drawing attention to the inequality in the installations. A top priority is therefore to formulate an approach that aims to tackle and overcome these issues of inequality. This is still something that Wrexham is toiling with, and, to date, a fully equitable solution has yet to be found. However, there is agreement that alternative

Financial modelling The key to understanding the feasibility of delivering any solar PV project ultimately lies in the detail of the financial model. You have to have a solid platform on which to progress the project, and perhaps more importantly get the necessary approvals to proceed. The financial model has to be a working and evolving document. In Wrexham, despite being developed almost 12 months ago, the financial model continues to adapt. The model itself can look more complex than it actually needs to, but the fundamental components are listed below: • Anticipated costs (all supply, design and installation costs) • Any remedial works required prior to installation • Ongoing maintenance and remote monitoring costs (factoring in inverter replacement) • Total kWp to be installed • Anticipated income via FiT (RPI index linked over 25 years) • Internal project team costs • External support required (including technical, legal and communications) • Panel efficiency over 25 years • Roof orientation of properties. If developed properly, the model can act as a useful reference point in guiding the whole project. Particularly in the early years of a project, the costs may exceed the income generated, but the model will allow informed decisions to be made on the aspirations and feasibility of any project. Being conservative and prudent helps to manage expectations around the net income that will be generated over 25 years, and provides contingency for some of the unknown or unanticipated costs that may emerge. measures need to be found to compensate those tenants who are not due to benefit from solar PV. Wrexham’s current proposal is to offer a ‘Green Doctor’ service. This consists of an energy audit of a property, coupled with the installation of basic energy efficiency

Buildings: showcase

© Wrexham County Borough Council

So should we bother?

measures. Together these are expected to deliver savings in the region of £150 per year for each tenant. The energy audit will also be used as a data gathering exercise to form part of any potential future Green Deal applications.

Any public sector procurement exercise needs to demonstrate value for money. The council is also looking at other ways of reinvesting the income generated by the solar PV project, to ensure that the benefits are shared amongst all tenants. The difficulty with this approach is that the FiT payments are paid over 25 years, and many tenants expect the inequality issues to be addressed now.

Precise procurement Any public sector procurement exercise needs to demonstrate value for money, especially in the current economic climate. It may therefore be surprising that the costs for delivering Wrexham’s PV scheme were not always the driving force. Of more importance was the ability to procure equipment that is reliable, durable, of a high specification, and supported by longterm performance warranties. With the FiT payments providing a return on investment for 25 years, it is important that the equipment procured can generate a sustainable income that matches the duration of the FiT. It is widely accepted within the PV industry

A pilot installation on a house in Wrexham.

that many companies can offer cheap panels that will perform perfectly well for seven to ten years. However, fewer panels on the market exist where performance can be sustained for 25 years, supported by performance warranties. In the past 12 months a number of procurement frameworks have been established, in an attempt to shortcut and by-pass lengthy, drawn-out procurement exercises. These frameworks do indeed have their merits, and can be an attractive proposition for those organisations with limited resources and a shortage of time. It is worth noting, however, that prices within the PV market have fallen significantly over the course of the past six months, and many frameworks established in this period may have outdated pricing structures.

A solar PV scheme can deliver long-term lasting benefits on a number of different levels. Whichever approach is taken to procurement, sourcing high quality equipment and reputable, experienced and reliable installation contractors has to be the leading priority. Wrexham managed to complete its restricted procedure procurement process in approximately two months, and has now established a procurement framework consisting of five companies. Putting in place sufficient resources and getting the right support was an integral part of this exercise.

It would be wrong to end this article by not emphasising the benefits and positive outcomes that a solar PV scheme can create. If the commitment is there, and necessary resources are made available, then a solar PV scheme can deliver longterm lasting benefits on a number of levels. A decision on the FiT levels beyond April 2012 is expected by the end of this year, and this will provide some much needed clarification on the direction and development of the UK solar PV market. Indications suggest that a reduction in the tariff could be counter-balanced by a continued reduction in the costs of the equipment. This would hopefully lead to a more sustainable PV market, and enable the UK to follow the trend of successful FiT schemes in other European Countries. The communications strategy for the Wrexham solar panel project is examined by Andrew Peacock, Creative Concern, on page 41. Jonathan Edwards is a Senior Manager working within Wrexham County Borough Council’s Housing and Public Protection Department. For the past 12 months he has been project managing the delivery of Wrexham’s solar PV installation project that will see 3,000 properties fitted with solar panels. He has worked for Wrexham Council for over four years having graduated with an honours degree in business studies in 2005 from Manachester Universtiy. He has also worked as a consultant for Sungard Public sector, acting as a performance management specialist. Wrexham County Borough Council provides the administration for Wrexham, the regional centre of North East Wales and home to 132,000 people. It benefits from a town-centre surrounded by villages and countryside. Wrexham is the largest town in North Wales and the third largest retail centre in Wales. Its location on the border between England and Wales has seen Wrexham develop as the natural hub for the surrounding area and become the commercial centre for the region. Wrexham County Borough Council The Guildhall, Wrexham LL11 1AY Tel: 01978 292000 Email: Web:

Civic Energy


Renewable energy energy:

© Wardell Armstrong International

resource assessment methodology, which established the renewable energy targets in Regional Spacial Strategies. This scale of turbine has lower environmental impacts, and less access and connection problems. It also opens up areas, for example, industrial, commercial and semi-urban. Previously, these kinds of locations would not have been suitable for wind turbines. In a recent project for Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council, Wardell Armstrong found some 132 potential sites for 500 kW turbines, or 66 MW of additional wind resource. Most local authorities have extensive landholdings, some of which will be suitable for FiT wind turbines and with the FiT for solar photovoltaic (PV) being reduced, FiT wind turbines are now the better option and are likely to remain so even after the FiT review.

Where to start Figure 1. Potential candidate turbines.

Haydn Scholes Wardell Armstrong International

Gamekeeper turns poacher This article explains how to reap the benefits from medium-scale wind turbines using Feed-in Tariffs (FiTs). Starting with how to identify suitable sites in a local authority’s landholdings, the article identifies all the issues that need to be addressed to get a project from planning to construction.

First a suitable site is required, which begs the question: what is a suitable site? There are actually many factors that need to be considered to answer this question. However, the most important determinant is the wind resource, which is defined by the annual mean wind speed at the turbine’s hub height.

This smaller-scale turbine has lower environmental impacts, and less access and connection problems.

The electricity generated by a wind turbine is proportional to the cube of the It is not often that a local authority which is targeted at small to medium-scale wind speed. A wind resource database is (usually the gamekeeper when it comes to turbines, is potentially more lucrative available on DECC’s website; it provides wind turbine applications) can become a with high return on investment for single the annual mean wind speed on a one km² ‘poacher’ and reap the benefits of clean, turbines in the 100 kW to 500 kW range grid for the whole of the UK at 10, 25 non-polluting and carbon dioxide free on windy sites. Figure 1 shows some and 45 metres above ground level. energy. However, the UK’s FiT is allowing candidate turbines. A resource and constraint analysis on them to do just that. each potential site in the local authority There are currently some 296 operational land bank is best carried out in a It is not often that a local onshore wind farms in the UK (4,242 Geographical Information System (GIS) or authority can reap the benefits subcontracted to a specialist consultancy. MW), 32 under construction (1,473 of clean, non-polluting energy. Figure 2 overleaf, shows a typical resource MW), 232 consented (3,647 MW) and a further 314 in planning (7,344 MW). and constraint analysis carried out by Almost all of these are large projects Wardell Armstrong. running under the Renewables Obligation Interestingly, this smaller-scale wind Having found a site for a suitably sized (RO). Although this level of wind resource was ignored by the Department turbine, the next step is to approach some development will continue under the of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) consultants, suppliers and manufacturers RO, the new kid on the block, the FiT, in their regional renewable energy for development, capital, installation and 19

Renewable energy

© Wardell Armstrong International

Figure 2. Typical wind farm resource and constraint analysis.

operating costs. They should also be able to provide an idea of the likely annual energy production. This information is needed to set up an initial discounted cash flow financial model to get an idea of the returns that can be expected. There will still be a number of unknowns, not least the real annual wind mean speed on site and an accurate grid connection cost. However, a simple model at this stage will very quickly reveal if the project is worth pursuing.

Costs for an Environmental Statement may exceed £100,000 and hence make the project uneconomic. This is also the point to start lining up the money and deciding if the project will be funded completely out of equity or whether some debt finance would be a good idea.

What’s next? Top of the agenda is securing planning permission and, for this scale of turbine, some form of environmental impact assessment will still be required. Most projects under 5 MW will not require an Environmental Statement and a simpler

Environmental Report should suffice, but there are exceptions. Costs for an Environmental Statement may exceed £100,000 and hence make the project uneconomic. The way to overcome this, and also to identify the scope and depth required, is to submit a screening and scoping request through the planning department. The response from this will also set the timescale for the planning submission, which usually depends on the amount and timing of the ecological surveys required. The worst case will be 12 months of ecological surveys, but some sites and smaller-scales of turbine may only require three months of surveys. At a minimum, an Extended Phase 1 Habitat survey, noise estimates for nearby dwellings, aviation and telecommunications consultations, and a simple visual impact assessment with a few photomontages will be required. Larger turbines and more sensitive sites may require more detailed ecological surveys and a full Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment, including shadow flicker, hydrology, flood risk, transport and archaeological reports. In the meantime, there are still plenty of other things to do. An essential step is talking to the locals and getting them on side. Don’t assume that just because the

council is the project developer that things will be plain sailing or that there is no need to provide some financial benefits to the local community. Early consultation is essential and getting the locals involved in the project, especially through local parish councillors, will bear fruit later when it comes to getting planning permission.

An essential step is talking to the locals and getting them on side. RenewableUK, the wind industry trade body, recommend a minimum annual community payment of £1,000 per MW. However, many developers give £4,000 to £5,000, and there is certainly scope to do this under the FiT on windy sites. Most developers will undertake some form of on-site wind measurements to be confident that their investment will be safe. This may be required if there is any element of debt finance for the project. This may range from three to twelve months and can be a very expensive exercise. A low cost alternative is to get a Virtual Met Mast report from the Met Office. This a local, long-term wind forecast based on the Met Office climate model Civic Energy


energy: showcase Renewable energy and long-term UK data. An increasing number of banks are accepting it in lieu of on-site measurements. Another critical path item to consider is the grid connection. Turbines of this size need to be connected to the high-voltage grid, usually at 11 kV but occasionally at higher voltages, such as 33 kV, which is significantly more expensive. The local electrical Distribution Network Operator (DNO) should be approached early on when the capacity of the turbine is still flexible, as a slightly smaller turbine may improve the overall project economics.

The Distribution Network Operator should be approached early on. Later on, a formal connection application to the DNO will be required. It would also be a good time to start discussing a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA). Under the FiT, any electricity exported to the grid currently attracts a minimum payment of 3.1p per kWh. However a PPA with a green electricity supplier could raise this to 4p per kWh or even 5p per kWh. With all the surveys finished and the other bases tagged, it’s time to finalise the plans, technically known as a design freeze. This is also the time to produce the other parts of the Environmental Report, such as the project description, construction and decommissioning details, policy context and socioeconomic benefits.

Realistically the planning process will require six to nine months or even more. At this stage the economic model should be re-examined as there will be much a clearer idea of the costs, likely revenue streams and funding sources. It is also a good time to talk to the locals again, show them the final plans and tell them what they can expect in terms of community benefits. That done, assemble the Environmental Report and the rest of the Planning 21

Suitability for a 500 kW turbine Anywhere that has over 6.5 metres per second wind speed in the 45 metre above ground level database is likely to be suitable for a 500 kW turbine. The other criteria are constraints that limit the size and where turbines can be located. These restrictions typically include: • standoffs from dwellings, buildings, roads, railways, powerlines, microwave links, hedges, trees, rivers and other turbines • proximity to heritage assets, other wind farms, the national high-voltage grid and substations, airports, airfields, radars and designated areas, such as National Parks or Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty • high sensitivity landscapes • slope and aspect, as anywhere with a slope over one in ten is probably unsuitable • sites that are not facing the dominant wind direction or have higher ground to windward are also likely to be unsuitable • access routes for abnormal loads. Application and submit it. Realistically the planning process will require six to nine months or even more, and additional information may be required before it goes to Planning Committee for a decision.

What comes after planning permission Next the turbine needs to be constructed. The easiest way is to get an engineer, procure and construct contractor (EPC) with wind experience to do this. There are many companies that undertake this sort of activity and it could even be the turbine manufacturer or UK supplier.

Construction for a 500 kW turbine should take around three months. Professional help may be needed in issuing an EPC tender. It is always a good idea to get a qualified consultant to act as the client’s engineer to monitor the EPC process. This is when the bulk of the funding is needed to be in place, as now it will be drawn upon rapidly. Construction for a 500 kW turbine should take around three months; smaller turbines can be completed in even less time. The contractor and consultant should also help discharge any planning conditions (and there are always lots) attached to the permission. The DNO should also be commissioned to undertake the grid connection, which is potentially a longer process than the

construction phase of work, especially if the connection is at 33 kV. Also the PPA contract should be finalised, a maintenance contract agreed with the turbine supplier and the project registered under the FiT scheme. This all done and the turbine commissioned, 20 years of making money whilst saving the planet can commence – well done! Haydn Scholes BSc MBCS, AMRAeS, CEng is Director at Wardell Armstrong International. Haydn has been involved in renewable energy for over 30 years. Initially in geothermal energy research as part of the Camborne School of Mines Hot Dry Rock project, he subsequently managed CSMA Consultants Ltd’s renewable energy business, expanding into other technologies. He has renewable energy experience in the UK, Europe, USA and Eastern Europe. He is a co-author of the Renewable Energy Strategy for the South West, REvision2010, REvision2020 and a founding director of Regen SW. Wardell Armstrong International provides earth resources and environmental consultancy services to industry, utilities, developers, landowners and national, regional and local government. Their renewable energy experience covers wind, biomass, waste to energy, geothermal, hydro, wave, tidal and solar energy projects. CSMA Consultants Ltd was acquired by Wardell Armstrong in 1999 and renamed Wardell Armstrong International Ltd. Wardell Armstrong International Wheal Jane, Baldhu, Truro Cornwall TR3 6EH Tel: 01872 560738 | Fax: 01872 561079 Email: Web:

Renewable energy

© E.ON

E.ON has completed installing solar panels on 595 Nottingham City Council homes.

Emma Hughes Solar Power Portal

Civic solar: the past, present and future When the UK Feed-in Tariff (FiT) mechanism was first introduced in the UK in April 2010, the solar industry immediately took off. With more than 26 MW of capacity being installed in the first six months of the scheme, it soon became clear that solar photovoltaics (PVs) was the UK’s renewable technology of choice. Utilised on every scale from sub-4 kW systems by homeowners, local authorities and rent-a-roof companies right through to 5 MW solar parks installed by commercial enterprises and farmers, solar panels begun to spring up across the country. However, despite a successful start, just 18 months later, the UK solar industry’s future has been left hanging in the balance. This article will look at how we got to this point, focusing on the installation of solar on civic buildings, as well as concentrating on where the industry is headed in these difficult and somewhat constrained times. developers until August 1 to install and connect to the grid in order to take advantage of the higher rates. As you can At 41.3p for residential solar installations see from Table 1 overleaf, the scramble to (which was later increased due to inflation complete was of paramount importance to 43.3p), the UK FiT provided a muchif the return on investment was to needed boost to solar development in the The Fast-Track Review remain profitable. UK. And, whilst some felt that perhaps delivered a blow to schools, the incentive rate was too high and was at Despite the government’s decision to hospitals, churches and risk of driving a boom and bust scenario, reduce the FiT rate at the higher end to most were just pleased to see that the just 8.5p per kWh of energy generated, community projects. government finally recognised the need for some 90 MW of large-scale solar was green incentives. completed by the time the clock struck This cap was then shortly followed by the 12 on July 31. However, it wasn’t long before the worry of FiT cuts began to set in. Suspicion first announcement of a Fast-Track Review in Many of the projects fitted and arose in the lead-up to the Comprehensive March 2011, which looked to reduce the connected to the grid before the deadline FiT levels for all solar installations over 50 Spending Review (CSR), as rumours were on civic buildings, showcasing local kW – delivering a blow to schools, hospitals, authorities’ commitment to reducing begun to circulate that George Osborne churches and community projects, as well as their carbon footprint through the use would cut the FiT rates. the larger, investor-led ‘solar parks’. While no cuts were announced during of renewable energy, as well as lowering The new larger-scale FiT levels were the CSR, just one month later it was the amount of people suffering from fuel published in June 2011, giving project revealed that a cap would be placed on poverty in the UK.

The UK solar market

FiTs, so the total amount spent during the period 2014–15 would not exceed £360 million, which was a 10 per cent reduction on the previous estimate of £400 million.

Civic Energy


Renewable energy

Table 1. Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) FiT rates (August 1, 2011). Band (kW)

Current generation tariff (per kWh)

Proposed generation tariff (per kWh)

4 kW new build 4 kW retrofit >4-10 kW >10-50 kW >50-100 kW >100-150 kW >150-250 kW >250-5 MW Standalone

37.8 43.3 37.8 32.9 19 19 15 8.5 8.5

21 21 16.8 15.2 12.9 12.9 12.9 8.5* 8.5*

Just two months later

* These are the current tariffs, which are not up for consultation and which, like all other current tariffs, will be adjusted in line with the Retail Price Index from April 1, 2012.

© Colchester Borough Council

Solar installation work begins in Colchester Borough Council.

Case study one: Colchester Borough Council Colchester Borough Council began work on an initiative to install solar panels on the roofs of selected council-owned homes, sheltered housing schemes and corporate buildings in June 2011. Around two thousand properties are set to benefit from this scheme, which will run until March 2012. Suitable homes will be chosen by construction and specialist roofing contractor Breyer Group, which will send a letter of introduction to arrange a time to undertake a property assessment. Following this assessment, with the agreement of the tenant, the solar panels will be installed on appropriate properties, on a convenient date. The project was delivered with Colchester Borough Homes, managers of the project, and the preferred supplier, Breyer Group, with whom negotiations are underway. Colchester Borough Council’s resources portfolio holder, councillor Paul Smith said: “I am delighted that installation of solar electricity panels is now beginning, in consultation with tenants. Undertaking a pilot will benefit the project overall by helping get each stage right from the start. 23

months. With the information and support I’ve had so far I’m sure I’ll be able to cut my energy bill soon by making a few small changes to how I use my appliances at home. It’s great that many other residents will also benefit over the coming months.”

“As well as helping eradicate fuel poverty and sharing energy-saving advice, any inconvenience for tenants during the property assessment and panel installation stages will be minimised, and help and advice will be available throughout the project.” Ms Beryl Hart, a Colchester Borough Homes housing tenant, said: “I’m pleased to be one of the first residents in Colchester to have solar electricity panels installed at home, having known that the project has been planned for several

During a hectic few months for largerscale solar, microgeneration installations continued to silently tick over. Now dominating the industry, this sector has pushed to complete up to 270 MW of the country’s current 343 MW total. However, while the solar industry viewed this growth as overwhelmingly positive proof that residents of the UK were keen to go green, government heard alarm bells and again decided to take drastic action. On October 31, just one week after Solar Power UK, the UK’s largest solar conference and exhibition, it was revealed that the government intended to cut the FiT rate for solar power by more than 50 per cent. The proposals, which are subject to consultation, would introduce a new tariff of 21p per kWh for schemes up to 4 kW in size – down from the current 43.3p per kWh. Reduced rates are also proposed for schemes between 4 kW and 250 kW.

DECC proposed FiT chart Timescale Scale

Feed-in tariff (pence per kWh)

Duration (years)

April 2010 – March 2011

≤4 kW new ≤4 kW retrofit >4-10 kW >10-100 kW >100 kW-5 MW Standalone

36.1 41.3 36.1 31.4 29.3 29.3

25 25 25 25 25 25

March 2011 – August 2011

≤4 kW new ≤4 kW retrofit >4-10 kW >10-100 kW >100 kW-5 MW Standalone

37.8 43.3 37.8 32.9 30.7 30.7

25 25 25 25 25 25

August 1 – October 2011

≤4 kW retrofit ≤4 kW new 4 kW-10 kW 10 kW-50 kW 50 kW-100 kW 100 kW-150 kW 150 kW-250 kW 250 kW+ Standalone

43.3 37.8 37.8 32.9 19 19 15 8.5 8.5

25 25 25 25 25 25 25 25 25

Renewable energy The UK’s Climate Change and Energy Minister Greg Barker explained at Solar Power UK 2011 how the UK solar industry is growing faster than the budget will allow: “My priority is to put the solar industry on a firm footing so that it can remain a successful and prosperous part of the green economy, and so that it doesn’t fall victim to boom and bust. “The plummeting costs of solar means we’ve got no option but to act so that we stay within budget and not threaten the whole viability of the FiTs scheme. Although I fully realise that adjusting to the new lower tariffs will be a big challenge for many firms, it won’t come as a surprise to many in the solar industry who’ve themselves acknowledged the big fall in costs and the big increase in their rate of return over the past year.”

Local authorities had until this point, been providing hundreds of fuel-poor residents with free solar installations. The Minister also outlined that while changes would not go through in December – as was recently feared – the new proposed tariffs would apply to all new solar PV installations with an eligibility date on or after December 12, 2011. These installations would receive the current tariff rates before moving to the lower tariffs on 1 April 2012. DECC reiterates that consumers who already receive FiT payments will not be subject to change, and those with an eligibility date on or before December 12 will receive the current, higher rates for 25 years. This announcement dealt another blow to local authorities, who had, up until this point, been providing hundreds of fuelpoor residents with free solar installations, as well as installing across civic building stock countrywide. Case study two: Nottingham City Council E.ON has completed installing solar panels on 595 Nottingham City Council homes. The project, located in Aspley, will help save the homes an estimated total of up to £72,000 per year.

As well as helping the residents of council homes reduce their fuel bills and carbon footprints, the seven month project also offered green skills, training and work experience opportunities to Nottingham job seekers by involving them in the initiative. Thomas Buss, Head of Microgeneration, hailed the project as “a great success”, saying it will benefit both the residents and job seekers. Nottingham City Council’s portfolio holder for energy and sustainability, Alan Clarke, said the project has “boosted the city’s economy by providing training opportunities for local people.” However, he expressed concerns over the proposed changes to the FiTs being considered by government, saying they could have “serious consequences for a number of energy projects being delivered in Nottingham,” which would otherwise increase energy security, reduce bills and create more jobs.

investment can still be made – even at the lower FiT rate. Although this return is not as high as it is currently, research has shown that due to the other benefits associated with installing PV, including energy security, energy bill savings, carbon reduction, job creation and economic growth, most local authorities are prepared to accept a lower financial return on their investment.

Solar PV will play a big part in the country’s energy mix, with or without government support. The next few months will be telling in terms of marking the future for solar in the UK, yet it is expected that due to the diversity and proved popularity of this technology, solar PV will play a big part in the country’s energy mix, with or without government support.

What does the future hold? To date, dozens of councils across the UK have either installed solar PV, or have made plans to do so. In just the past few months, Nottingham, Hampshire, Wrexham, Durham, Dundee, Swindon, Reading, Hastings, Southam, Northumberland, Bournemouth, Eastbourne, Norwich, Colchester, Cambridge, Luton, Bexley, Corby, Cornwall, Welwyn Hatfield, Birmingham, St Albans and Woolwich council have announced plans to invest in and install solar PV. Many others also have projects in the pipeline, yet the continued rate of development will depend largely on Government’s FiT policy. Many authorities have benefitted by early action, pre-empting the incentive cuts and installing as much PV as possible in the timeframe permitted. However, others have not been so quick off the mark. Many now face the decision of whether to go ahead and complete planned PV installations in the few weeks left before the December 12 deadline, or to work with the new FiT rates. While it may seem like the latter portion of people will miss out, business cases in local government have shown that for many housing schemes, a 5 per cent return on

Emma Hughes is Editor of news and information website Solar Power Portal and bi-monthly magazine Solar Business Focus UK. With several years of technology research under her belt, including spells in the semiconductor, consumer technology and photovoltaics industries, Emma has been solely focusing on the UK solar photovoltaics market since its inception in 2010. She has been involved in global photovoltaics developments for a number of years, and is a frequent contributor to the industryrenowned technology journal Photovoltaics International and global online news and information resource, Solar Power Portal is the leading renewable energy resource for all UK solar power and feed-in tariff information. The website keeps people both inside and outside the United Kingdom up-to-date with developments and deployments in the solar industry in the UK. Providing in-depth news, opinions, information on certified products and installers and accurate policy updates straight from Government, the Solar Power Portal is the one-stop-shop for solar power information in the UK. Trans-World House 100 City Road London, EC1Y 2BP Tel: 0207 871 0123 | Fax: 0207 871 0101 Email: Web:

Civic Energy


Renewable energy

© The Energy Crops Company

Biomass pellets.

Graham Hilton The Energy Crops Company

Biomass: a growing opportunity for the public sector The soaring cost of filling up a car or meeting monthly gas and electricity bills have been major headlines in recent months. For hard pressed local authorities and other public sector organisations, managing energy costs is not just a question of balancing the monthly budgets, but also presents complex new challenges, and perhaps opportunities. The good news is that much of what needs to be done does not require radical technological change, but new approaches which, with a little bit of common sense, can be easily deployed.

agricultural by-products) to the more simple combustion of woodchip or pellets in boilers and small-scale electricity generators. In the case of wood pellets, automatic systems are viable due to the small-scale of the process, and the production needs no more intervention than equivalent oil systems, albeit with much less onerous outcomes in the event of a fuel spill! The new challenges and opportunities: • r ising energy costs • c oncern that climate change is becoming increasingly formalised in council targets and Carbon Reduction Commitments, which for fossil fuels now resemble a further energy tax •n ovel solutions don’t fall into neat, functional pigeon holes – renewable energy markets contain much confusion and disinformation.

Devising a strategy The incoming Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), in a similar manner to the Feed-in Tariffs (FiTs), will provide an incentive payment for each unit of renewable heat produced and should redress the current imbalance of solar power gaining more interest than other renewable energies. The RHI will also help overcome much of the up-front capital risk that previously discouraged many from grasping the biomass opportunity. Although biomass take-up to date has been slower than many other European countries, there is still plenty of opportunity to devise a strategy, using both the good and bad experiences of those who have done it before. Here are some simple rules of thumb:

For many public sector organisations, there are a significant opportunities to reduce costs and carbon, and to further utilise existing in-house resources in a new, discrete activity.

prices rise, show overall savings against fossil fuels, particularly in establishments that are off the main gas grid.


Demand This is the key tool at the disposal of any organisation. Correctly assessing the needs and procuring appropriate resources from The use of biomass in heat and the right providers, internal and external, combined heat and power (CHP) also is crucial to both efficient energy use and offers a flexible scale, low costs and the development of a critical mass for the speedy deployment. Engaging with the supply of renewables. simpler technologies also promotes the • Take a hard look at energy usage. Saving development of supply chains which will energy is the best way to cut costs and supply more complex technologies in turn. carbon. There are many ways of deploying • Nature of demand is often as important biomass-based renewable energy solutions. as total usage. These range from carrying out the • Biomass works well in high or constant complex transformation of wastes and demand areas, such as care homes or harvested wood fuels (tree cuttings and swimming pools. It works less well in

We now know that the shift to coal, oil or gas, while often more convenient and historically cheaper than other options, damages air quality, is vulnerable to international commodity squeezes and, of course, impacts on global carbon emissions. One altnerative available to local authorities and other public sector organisations is combustion of biomass, for heat or electricity. The concept of burning wood to stay warm is hardly radical, but wood-based heating systems have been proven to be amongst the most economic way of reducing carbon emissions and can, as 25

There are many ways of deploying biomass-based renewable energy solutions.

Renewable energy

© The Energy Crops Company

The above graph shows the comparative levelised cost of biomass and other renewables (green) and fossil fuels (red).

Resource Having assessed the scale and nature of demand, it is then time to take the second hard look at the organisation and what it ‘brings to the party’. Too many organisations have embarked on ambitious renewable energy projects without the requisite resource or skills. Thankfully, the technical requirements of biomass are quite low. • Fuel – Like oil or coal, biomass requires a reliable physical fuel supplier, and reliable third party suppliers and processors are increasingly common. Unlike coal and oil some of this resource can be locally sourced from: • the organisations’ land, parks, farms or woodlands

Nottinghamshire Schools have adapted to wood pellets in boilers.

© The Energy Crops Company

highly insulated modern buildings with low occupancy periods, such as primary schools. • Clusters of low-grade heat requirement, heating or hot water may allow deployment of CHP with electricity generation, and use of the waste heat. Transmitting heat can be very expensive, so co-location is important. • A thorough audit, with staff well-versed in the latest conservation and energy delivery techniques is at the root of any energy strategy, particularly where heat and its associated storage or transmission is concerned.

•p ublic sector networks- government is investigating shared resources from military land to service prisons and hospitals. •S kills – Biomass boilers integrate into existing building management systems, and they can sit alongside existing fossil fuel systems, allowing for maximum efficiency or back-up. Smaller-scale CHP can allow small-scale reliable power generation. •F inance – Biomass boilers require larger up-front capital than most fossil fuel equivalents, but •w ill save fuel costs, compared to electrical heating, oil, and gas, at recent numbers •w ill generate a guaranteed income stream via the government’s long awaited RHI scheme. Third party suppliers will offer financing or fullblown energy service options, but, as

with FiTs, in-house solutions should be carefully considered. Portfolio Design Most public sector energy portfolios have grown up over a number of years, using a variety of technologies. While wholesale renewal of heating networks is likely to pose significant financial challenges in the current economic environment, careful redesign of elements of the system, in the light of new or low carbon technologies, can bring cost and carbon savings for years to come. • Heat networks – Linking a number of end users can allow more efficient use of heat. • This could be done through a reduced number of boilers. For example, a hospital in Devon connected its boiler, via a short heat mains, to the adjacent health centre, allowing one biomass boiler to replace three oil boilers, whilst also freeing up two large rooms and several car parking spaces. • Alternatively, organisations could use heat storage. Biomass boilers with heat stores can often replace fossil boilers of several times the size, with significant efficiency and capital cost savings. • CHP is another option. Power generation through combustion of oil, coal, gas or biomass produces twice as Civic Energy


Research for the Ministry of Defence.

Indicative cost per MWh of heat (pre-incentives).

much heat as electricity. Heat networks capture sufficient demand to allow this waste heat to be used productively, increasing both efficiency and incentives under renewable energy schemes. • Boiler replacement or sizing – When properly sized, and using thermal stores, biomass boilers can reach efficiencies of over 90 per cent. Combined with reliable local fuel supply and RHI payments, the case for replacement will often outweigh projected replacement programs. • Fuel choice – Wood chip offers the best opportunities for local fuel supply, and typically has lower fuel costs than pellet, but higher capital and maintenance. Wood pellets allow full automation of smaller systems, and have an increasing number of scale suppliers. • Fuel production – The management and processing of woodland, arboricultural arisings and, in some cases, wood waste, can be a productive and profitable activity. Although some of the specialist processing will require equipment and expertise that in the short-term is best externally sourced, much of the wood fuel supply chain can be established with existing, in-house, or locally shared resources.

This is the perfect time to review the opportunities for biomass. • Fuel procurement or storage – The benign nature of biomass fuel, and its ease of storage and handling, allows a degree of central back-up storage and internal distribution, not available with other fuels. • Heat poverty – The recent spikes in the price of heating oil have drawn attention to the social impacts in the off-gas-grid heating sector of supply disruptions and heat poverty. The flexible scale and storage of domestic scale biomass can play an important part in managing these issues. Partners The biomass sector is now developing the type of professional supply partners that previously characterised the coal, oil, and, in the case of equipment installers, gas markets. 27

© The Energy Crops Company

Renewable energy

Graham Hilton (front left) at the launch of Cornwall Councils’ County Hall biomass boiler.

It is important that local authorities and other public sector organisations establish consistent relationships with a range of counterparties, recognising the role of each, in this emerging market. These may take a range of forms: •A dvisory – A number of organisations can offer help, from strategy development and deployment, through to heating system design and CHP, and fuel procurement. Their growing body of knowledge and independence will often avoid repeating the mistakes of others, and brings consistency across a range of end users. •H eating or CHP equipment – CHP is a rapidly growing sector, with a number of large professional suppliers and numerous regional specialists. Installation and design is quite specific to biomass, but can quickly be assimilated into in-house management and maintenance. •F uel supply – Third party supply is now well established with a number of national pellet suppliers, and regional groupings of chip producers or distributors. •E nergy Service Companies (ESCO) – Energy supply contracts, where one supplier contracts to supply heat (or electricity and heat) to an end user, taking all responsibility for equipment, maintenance and fuel. These can either be procured from one of a number of specialist energy service companies, or, in an increasing number of cases, local authorities are providing this service to their clients via in-house or partially subcontracted solutions.

Summary With the arrival of the RHI, this is the perfect time to review the opportunities for biomass. Widely accepted as one of the cheapest ways of reducing carbon, and in many cases cheaper than fossil fuel alternatives, biomass also presents an opportunity to use existing resources in management and maintenance and, in some cases, to harness internal fuel supplies.

Graham Hilton is currently Director of Energy Crops Company. Graham has contributed to the development of UK and European policies on renewable energy and sustainability. Graham has served on the board of several renewable energy supply companies, is a former chair of the Environmental Industries Commission RTF group, and has advised a range of public sector organisations from local authorities to HM Treasury on the best deployment of renewable energy. The Energy Crops Company is a leading renewable advisory firm which has worked with a number of local authorities, central government and private sector suppliers to develop and deploy biomass and other renewable energy solutions, from biofuels infrastructure to novel domestic electricity management. The Energy Crops Company Prime House, 32 Anyards Road Cobham, Surrey KT11 2LA Tel: 01932 58 44 55 Fax: 01932 58 44 66 Email: Web:

© Flickr/vaxomatic

Renewable energy: showcase

Mick Lovatt Preston City Council

Showcase: renewable energy opportunities in Preston Preston City Council has high ambition to take advantage of new market opportunities presented by renewable energy technology. The council established a climate change strategy, one which strongly supports ‘decentralised energy production and medium and large-scale renewable energy generation’. This is a significant milestone. So, with policy documentation already well established and able to support renewable projects, the council has adopted a business approach to its work under a ‘carbon neutral council’ corporate project, which takes account of energy efficiency of its own estate, energy generation from renewable sources and working in partnership with private sector developers to influence energy for new developments to be delivered from sustainable sources. The climate is changing. Preston, Lancashire and the rest of the UK has to respond to the challenges this is causing. In the coming years scientists predict a plethora of extreme climate events from drought to flood, storms to heat waves. Major impacts to lifestyles will result. In typical fashion, a local authority responds to problems by producing a strategy, and predictably, the bigger the perceived problem, the thicker and more glossy the strategy.

The Lancashire Climate Change Strategy was developed by partners across the county and launched in 2009. Four key sectors were considered within the strategy: domestic, transport, business and public sector, along with land use. Any local authority serious about embarking on a renewables programme should first have a robust and well thought out climate change strategy. The value of such strategy is generally poorly recognised at the current time.

For Preston, a belt and braces approach was adopted. The council, demonstrating strong community leadership, signed up to the Nottingham Declaration in 2007 and passed a detailed notice of motion in 2008, committing to becoming a ‘carbon neutral council’ and developping extensive renewables schemes to be administered via a local power company or Energy Services Company (ESCO). The council finally adopted the Lancashire Climate Change Strategy in 2009. Civic Energy


Renewable energy: showcase

Let there be light Just as the council was beginning to see the light on climate issues, the country was already on the rocky road to financial catastrophe. The banking crisis, followed by recession (depression), forced the government into austerity mode. Settlements from central government to local authorities were slashed, services reduced and the most valuable resources of all (people) were lost. Rapid realignments of medium-term financial strategies were taking place up and down the country. Cuts were the order of the day and seen as the only salvation to enable survival. Preston had to come to terms with some of the deepest cuts on the national scale, 28 per cent over four years. Amidst all this commotion the government was continuing to set its green agenda and a generous package of incentives for a low carbon economy. The proverb says every cloud has a silver lining. This particular cloud was very big and very black. The silver lining in the form of incentives for renewables schemes took some time to emerge as a real possibility for the council to regroup and rebuild, ready to fight its own agenda again.

Preston had to come to terms with some of the deepest cuts on the national scale. The members of the council had long held high ambitions to be ahead of the game and be market leaders in many areas of work, not least in pursuing green aspirations. The initial phase for the council was to comply with the mandatory carbon reduction commitment. The Carbon Trust Standard was achieved through installing baseline automatic meter reading equipment, submitting audited reports to the carbon police (Environment Agency) and by displaying energy certificates. Further early work included an accommodation strategy which led to reduced desk space via a programme of agile working, concluding with the phased closure of some buildings. This produced financial savings in energy, rates and other associated running costs, with the advantage of a future capital receipt. 29

The council was now in a position to pursue elements of its resolution set out in 2008; namely production of energy from renewable sources.

Approach With policy documentation already well established and able to support renewable projects, the council adopted a business approach to its work under the ‘carbon neutral council’ corporate project. This means that to date all work has been justified with robust business plans that are transparent, with financial and environmental benefits balanced against a thorough assessment of risks. It is essential that account is taken of both financial and carbon savings (and any income generated) through these projects to enable a record of success to be developed for later use under the government’s Carbon Reduction Commitment scheme (CRC scheme). The basis for the ‘carbon neutral council’ project is a strong one, with important implications. However, which schemes fall within the project needs to be identified. Schemes fall under three themes: 1. energy efficiency 2. e nergy generation from renewable sources 3. p artnership working (other local authorities and private sector). Energy efficiency The first of the three themes primarily involves the government’s CRC Scheme but goes further to include vehicle fleet management. The council has agreed the five year capital programme for vehicle fleet replacement. A rolling programme of vehicle replacements will enable maintenance costs to be kept to a minimum and carbon and other emissions to be reduced via cleaner engine technology. The council has done much over the past 15 years in improving the energy efficiency of its buildings stock. This work needs to continue as technological advances are made in insulation materials and retro-fitting techniques. Secondary double glazing, additional insulation, heat pumps and water reduction systems can all be fitted if the business case allows and if a revenue stream can be identified

either through payback savings or a future revolving fund. Renewable energy Preston is ideally placed geographically to take advantage of natural resources, such as wind, hydro and solar energy, but it will need to invest significant capital sums in advance of realising both revenue and carbon payback over the longer-term. For the council to adopt a strategy which utilises all major forms of renewable energy technology, a ‘one step at a time’ approach is sensible. This enables the building of capacity to deliver this infrastructure using in-house resources as far as possible for the longterm benefit of the city.

It is essential that account is taken of financial and carbon savings to enable a record of success. The council currently consumes over £1.2 million of energy per annum and could realistically become self-sufficient at some point in the future. This would deliver a whole range of benefits for the authority, including: • energy security, which would be highly advantageous in the current economic climate • cost savings, including the achievement of better efficiency in the use of natural resources • economic development, in the creation of green jobs and business for Preston • demonstration of the council’s community leadership role using the green agenda • flexibility in the council’s own service operations in having the benefit of a good carbon performance • income generation directly attributable to energy generating activities • community engagement; opportunity for public buy-in to the council’s ambitious agenda for renewables. Solar energy The council holds assets for both operational and investment purposes. Both operational and investment stock is in the process of being surveyed for the suitability of installing solar photovoltaic

Renewable energy: showcase cells (PV cells). It is anticipated that a number of small-scale schemes can be supported by an investment from businesses, with the current Feed-in Tariff, (FiT). The council has already delegated authority to the cabinet member to agree schemes quickly as the need arises.

The council clearly cannot engage in projects such as these purely for profit. It is widely expected that the current FiT figure will be revised down by at least a third on the 31 March 2012. This is likely to cause a hiatus in the current scramble to get projects signed up prior to this date. However, technological advances in improved solar PV panel performance, coupled with price reductions, are likely to offset this negative impact. Energy from wind Energy from wind is already commercially proven, as demonstrated by the government’s huge investment in off-shore sites. The secretary of state for energy and climate change is now urging local authorities to get involved in the on-shore provision. Preston has to date undertaken exploratory work around the provision of wind turbines sited on council land. By way of example, should the council be able to site a small number of turbines on its land, the capital cost would be significant but with a commensurate return on investment per annum for a period of 20 years! The council clearly cannot engage in projects such as these purely for profit, so the council has identified a number of other motives as to why the project is necessary: the green agenda, community leadership, carbon benefit and security of supply. The current proposal for the council is to site up to three 3 MW turbines on land in its ownership. It is conservatively estimated that this will produce an output of over 22,000 MWh of energy, which is more than the annual energy consumption for the council. At an estimated cost of approximately £12 million, this is a hugely ambitious

project for a district council and carries significant risks that will need to be mitigated along the way. With the current government austerity programme beginning to bite, councils have to explore all possibilities of balancing their revenue positions to maintain and improve essential services for the communities they serve. Typical timescales to establish productive wind turbines of this scale are between two and four years, not least because of the planning processes involved. District energy networks As stated earlier, the government has ambitious plans for its green agenda. In order to meet its challenging targets set out in the Climate Change Act 2008, it needs to make big things happen. The Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) comes into effect in 2012 and it is anticipated that it will be supported by generous financial incentives. This will transform the business case for any energy network of this type.

confidence for both funders and others wishing to buy into future supply contracts. By way of example, an ESCO structure operating a mixed-use development of commercial, retail and some small residential element would create revenues from per kW sale of power, heating and cooling as well as benefiting from the RHI. Revenues can then be offset against operational costs of the infrastructure, fuel, insurance, maintenance, metering and billing services, customer services and plan replacement fund.

The right ESCO structure can be used to attract external funding. In conclusion Preston’s lights are burning brightly and the future is renewable!

With the current government austerity programme beginning to bite, councils have to explore all possibilities. A district energy network can provide heating and cooling for both domestic and commercial sectors. For Preston this is likely to be a longer-term project based on significant city centre regeneration activity, and probably would be delivered in partnership with developers. Energy Services Company (ESCO) If the council chooses to go down the route of major renewable energy schemes it will need to establish a separate company or companies structure in order to properly manage the arrangements. The ownership and composition of the company is something for the council to decide. It could own the ESCO completely or in partnership and use it to regulate and operate all its renewable schemes and projects. The right ESCO structure can be used to attract external funding to support the installation costs of major schemes. A strong operating partner provides

Mick Lovatt MCIOB, is Corporate Director for environment at Preston City Council. Mick is also a member of the Lancashire Environment Partnership and the council’s lead officer for the Carbon Neutral Council Project contained within the council’s corporate plan. Mick’s professional background is in construction management and, as a corporate member of the Chartered Institute of Building, has worked to embrace modern methods of construction, reducing waste and the environmental impact of service delivery. The Department for Environment at Preston City Council is a multidisciplined directorate of the council, with strategic and operational responsibility for housing, planning, wastes management, climate change, clean environment, environmental health, construction, engineering, parks and horticulture, property and other operational services. Preston City Council Town Hall, Preston PR1 2RL Tel: 01772 906 900 Email: Web:

Civic Energy


Energy infrastructure

© Flickr/Gidzy

For renewable energy technologies to work, a joined-up approach is needed.

Andy Johnston Local Energy

The importance of local public sector collaboration in delivering a low carbon Britain The party conferences 2011 gave little reassurance to investors in low carbon energy or energy efficiency. However, it became clear that many policies rely heavily upon a proactive lead from the public sector and that the logical outcome is local collaborations. The drivers for a local approach are geography, technology, efficiency, policy and finance. This article reflects on his experience of each party conference, summarises his impression of the mood and substance, and speculates on what the repercussions for local energy could be. The general spirit was the same at all three conferences this year: sombre and subdued. The economy and rising unemployment dominated everyone’s thoughts, with the public sector having the additional worry of the cuts. The Liberal Democrats engaged in a bit of Conservative bashing to cheer up the troops. Labour activists were mainly concerned with the performance of their leader and the impending cabinet reshuffle. The Conservatives tried very hard not to look pleased they were in 31

government and kept it low-key, in fact many Conservative activists held their own mini conference in a separate ‘Freedom Zone’.

The new environmental agenda The absence of the ‘Climate Clinic’, a fixture for many years, meant that the environmental profile was lower than usual. There were practically no debates on biodiversity, waste, air quality or

sustainable transport. However, three topics did get plenty of airing: planning; water and energy. Planning drew big crowds to debate the National Planning Policy Framework, with concern concentrated on sustainable development. Surprisingly, there were no clear party lines on this issue. At all the debates I attended, the wish to protect the countryside was tempered by a desire to allow development play its part in creating jobs and providing housing. In addition, making low carbon

Energy infrastructure infrastructure easier to install was cited by ministers as a big advantage. The December 2011 publication of a water White Paper generated more heat than light. The White Paper is expected to address tariffs, water poverty and competition in the sector. It is clear that water prices will continue to rise, which means that public sector bodies should think about adding water performance contracting to energy performance contracting.

The general spirit at all three conferences was sombre and subdued. The emphasis on energy was different at each conference. At the Liberal Democrats, Chris Huhne heavily promoted Green Deal as the flagship policy. It is worth remembering that big advantage of the Green Deal for policy makers is that it costs the government nothing. The Liberal Democrats also held a heated debate on new nuclear. At the Labour conference, Ed Miliband had already decided to attack the big six energy companies and, in addition, there was real concern about fuel poverty and new nuclear. Two strong energy themes emerged at the Conservative conference. The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) led the theme of Green Deal and the Treasury emphasised the belief that the low carbon transition would not harm jobs or economic growth.

government is Green Deal that they are willing to do a lot to make it work. They are willing to allow a much wider suite of technologies to be included and there is no cap on what can be invested. They also have belatedly recognised that in order to sell the ideas to the public, the local authority needs to be at the heart of the project. Most surprising was the encouragement to use the Energy Company Obligation not just as a gap-filler for the fuel-poor or those in difficult homes, but proactively as a way of unlocking neighbourhood approaches.

There was already enough DECC-generated uncertainty. In terms of rebrand, the rumours had already begun that the public are resistant to the word green, which is

perhaps seen as too worthy and not relevant in a recession. Therefore the scheme will be promoted as a property improvement investment. All this new thinking is probably still not enough and DECC are also looking at ‘nudge’ type incentives, such as rebates on council tax. Currently there is no news on whether councils will be recompensed for their generosity.

It will soon be possible to measure water, waste and energy with one unit – carbon. George Osborne’s intervention was the real worry. There was already enough DECC-generated uncertainty – the state aid debacle that delayed the non-domestic Renewable Heat Incentive scheme, the Feed-in Tariff review, the Renewables Obligation and

For Green Deal, the ‘adoption’ issue loomed over the enthusiastic hyperbole. The question being: if currently you can’t give energy efficiency away, why would anyone enter a new complex financial arrangement to get it? The ministerial response surprised many as it signalled a dramatic loosening of the policy shackles and a less surprising hint at a rebrand. So important to the

© Flickr/Akuppa

In order to sell the ideas to the public, the local authority needs to be at the heart of the project.

The environmental agenda might need a rebrand, due to concerns that the public are resistant to the word ‘green’.

Civic Energy


Energy infrastructure

Policy as a driver of collaboration • Th e Green Deal is one of the best examples of this. The Green Deal procurement process can be seen in the Official Journal of European Union notice put out by Birmingham Energy Savers. The notice includes 35 other public sector bodies that evidently see the logic of cooperating in procurement and delivery. •L ocal enterprise partnerships bring together the public and private sector across natural economic areas. In theory, this alignment should drive better cooperation towards the low carbon economy, in practice the jury is out. • Whilst not being a policy as we know it, ‘Big Society’ thinking will drive integration across the public sector. Local bodies, outside the state, focused on low carbon energy or energy efficiency, care little for public sector silos or budget protection. The Localism Bill will give them the power to challenge local public sector bodies in new ways.

the Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency Scheme simplification process. Whilst being annoying, the adjustments proposed by DECC are not fatal. The problem with George Osborne’s intervention is that it brings into question the government’s will. Despite these concerns, there are still many more opportunities in low carbon energy than there were a couple of years ago and it could be argued that uncertainty gives space for innovation and builds leadership.

Stream-lining efforts One big area of opportunity is collaboration and integration across the public sector, driven by geography, efficiency, policy, technology and finance.

‘Big Society’ thinking will drive integration across the public sector. Starting with geography or ‘place’, the localist agenda is driving local government through many changes, which impact upon other parts of the public sector. Public service delivery is becoming increasingly local and personalised, which has effects on resources. Rationalisation of the public estate, particularly between councils and the health sector, is gaining importance. The efficiency agenda requires public sector bodies to look at integration of their budgets and shared services. Understanding this process is nearing maturity within local government and health, but not yet across these sectors. Technology like combined heat and power (CHP), by its nature, joins users 33

up. Quite often CHP schemes start with public sector cooperation to provide the critical mass, then the private sector and property owners can join in. The roll out of energy efficient retrofitting works better as a street or neighbourhood project, rather than as a piecemeal scheme. Advances in assessment and data capture mean that it will soon be possible to measure water, waste and energy with one unit – carbon. Already Australia measures water in carbon terms and in Scotland waste is measured in carbon terms. For the first time, local decision makers will be able to look at their overall resource use and work more efficiently.

The cost of low carbon transition is an eye watering £200 billion. The biggest driver of collaboration is finance. The cost of low carbon transition is an eye watering £200 billion, in short order. This kind of money needs the City and the City needs big, clear, wellmanaged debts to finance and refinance. Upfront finance is needed for kit for Green Deal, solar photovoltaic and CHP schemes. Each of the schemes has a different repayment route. Public sector bodies need to collaborate to manage the investment and the payback so that the City can provide the cash.

Conclusion So does the combination of a raft of polices and local collaboration add up to a successful low carbon strategy? It is now the case that all stages of the energy supply chain have a direct or indirect policy to

drive a move to low carbon technologies. It is also the case that they have developed in a piecemeal way and cannot be joined up at national level, or by the private sector, into something meaningful and efficient.

The risk profile is such that only the public sector can act. It seems clear to me that coordinated local action led by the public sector in partnership with civil society and the private sector can deliver. In fact, thanks to the uncertainty created by DECC and George Osborne, the risk profile is such that only the public sector can act. Andy Johnston is the Chief Executive Officer of Local Energy and director at the Local Government Information Unit. He is responsible for developing strategy, policy and practical solutions for local authorities wishing to improve their environment. Andy was a councillor for eight years and chaired the planning committee for seven of those years. He was instrumental in the adoption of doorstep recycling and introducing sustainability into the local plan documents. Local Energy is a social enterprise established by the Local Government Information Unit in 2010 to manage the growing volume of work in carbon reduction, climate change and renewable energy. Local Energy Local Government Information Unit 22 Upper Woburn Place London WC1H 0TB Tel: 020 7554 2800 | Fax: 020 7554 2801 Email: Web:

Energy infrastructure

Š Flickr/ThinkGeoEnergy

Krafla geothermal energy power plant.

Peter Walker

Community heating: an opportunity for efficiency, carbon reduction and cost savings Community heating projects are coming of age, helped in no short measure by the prospect of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), but how can local authorities maximise the potential for their own successful projects and provide low cost, low carbon heat for their estates? This article provides solutions to these questions to suggest a realistic course of action for local authorities to make a more sustainable future for their communities. The UK has adopted challenging carbon reduction targets and committed to renewable energy targets that will require a significant change in the energy mix by 2020. Significant policies, most notably the Renewables Obligation (RO), the Feed-in Tariffs (FiT) and latterly the RHI, are

already in place to encourage additional renewable generation of both power and heat. If the UK is to deliver on its climate change targets, then there will need to be a substantive change in the efficiency of heat consumption and the associated production mix.

District heating District heating may be defined as the space and water heating of a number of buildings from a central plant or other heat source (such as geothermal or industrial waste heat). This technology has potential to contribute to the achievement of government targets. It can improve the efficiency of energy use, especially where the heat production involved exploits combined heat and power (CHP), or waste heat from existing power stations.

District heating also has the flexibility to accommodate heat from a variety of sources, including biomass, waste to energy and solar water heating.

District heating has the flexibility to accommodate heat from a variety of sources. The plant used for district heating can either be a CHP plant or a plant that only produces heat. The heat produced in this plant is delivered to the consumers as hot water through an insulated, double pipeline system. In some systems, steam is used instead of water, and, in some geothermal systems, only a single pipe is used. The heated water is carried in the forward pipe distribution system and, having given up its heat, the cooler water Civic Energy


Energy infrastructure returns to the plant in the other pipe for reheating. Any fuel or any source of surplus heat that can heat the water to 100ºC may be exploited in district heating systems. While district heating has been deployed in the UK since the 1950s, it has achieved only a low market penetration and currently provides less than two per cent of UK heat demand. This is in stark contrast to the position in many other European countries; in Finland and Denmark district heating is the dominant heat source, accounting for 49 per cent and 60 per cent of total heat supply respectively. Even when district heating makes a lower contribution to heat supply, it is often a major source of heat in larger cities. For example, district heating is responsible for only 18 per cent of total heat supply in Austria, but in Vienna it provides 36 per cent of the city’s heat supply, including over 270,000 domestic households, and with plans to extend the system.

In Finland and Denmark district heating is the dominant heat source. The main explanation of the low market penetration to date in the UK is the relatively high cost. However, there are some combinations of fuel sources and building types that can reduce the relative cost. These are, for example, where the district heating scheme: • uses waste heat from conveniently sited power stations, since the heat is essentially produced at very low marginal cost; • replaces electric heating systems and; • supplies to commercial premises, high heat load buildings and high rise flats in high heat density areas; • where an incentive scheme for heat from renewable sources can support a project.

Tackling energy inefficiency District heating can be combined with electricity generation to create a more efficient total energy utility. Conventional condensing power stations generally utilise less than 40 per cent of the fuel they burn for electricity generation. Over 60 per cent is lost in flue gases and in cooling tower or cooling water. Much of this waste energy can be reclaimed by recirculating hot water or steam to buildings, for space heating or industrial processes, giving an overall efficiency of about 85 per cent. Waste heat can also be used to drive chillers for cooling. The difference in fuel efficiency between CHP plants and condensing power plants can be illustrated with the example below: For each eight ‘barrels of energy’ consumed in a combustion plant: • o ne ‘barrel of energy’ is lost through the chimney or in the plant • t hree ‘barrels of energy’ are converted to useful electricity • f our ‘barrels of energy’ are wasted in cooling systems OR • f our ‘barrels of energy’ are converted to useful district heating. relative to conventional heating systems annually. Where district heating networks can achieve a high penetration (in the region of 80 per cent) in a built up area, the carbon abatement costs of district heating options can be better than the most cost effective stand alone renewable technology. Studies suggest that waste heat from power plants is the most economic heat source for district heating. This presupposes that the heat load is large enough and close enough to the power station for the transmission of waste heat not to be excessively expensive. In cities and urban areas, district heating is one of the best economically and environmentally competitive alternatives to individual heating from

oil or gas. When coupled with generation of electricity in CHP, district heating is beyond comparison.

In urban areas, district heating is one of the best economically competitive alternatives to oil and gas. The World Commission on Environment and Development has explained the issues in the extensive report Our Common Future. It states: “An important method of heating buildings is by hot water produced during electricity production and piped around whole districts, providing both heat and hot water...the cogeneration of heat and

The main advantage of moving to district heating or renewable technologies is expected to be the carbon savings they can deliver. We can calculate that a district heating network covering 250,000 households may save up to 0.25 Mt carbon dioxide, 35

Boiler at Camp Erdele, Vinceza, Italy – with a cogeneration unit to produce heat and power from waste heat.

© Flickr/USACE Europe District

Reaping the benefits

Energy infrastructure electricity could revolutionise energy efficiency of buildings worldwide.” District heating meets the diverse thermal energy needs of residential, commercial and industrial users. Thermal energy needs include: space heating for maintaining human comfort, domestic hot water requirements and manufacturing plant process heating, amongst others. District heating has an energy efficiency that leads to reduced pollution, especially for areas of high population density areas. Once established, the system can also be connected to other efficient sources of heating or cooling, such as industries or cool water sources.

Encouraging local authorities Combined production of heat, power and cooling has enormous potential for communities throughout the UK. The technology is proven and would be relatively simple to satisfy a substantial part of the energy demand. If we accept the benefit of district heating systems, then it is a small step to realising the potential this approach can bring to local authorities, who have much to offer in support of the installation of localised heat networks: • they heat many buildings (civic buildings, leisure facilities, schools and housing); • they control planning and can aggregate developments against a heat network strategy; • they can provide leadership and education around the advantages of connecting to a district wide system; • they can provide the focus for funding into a renewable and low carbon energy solution.

With the control of the generation of heat also comes the potential to alleviate fuel poverty. The benefits of community heating are not just around efficiencies and carbon savings of course. With the control of the generation of heat also comes control of the charges for that heat and the potential to alleviate fuel poverty in the community.

A road map for community heating schemes 1. Assess the local authority estate. What heat loads exist, and where? What is the total annual heat demand across the estate that could be sensibility reached by a heat network? 2. Where could an energy centre(s), containing generation plant, be located? 3. What other loads could be reached, over which the local authority has some influence? This could include new developments of commercial or residential buildings, where planning gain could be provided for, to connect them into a local area heat network. 4. What heat (and possible power) source could be utilised? What supply chains exist for waste (to provide waste to energy), or biomass in the community? 5. What advisers do we need to support the process, for example, engineers, planners, cost consultants, lawyers and business planners? 6. What ownership structure should be put in place for the assets and network? An Energy Services Company should be set up to manage the operation of the energy delivery, including maintenance, metering and billing. 7. Formulate a business plan and financial model which allows the variables of the systems design, build and operation to be modeled. This financial model allows the stakeholders to see the impact of the RHI, a crucial line of revenue, which can help support the project and increase levels of capitalisation. The RHI will provide an additional unit rate paid against heat produced (in kWh) from renewable sources. 8. Build a funding plan with options for financing the installation and create a compelling case for a return on that investment. This is essential whether the funding is internal or external. Therefore the key components that a local authority should look for to assess the potential for a heat network(s) in their community are illustrated in the box above.

Conclusion The potential for heat networks in the community is huge but what commercial elements must we be cautious of during the development process? Certainly of paramount importance is a comprehensive financial model. This will show the impact of revenue (heat loads) and costs (fuel and feedstock).

Of paramount importance is a comprehensive financial model. If the central plant is to run on waste or biomass, then the feedstock contracts and their security and longevity become very important, as well as critical forward cost curves. The legal validity of the community scheme is also essential, and a sustainable and comprehensive suite of legal documentation should be prepared,

including consumer agreements, fuel supply contracts and power purchase agreements. As with all projects, a clear understanding of what success looks like, a destination for the stakeholders to agree on, and plan for, is vital. This provides the means for measurement and control. Community energy projects, supported by the range of incentives, in particular the RHI, will provide local authorities with significant opportunities to reduce carbon emissions and improve security of supply, as well as reduce costs. However, a clear and well thought out business plan and route map is essential if all the key variables are to be controlled and optimised.

Peter Walker has been involved in low carbon and renewable energy businesses for the last ten years. Latterly, he has focussed on community energy networks and the funding of low carbon solutions for new developments through EcoCentroGen Ltd and has also been involved in wind and solar project development. Email:

Civic Energy



© Matt Trevaskis

Citroën C-Zero at Canary Wharf, London.

Matt Trevaskis ecodrive

Electric vehicles and charging infrastructure 2011 has been touted as the ‘Year of the Electric Car’ – the year in which stereotypically tiny, underpowered, compromise-laden models are finally superseded by contemporary, appealing vehicles sporting all creature comforts, with impressive performance and the technology to give them mass appeal. This article examines the burgeoning market for electric vehicles (EVs) in the UK, the incentives from central government and how local authorities can both integrate EVs into their own fleets and promote and encourage their use in their areas by businesses and individuals. How life with an EV differs from that with a conventional vehicle is also discussed, as well as the potential financial and carbon savings. This time the expectations should not be underestimated, with big names such as Nissan, Mitsubishi, Peugeot-Citroën, Mercedes-Smart and BMW, and innovative dot-com, nouveau-rich, billionairebacked start-ups all staking millions (and reputations) on bringing EVs to market. They promise vehicles that we will actually want to drive, with levels of comfort, performance and safety on a par with conventional vehicles. They propose cars that are easily capable of a modest daily commute and that are mostly motorway friendly, however briefly. However, the vehicles are only one 37

half of the equation; the other half being the recharging infrastructure to support these vehicles and give potential users the confidence to take the leap to adopt one – or a fleet of them.

The Office for Low Emission Vehicles The Government’s pan-Whitehall Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) has existed since 2009 to promote EVs (and other low carbon vehicles) and the environmental benefits that they bring. OLEV also encourages the UK automotive industry to lead in EV

research and development, supply chain and manufacturing. OLEV’s constituent make up is from the DfT, DECC and BIS, and OLEV associated spin-off deals have included helping to secure Nissan’s future EV manufacturing for the whole European market in the UK’s North-East region. There are two distinct capital projects within OLEV: one is the ‘Plug-In Car Grant’ – a consumer incentive scheme live since January 2011. This offers a £5,000 subsidy towards the purchase (or lease) of a qualifying low carbon car, to make the cost to early adopters more equitable with that of a conventional vehicle. The scheme did not escape unscathed from the recent public finance cuts and whilst originally slated to run for five years, so far only the pro-rata funds until March 2012 have been assured. Crucially, this scheme is available to fleets as well as private car buyers and is administered simply at the point-of-sale by the dealer, who knocks £5,000 off the price and claims it back from HM Treasury. We will return to OLEV’s other side, investing in the infrastructure, later.

The cars The announcement in January 2011 of the first nine cars to qualify for the £5,000 grant included vehicles that have yet to go into full production and are only due to become available in 2012, although a few early examples are around in demonstration fleets.

The vehicles are only one half of the equation; the other half being the recharging infrastructure. Those available right now include the Nissan Leaf, Mitsubishi i-MiEV, Peugeot iOn and Citroën C-Zero. Those coming later include Mercedes Smart ED and Tata Vista. Extended range electric vehicles will also become available, notably the Vauxhall Ampera and very closely related Chevrolet Volt, which are designed to have a modest electriconly range but with the potential for longer journeys, with the assistance of a combustion-engined generator. There will also be a revised, plug-in capable Toyota Prius Hybrid.

Transportation Across the cars, the finance models will vary. Some will only be available on lease, whilst others available to purchase. Some, such as the Renault Fluence ZE (‘Zero Emission’), will be available to purchase but with the battery leased so it may be renewed or upgraded easily. Some low volume but exciting vehicles, such as the Lotus-derived Tesla Roadster, are not included, but at a price of £85,000 plus, it is doubtful that £5,000 really makes a difference to potential purchasers! Other models are expected to be added to the approved list as their UK launch dates approach – some early preproduction vehicles have already been shown in public.

The saving grace of any model is the ability to recharge in a ‘reasonable’ period. Light commercial vehicles (LCVs), not currently eligible for the funding, have not received such press coverage but are equally exciting to the public sector fleet. For several years, a handful of British companies, the most reputable having longstanding ‘coach-building’ and industrial vehicle engineering experience, have been converting LCVs up to Transitsized vans, minibuses and, more recently, even 7.5 tonne trucks. Whilst these vehicles are inevitably more expensive than the conventional vehicles from which they are adapted, they have proven that electric commercial vehicles are a practicable option. Although more slowly than with the car sector, the mainstream vehicle manufacturers are starting to show interest in producing their own models from the factory. This should permit overall lifecycle running costs at least on a par with a conventional model.

vans or cars covering predictable routes or daily circuits, but also opens up new opportunities for both types of vehicles, tailored to the characteristics of the EVs, such as pool cars or shuttles between satellite sites. These options illustrate how flexible an EV could be, such that it could be used in a more general-purpose role. With advances in lighter and smaller battery technology, it is quite possible to produce a vehicle with a range in the order of 200 miles per charge (such as the Tesla Roadster). However, thus far, manufacturers of mainstream vehicles have generally chosen to target the modest urban roles, which it is assumed most vehicles will undertake. The ‘down time’ expected for most EVs to recharge is at least several hours in any 24 hour period. This will usually be overnight, which is more environmentally friendly since there is lower demand on the national grid at that time. Therefore, most EVs will usually begin every day with a full charge, good for a practical 60 to 100 miles with current models. Vehicles can sometimes be used in roles requiring around the clock usage, though this needs additional consultation. Some care must be exercised when referencing the official, published ‘range’ figure as required by a European directive: whilst the published figure can be achieved, it is only in the particular circumstance of urban, low-speed driving. In other circumstances, further qualification is necessary.

The saving grace of any model where the range may fall short of desirable is the ability to recharge in a ‘reasonable’ period. European cars spend, on average, 23 hours per day parked. If charging is available during this time, tens of extra miles of driving energy can be added.

The psychological value of visible, appropriate charging infrastructure should not be underestimated. The ability and facility to recharge extra quickly, such as from empty to 80 per cent in 30 minutes, further adds cost, either to the vehicle or the recharging infrastructure or both – proving that an economy of scale and coordination of vehicles, standardised chargers and usage planning are significant factors to bear in mind. As far as the average private driver will be concerned, it is highly likely that the vast majority of recharging energy will be taken during the normal overnight charge. Therefore the infrastructure needs to reflect mostly the rare, infrequent trips that fall outside of normal behaviour. In a domestic situation the requirement for overnight charging implies the necessity of a garage or driveway, although other solutions, such as kerbside recharging, are workable – with the willingness of the local authorities concerned. In a fleet, either private or Nissan LEAF with a rapid charger, in Lisbon.

Living with an EV

© Matt Trevaskis

Whether it is a commercial vehicle or a passenger vehicle, the key to successfully using an EV in more than a trivial, self-effacing role, is to either define the daily duties that the vehicle(s) shall undertake or provide the correct type of recharging infrastructure, on a suitable scale, to enable the flexibility to rival a conventional model. This can be easier for Civic Energy


Transportation public sector, it is generally easy to manage overnight charging on a ‘controlled’ site. The psychological value of visible, appropriate charging infrastructure ‘away from home’ should not be underestimated in convincing individuals or organisations to consider switching to EVs – and to be confident that they can work for them.

Mitsubishi i-MiEV in front of St Michael’s Mount Cornwall.

It is widely acknowledged that there is currently no wholly economically viable model for providing public recharging infrastructure. Early adopters of the first mass EVs to market have largely taken them on without knowing the future locations of charging infrastructure. For mass appeal, a critical number of the right kind of charging points need to be installed in the right locations. The masses will not embrace EVs until there is enough charging infrastructure, yet there is no business case for installing infrastructure until there are enough cars on the roads. The other side to OLEV is the Pluggedin Places (PiP) match funding grant scheme that complements the vehicle incentive to confront the chicken-andegg situation head-on and kick-start the necessary infrastructure to permit nontrivial use of EVs.

The masses will not embrace EVs until there is enough charging infrastructure. It has attracted applications on a variety of scales, from single cities to consortias of multiple council areas, Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) and the devolved nations; combining the public sector lead with private sector partners – both in the automotive industry and those partners who will host, or use, the infrastructure. The scheme is closed to new applicants, but the spending of the allocated £30 million fund will continue until March 2013. The first round, awarded in January 2010, saw London, Milton Keynes and the now defunct One North East RDA blaze a trail in planning and beginning to install the first infrastructure with a common vision. The second round winners were: Coventry-Birmingham, Greater Manchester, the central Scotland 39

© Matt Trevaskis

Plugged-In Places

corridor from Glasgow to Edinburgh, Northern Ireland and the expanse of the East of England. These will blanket their respective parts of the country with some degree of infrastructure, although each area’s strategy is different. These recharging stations, largely accessed via a wireless key-ring tag, will be a mix of facilities from inexpensive, low power sites, for relatively slow recharging, to rapid charge units at short-stay locations, for a 10 to 30 minute top-up. This will enable both longer journeys and intensive regional usage alike. These facilities will be located at the kerbside, in public and office car parks and adjacent to amenities, such as retail parks. There will still be huge parts of the country, including all of Wales, the wider South West and Southern counties, with no ‘official’ coverage. Spreading to these areas, without central government support, is not impossible, but action must be carefully planned and implemented, and of sufficient scale to ensure that it is not a white elephant. Some areas, after being unsuccessful in securing PiP funding, have reshaped their plans to account for less funding. The mandate for a national charging network, made under the last government, was rescinded in recent budget cuts. This may be seen as a blow to the advancement of EVs, but we are confident that infrastructure will continue to grow anyway, albeit more slowly. The first private sector charging infrastructure project has just been announced to complement PiP.

One of the fallacies of a national, ‘complete’ infrastructure is the misguided belief that it will enable cross-country trips by EV. Whilst possible, since seamless interoperability is a key requirement of PiP funding awardees, it is unlikely to be a common undertaking. What it will mean is that ‘roaming’ into neighbouring cities, districts or counties is possible and makes regional trips of 200 to 300 miles in a day quite practical.

The local authority experience Many local authorities have experimented with EVs in the past; mostly the car and van offerings from the large French manufacturers in the late nineties and early noughties. Although the battery technology back then offered a range of around only half that of today’s vehicles, they were very capable, well-engineered vehicles.

Local authorities should approach these vehicles with an open mind. Their potential was never fully realised. This was in part due to lack of promotion, education and understanding, especially in the UK. Many vehicles were abandoned or destroyed, having barely notched up a five-figure mileage. Local authorities who had either a less-than-positive experience the ‘last time around,’ or expect little more from

Transportation the new generation, should approach these vehicles with an open mind and seek support and advice in planning the deployment of the new vehicles. Depending on the geographical extent of the area and the duty required of a vehicle, the infrastructure can be costeffective if solely for private use, or dovetail with public provision very effectively. Emerging ‘standards’ of how future vehicles will be able to charge more quickly, conveniently and cheaply in different locations are influencing the specification of charging stations to ensure that they are future-proof. This entails addressing plug-socket standards and the attempt to make ‘world’ vehicles to work with different electrical specifications and conventions across the globe.

A vehicle is certainly approaching zero carbon with on-site micro-generation. Where ‘non PiP’ local authorities can take comfort is that some of the PiP funded areas have had to install ‘legacy’ equipment in the full knowledge that they will have to go back next year to update or replace it. Local authorities planning infrastructure now can be confident in their decisions that, with care and advice, they can guard against unnecessary re-working and obsolescence. Recently revised specifications from OLEV indicate a consensus agreement is being reached within the industry.

Cost and carbon Introducing a fleet of EVs in appropriate roles is a very visible and tangible example of a local authority’s efforts and commitment to lowering their carbon impact. To evaluate the financial case compared to conventional vehicles, the total cost of ownership of the vehicle, including purchase or lease price, reduced maintenance, zero road tax, battery leasing costs and congestion charge exemption where applicable, tax writedown allowances (for companies) and energy costs of approximately one-sixth of conventional fuel must be weighed together, factoring in expected mileage.

An EV covering a token annual mileage will undoubtedly cost more to run. At around average mileages, the EV starts to compete with the conventional vehicle and then the cost savings kick in. For example, at higher mileages EVs can be cost-neutral, despite relatively high purchase prices, even before tax benefits. If the daily duty of the vehicle is predictable, these kinds of mileages should be easily achievable with little additional provision in terms of infrastructure. If it is less well defined, it is still achievable depending on daytime ‘down time’ and the location(s) where the vehicle will likely be for these periods. Any potential carbon savings will, of course, depend on where the electricity is sourced. Whilst there is no need to invest in your own photovoltaic solar panels or wind turbines, such installations are another very visual aid to exemplify the holistic efforts undertaken. Without such provision, a ‘green’ or ‘renewable’ tariff will minimise carbon impact. Even on a standard tariff, with the general UK grid mix of different generating sources, the carbon impact is already approximately halved compared to a conventional vehicle. Whilst it is unwise to claim that a vehicle is completely benign on a green tariff, it is certainly approaching zero carbon with on-site microgeneration. Where a renewable energy installation generates more than the energy demand of a site, the excess energy can be diverted into parked EVs, further lowering the cost of the energy consumed which would otherwise be ‘exported’ to the grid at either very little or no financial benefit. An appropriately sized renewable energy installation can take full advantage of the Feed-in Tariff (FiT) and provide very cheap energy to boot. At the old limit for FiT photovoltaic projects, the annual generation of a 5 MW solar farm of around 5,000,000 kWh per annum (figures based on the highest irradiance levels, in the south-west UK) provides approximately enough energy for 15 to 20 million vehicle miles, based on a hatchback car or small van – or around 1,500 vehicles covering 12,000 miles per annum. Factoring in seasonal generation variation, even in winter this would support around 500 vehicles.

The electric vehicle is here to stay. We need it to succeed – as the lowest carbon intensity form of private transport. The future integration with more renewable energy – and enabling greater use of renewables due to the vehicles’ ability to absorb energy and give it back to the grid – means that they redefine the picture of energy generation and usage.

The electric vehicle is here to stay. We need it to succeed. There is still room for improvement in battery technology, with dedicated research and development, and knock-on effects from the development of consumer electronics. Vehicles will certainly get better range in future. But they are here now and they are already very good. We highly recommend experiencing them for yourself!

Matthew Trevaskis is the Director of ecodrive and began personally using production electric vehicles in 1999. He has exclusively owned EVs since 2006, covering over 80,000 miles in total. He was the Technical Advisor to Cornwall Council in their bid for Plugged-in Places and he has published several articles on EV charging. He has further co-designed and delivered dealer network EV sales training for several well-known car manufacturers across Europe. ecodrive offer a multi-disciplinary consultancy ranging from new vehicle launch and dealer training for the EV industry, to fleet analysis and EV selection advice for the public and private sectors, to infrastructure planning and EV driver training. ecodrive PO Box 255 Penzance Cornwall TR18 9AA Tel: 0845 466 3835 Fax: 0845 466 4624 Email: Web:

Civic Energy


Energy efficiency

© Creative Concern

The power of a good communications strategy to support renewables audiences, for which Wrexham employed Creative Concern to help to write and deliver their Solar Power Communications campaign. It was agreed that information about the process would maximise the benefit to the both the council and tenants. The council also wanted to provide the opportunity for people to talk about the project and help influence the way it was delivered.

Communicating the campaign

One of Wrexham’s campaign leaflets.

Andrew Peacock Creative Concern Communications is a tool that can be used to effect change. Whether it is raising awareness, shifting attitudes or motivating people and organisations to take action, communications is a means to an end. To be effective it needs to be well-targeted, highly efficient and thoroughly creative in the solutions, propositions and ideas it presents. Finding the right channels to reach an audience is only part of the answer; a strong campaign also needs a clear consistent message that combines what people need to know, with what you want to tell them. A strong communications campaign can mean the difference between success and failure for many public facing projects. This article examines some of the key components of a good communication strategy, through the lens of Wrexham County Borough Council’s project to install solar photovoltaic (PV) panels on 3,000 council-owned domestic properties across Wrexham.

The Wrexham example In one of the biggest projects of its kind in the UK, Wrexham County Borough Council is currently installing around 3,000 solar PV panels onto its domestic and non-domestic property portfolio in an initiative costing in the region of £20 million. The council has an ambitious carbon reduction plan: 50 per cent by 2016. Tackling its housing stock, which accounts for a massive 59 per cent of its total emissions, plays an inevitably large part. 41

In many ways the project is a win-win for the council. Not only will tenants save money by generating some of their own electricity, the council makes a substantial income – £1 million a year for the next 25 years – that it can invest back into delivering council services. Then there is the environmental benefit: a reduction in emissions by 75,000 tonnes of carbon over the project’s lifetime. It was understood at an early stage that the project would require a strong communications campaign to reach its

As communications campaigns go, telling homeowners they are about to save hundreds of pounds on their electricity bill may seem like an easy sell, but it would be wrong to assume all residents would react with the same level of enthusiasm, without concerns about what it would mean to their daily lives. The first stage is for the project team to identify the audiences and communications objectives for each one. Tenants getting solar panels The council wanted tenants whose homes will receive PVs as part of the project to: • understand the project, the technology and the reasons why the council was doing it • feel suitably informed and ‘warmed up’ to allow the technical partner access to the property to install the PVs • be engaged with the project and the wider issue of climate change • get the best from PVs through behavioural change – such as using energy in the day while its being generated.

The council wanted to provide the opportunity for people to talk about the project. Tenants not getting solar panels Out of the 3,900 properties identified in an initial survey, not all will go on to receive PVs. The council wanted to make sure tenants: • understand the selection process is fair and transparent

A spread from a Wrexham campaign brochure.

© Creative Concern

Energy efficiency communications strategy is to find out what your audience is thinking. Without this kind of crucial intelligence the entire campaign would be based on guesswork and reactive measures. Four representative focus groups were arranged for the initial testing: residents that we knew would be getting PVs; those that would not; Wrexham County Borough Council housing staff; and the general public. Questions varied between groups, but these discussions gave insight into a range of issues including how people felt about the project, likely barriers to it, knowledge and understanding of both solar power technology and climate change, and preferred methods of communication.

Branding and messaging • s how how the council is a leader on this With the focus testing complete, we were issue able to refine our understanding of our • inspire others to take energy saving action. audiences and messaging. It was clear residents were The council wants all residents of overwhelmingly positive about the Wrexham to think about the bigger picture campaign; using the communications of a changing climate and how it will have to create strong buy-in from tenants a growing impact on their lives. regarding PV technology would not be necessary. There was still, however, Do ask, do tell uncertainty around its safety and A good starting point for any reliability.

© Creative Concern

• have the opportunity to make savings through other green measures provided by the council • do not feel unfairly treated. Staff, stakeholders, the media and general The council and Creative Concern also aim to communicate with a range of wider audiences to: • ensure staff feel supported and informed • promote the project and the wider council agenda

Civic Energy


Energy efficiency

People did not know the reasons for the project, with some thinking it was simply a PR drive. Getting the branding right was another fundamental element. The council already has a strong recognisable environmental brand, People Power, which was extended for the solar campaign. People Power is a campaign that uses various means of communication to inform Wrexham about the council’s carbon reduction activity, raise awareness about the wider issues and inspire others to take action to reduce energy use.

The strategic approach It would be unrealistic to believe a blanket communications campaign with a set of singular messages would reach the levels of penetration the council was aiming for. The brand and messaging gave the look and feel of the campaign. The next stage was to communicate it in a simple and direct way through a suite of communications packages. Council publications, delivered to all tenants in social housing, ran a series of articles about the campaign. A pre-installation leaflet was sent directly to tenants who might receive PVs. It explained the project and next steps. A generic brochure covering climate change, the project, council activity and everything else related to the project was also commissioned. This was made available to all audiences through events and the technical partner. Of course, not everyone absorbs information in the same way. Production of a DVD, distributed to all 3,900 tenants, offered an alternative and helped them understand how to use the technology with some ‘top tips’. The DVD was put into a CD display case style leaflet, which 43

explained behavioural change benefits and highlighted some other messaging around council activity and climate change generally. The DVD was also sent to the council’s internal stakeholders. A small website, www. hosts all the relevant information and gives an opportunity for feedback; all the other marketing material signposts to this website. For those tenants initially identified as suitable, who did not go on to receive PVs, a Green Doctor service was made available (in partnership with Groundwork North Wales). Green Doctor provides lots of money saving advice and even installs energy saving measures in homes, free of charge.

Good communications has to be an honest representation of the aims of the campaign Eleven events were run across targeted areas, giving people the chance to ask questions, experience the technology and find out more. The Green Doctor service was also represented at the events. Internal resources are being used to keep staff and stakeholders aware of the project. These include presentations, briefings, use of the intranet and internal magazines. The DVD was also distributed widely within the council. A full PR campaign is running throughout, reaching out to tenants and promoting the project and council agenda more widely.

A leaflet from the campaign.

© Creative Concern

People did not know the reasons the council had for implementing the project, with some thinking it was simply a PR drive. Few participants knew how they would need to change their behaviour to get the most from the panels. These were all issues that would need to be directly addressed in the communications campaign.

A sunny outlook The full success of the communications campaign won’t be known until after the final evaluation, but the signs are positive and ongoing feedback so far is encouraging. Good communications is not just a slogan or a strap line with a colourful badge attached. It has to be an honest representation of the aims of the campaign – in this case, that the people of Wrexham and the council can work together to make a difference in the fight against climate change. And if we can all save a few quid in the process, there’s no harm in that either. Jonathan Edwards, Wrexham Borough Council, writes about the Wrexham experience on page 16.

Andrew Peacock has worked in communications for over decade and with Creative Concern since 2008. He specialises in the development and delivery of large integrated communications campaigns. This involves production of strategic planning documents, managing events, public relations work, copywriting, and overseeing a range of web-builds and design work. Andrew manages some key accounts, including the BBC, the University of Manchester, Manchester Electric Car Company and The Co-operative Group. Creative Concern is an award-winning ethical communications agency. They deliver across different disciplines and platforms and have an extensive client base which includes the BBC, NHS, Co-operative Group, Groundwork, Lancashire Wildlife Trust, Friends of the Earth, Riverside Housing, ENWORKS, University of Manchester, Leeds City Region, Manchester City Football Club and the Forestry Commission. Creative Concern, Fifth floor, Fourways House, 57 Hilton Street, Manchester M1 2EJ Tel: 0161 236 0600 | Fax: 0161 247 7774 | Email: Web:

© Flickr/ Team Massachusetts

Training and skills

Paul O’ Brien Association for Public Excellence (APSE)

Creating a revolving fund for solar photovoltaic technology Using solar photovoltaic (PV) panels to generate electricity is now one of the leading areas of renewable technology and this solution has been proved commercially successful around the world. Solar PV works in the UK, despite its cooler climate than Europe, and the government has introduced new financial incentives for qualifying PV schemes, whether public or private sector. This article deals with the findings of the APSE report on the creation of a revolving fund for solar PV technology; a fund that allows local authorities to benefit fully from the government’s financial incentives and not have to rely on the ‘rent a roof’ options. The outlook for the public sector at the end of 2010 was not good; the UK had slid into a serious recession, which combined with the banking crisis, had led to a budgetary crisis in the public finances not seen for many years. This caused morale in local government to dip; people worried about their jobs, the services they provided and the potential to continue to deal with an ever-increasing workload. A year later, there is still very much the need for some light at the end of the tunnel. Climate change is a pressing new agenda. It has existed for some time but has come to the fore because of increasing greenhouse

gas emissions targets, both nationally and internationally, and the creation of new financial incentives by the government.

Using solar PV panels has been proved commercially successful around the world. Local authorities need to be part of this agenda, but chief officers in local authorities have been slow to switch on to its significance. One of the reasons why it is so important is that it offers

huge local opportunities, as well as new burdens. Each local authority should develop a holistic climate change strategy, setting targets and goals, building a route map towards them, and coming up with projects that form the steps on that path. A corporate approach is vital. Local authorities have everything that they need to make the most of the green agenda: buildings to convert, workforces to undertake the work and the capacity to borrow money to fund such works. This is a chance to create a new opportunity and make changes that benefit areas and are self -funding. It is literally a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity.

Managing the obstacles In any major renewable energy project, the two major risks are obtaining planning permission and achieving a connection to the National Grid. Fortunately, a grid connection is not a problem with buildings; although planning permission is likely to be required. Civic Energy


Training and skills Smaller PV schemes are also subject to the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS), which is an internationally recognised quality assurance scheme that demonstrates to customers that companies engaged in PV installation work are committed to meeting rigorous and tested standards. Obviously for a local authority direct services team to undertake this work, it needs to become an MCS certificated installer and to use products also certificated under the MCS. None of these hurdles should present a problem to a local authority team already undertaking substantial building maintenance work, as proven by Swindon Commercial Services, a company wholly owned by Swindon Borough Council. The best way of managing the PV installation is the ‘DIY option’, where by the authority literally does it itself. This means it recruits and trains the people who will do the work, both preparatory and delivery; obtains the supplies and equipment itself, using its existing sustainable procurement processes; and gives active consideration to how the local economy can benefit at every stage.

There are significant benefits for any local authority that engages in renewable energy generation. These include: • community leadership • energy security • carbon benefits • effectiveness and efficiency • economic benefits • income generation.

officers or members, schools or tenants) would get the electricity created by the PV panels free. 7. As some stage, the income coming into the revolving fund from the fitted installations will be sufficient to continue to fund the operation of the team moving forwards; in other words, the operation becomes self-sustainable. 8. Calculations need to be undertaken as to the value of the initial capital investment, as opposed to the size and speed at which the teams would exist and operate. 9. Once the operation becomes selfsustainable, it can simply carry on A revolving fund until all the council’s buildings have The authority wants to get the maximum been fitted with solar PV installations value out of its project. To achieve this, it and thereafter offer services to other needs to create a ‘revolving fund’, where public bodies and to the public at large. the total capital investment is recycled Consequently, work for a number of time after time to achieve maximum effect. additional years may be obtained for the Here is how a revolving fund project highly trained, skilled and experienced might be structured: workforce that has been created. 1. The council starts the revolving fund by depositing an amount of capital into the APSE has been involved in direct services PV account of the new buildings. It is for over 25 years and for most of that time up to the authority how much this is. the services have been under threat. 2. The council would recruit a manual It was mentioned earlier that this is a workforce and get it trained to the MCS ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’. It is a very accreditation standards. long time indeed, since an opportunity 3. The council needs to develop a schedule to create some new civic infrastructure of its buildings and work plan. has come along. An opportunity to enjoy 4. Arrangements need to be put in place growth as opposed to cuts; to create new to procure the solar panel kits and other skills, as opposed to a skills drain; to have a equipment necessary for the work to go wider and wholly positive impact on other ahead. areas of the council’s operation, rather than 5. The work plan needs to determine the being just a recharged central cost. This priority of buildings, although this is up proposal offers all of those things. to the authority. As a post-script, it is essential that the 6. As installations are completed and proposed changes to the FiTs are fully linked to the grid, the Feed-in Tariff understood. Everyone knows that the FiT (FiT) income would start to accrue to rates will go down from April 2012, but the council’s PV account. The occupants not all local authorities seem to appreciate of the buildings (whether the council’s that the level of the reductions might be 45

significant. If this is the case, then there is a very strong business case for undertaking solar PV work to a local authority’s housing, schools and other civic buildings before the end of March 2012.

It is a very long time indeed, since an opportunity to create some new civic infrastructure has come along. Even if the costs of doing so are more (although this is unlikely because solar panel prices are dropping), the benefit of a higher FiT rate for a full 25 years, substantially outweighs this. If ever there was a justification for pulling out all of the stops and acting urgently, this is it. Many authorities have worked this out and are now pressing forwards with this work. It is likely that there will be a surge during early Spring on public sector schemes.

Paul O’ Brien has been the Chief Executive of APSE for over ten years. His representation of APSE includes, but is not limited to, on the Scottish Executive Health and Physical Activity Council, the Office of the Deputy Prime Ministers and the Strategic Partnership Taskforce. He has given evidence to various parliamentary select committees and participated in numerous lobbying meetings with government ministers, whilst representing APSE. Paul has over 26 years experience in local government and previously worked with South Lanarkshire Council in the areas of compulsive competitive tendering and best value. Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE) represents more than 250 councils providing front-line services across the UK. Promoting excellence in public services, APSE is a specialist in local authority front line services, hosting a network for front line service providers in areas such as waste and refuse collection, parks and environmental services, leisure, school meals, cleaning, housing and building maintenance. Association for Public Service Excellence 2nd floor, Washbrook House, Lancastrian Office Centre, Talbot Road, Old Trafford, Manchester M32 0FP Tel: 0161 772 1810 | Fax: 0161 772 1811 Email: Web:

Training and skills

The new green team David Arnold, UNISON and Paul O’Brien, Association for Public Excellence (APSE) Climate change and the economic downturn are fundamental problems facing the public sector. Sustainable energy projects offer a chance to address them simultaneously and local authorities are uniquely placed to bring together these two pressing agendas. Councils can take the lead on sustainable energy as they have a key role in carbon reduction, economic development, procurement, asset management and planning – not to mention being major local employers. This article examines the findings of a research report, launched by UNISON, that investigated how well-equipped local authorities are to take forward sustainable energy initiatives that can provide significant job creation. It also looks at barriers that are in their way. UNISON’s research report, launched in October 2011, discussed local government’s sustainable energy activities and aspirations, and obstacles that are currently standing in their way. The report is based on a comprehensive survey of local authorities, interviews with practitioners and experts, accompanied by case studies. The new green team: Local government, sustainable energy, jobs and skills was produced for UNISON by the Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE) and is supported by the Trade Union Congress.

With local government contending with budgets cuts of 27 per cent, there is a strong business case for sustainable energy projects. Such projects not only could stimulate economic growth, but also improve energy efficiency and sustainability, therefore cutting costs. At present, the annual energy bill in one large unitary authority is amounting to £32 million per annum, for example, and a metropolitan borough is spending £8 million per annum.

The findings of the survey APSE’s survey found that an overwhelming majority of local authorities believe there is an urgent need for sustainable energy projects. A total of 99 per cent think such projects could reduce energy costs for councils. The UK is increasingly dependent upon volatile parts of the world for fossil fuels and a total of 87 per cent respondents believe that renewable energy would make their council’s supply more secure.

time as reducing energy costs, and encourages security of supply through measures such as solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, wind turbines and hydropower, as well as district heating systems. 74 per cent of respondents In Bristol, the council has formed think local authorities should a new service, bringing together its directly deliver sustainable sustainability and economic development teams under one service director. Another energy projects. authority that is taking the lead on sustainable energy is Flintshire. The They also think fellow residents would council has installed technologies ranging back sustainable energy schemes linked from solar thermal systems to solar PV to economic development; 82 per cent technology and a wind turbine. Sustainable energy believe the public in their area would be The term ‘sustainable energy’ is used in supportive of a high-profile emphasis Pioneering local authorities the report to cover renewable energy from on sustainability and job creation are already creating jobs in wind, solar, tidal, biomass and geothermal through renewable energy and energy their communities through sources, as well as energy efficiency efficiency schemes. measures such as cavity wall and loft A total of 74 per cent of respondents renewable energy. insulation and energy efficient heating. think local authorities should have a direct The survey, conducted by APSE earlier delivery as well as a facilitation role in in the year, received 197 responses from Renewable energy and energy efficiency sustainable energy schemes. When asked councils across the UK. It reveals that programmes are a valuable way of why they believed local authorities should pioneering local authorities are already responding to the threat of climate change. directly deliver sustainable energy projects, creating jobs in their communities through The Climate Change Act, Renewable Energy cost savings were the most commonly cited renewable energy and energy efficiency Action Plan, Carbon Plan and Renewable factor. Respondents also thought councils initiatives, and are very keen to participate Energy Review provide a national policy could maximise the benefits of such in further projects. framework for cutting carbon emissions. schemes through ability to secure finance, One of the case studies explored in technical knowledge, local knowledge, The economic impetus the report is Nottingham. The city’s ownership of a substantial estate, Renewable Energy Plan sets a target Sustainable energy is also important from leadership and corporate responsibility. to produce 20 per cent of energy from an economic perspective – as a means of The challenges renewable or low carbon options coping with the economic crisis that by 2020. The plan also promotes has led to hundreds of thousands of job While the survey found there is great opportunities to create jobs at the same losses nationally. enthusiasm for sustainable energy projects Civic Energy


Cornwall’s councillor Julian German, with Tim German, renewable energy and partnerships manager, on the roof of New County Hall.

© Cornwall County Council.

Training and skills

among local authorities, it also found that a number of barriers exist. The survey and interviews with experts revealed that the current uncertainty surrounding finance and policy is resulting in underperformance, with councils unable to fully capitalise on the opportunities presented by sustainable energy. Clearly the financial context in which councils are operating in is extremely challenging. Therefore local authorities are keen to take up any opportunities for financial assistance with sustainable energy schemes that are available. A total 74 per cent of councils in the survey said they were aware of incentives, citing: Renewable Heat Incentives, the Community Energy Saving Programme, Feed-in Tariffs (FiTs) and the forthcoming Green Deal. Only 60 per cent of respondents had accessed any funding, however and many of these had used their own funds or one-off pots, such as Big Lottery bids, or schemes that have ended or are coming to an end. Access to finance is therefore an obstacle to achieving the full potential of sustainable energy at present. The review of FiTs has created uncertainty and affected councils’ ability to generate income from sustainable energy supply. Government announcements earlier this year hit schemes over 50 kW. The Department for Energy and Climate Change has now issued proposals to reduce the tariff from 43.3p per kWh to 21p, and as low as 16p for multiple solar PV installations. This move has been fiercely criticised by councils. There is also lack of clarity about what the new Green Deal energy efficiency programme will entail. The government needs to work with local authorities to establish how the Green Deal can best operate to stimulate economic growth. 47

Lack of skills is another matter that needs urgent attention. The majority of respondents to the APSE survey do not believe sufficient skills exist to respond to sustainable energy opportunities. With the global economy for green goods and services predicted to expand to £4.3 trillion by 2015, the UK needs to ensure political, professional, managerial, technical, trade and communications skills are in place to respond to opportunities this presents. Survey respondents considered technical knowledge, communications, knowledge of funding, partnership working, negotiation, legal and green procurement skills necessary for sustainable energy projects, as well as trades such as electrical engineering and plumbing. A total of 83 per cent of survey respondents said the skills exist in their councils to deliver sustainable energy projects – particularly as skills such as project management can be applied generically. In many cases, a sustainability aspect could be brought to existing skills. In terms of local labour supply, 73 per cent believe this is adequate. However, only 43 per cent of respondents believe sufficient skills exist in their area to respond to sustainable energy opportunities.

Uncertainty also remains about what the new Green Deal energy efficiency programme will entail. This is obviously a matter that needs to be given careful consideration if the UK is to fulfil its green economy potential. Only 12 per cent of respondents think the national skills development programme is moving rapidly enough to equip people to meet green economy opportunities. More strategic public action is therefore needed as a matter of urgency to develop skills. Another issue standing in the way of sustainable energy projects is lack of leadership and coherence at national and local level. A total of 94 per cent of respondents said they believe there is a need for closer links between environmental and economic policies nationally. Less than half believe there is sufficient strategic emphasis on the sustainable energy agenda at local level.

Recommendations As the research demonstrates, councils are enthusiastic about sustainable energy projects. Some of them are taking the lead on this crucial agenda, yet the lack of resources, lack of skills and lack of political leadership are thwarting efforts. The report concludes with recommendations of way for central and local government to overcome obstacles that are preventing sustainable energy reaching its potential to reduce carbon emissions and boost the economy. Central government needs to ensure the FiTs regime provides proper incentives for councils and to ensure that the forthcoming Green Deal maximises local economic development. More urgent attention should be paid to coordinated skills development to respond to the green economy. Finally, political leadership is paramount. There is a danger that environmental issues are slipping down to the agenda due to the economic crisis. But, in fact, with proper leadership, strategy and practical action, sustainable energy can help deal with these two formidable challenges at the same time. David Arnold is a Policy Officer at the public service trade union UNISON, where his responsibilities include development of the union’s policy on green jobs, energy and housing. He has previously chaired the sustainability working group of the Trade Union Congress. Prior to joining UNISON, David worked for the Labour Party and the Central Electricity Generating Board. Paul O’ Brien has been the Chief Executive of APSE for over ten years. His representation of APSE includes, but is not limited to, on the Scottish Executive Health and Physical Activity Council, the Office of the Deputy Prime Ministers and the Strategic Partnership Taskforce. He has given evidence to various parliamentary select committees and participated in numerous lobbying meetings with government ministers, whilst representing APSE. Paul has over 26 years experience in local government and previously worked with South Lanarkshire Council in the areas of compulsive competitive tendering and best value. For a copy of The new green team: Local government, sustainable energy, jobs and skills please, email:

Training and skills: showcase

© Swindon Commercial Services

Installation work on Swindon bus station.

Bill Fisher Swindon Commercial Services Ltd

Showcase: Swindon Commercial Services Ltd – “If it’s such a great idea, why aren’t all council buildings covered in solar panels?” Swindon Commercial Services Ltd has promoted, designed and completed the installation of five medium to large-sized solar photovoltaic (PV) schemes throughout Swindon. These have been installed on council-owned structures. In this article, managing director Bill Fisher attempts to answer the headline question by sharing the Swindon experience and his view as to why it is so difficult to convince people to act. On the face of it, the deal surrounding financial returns achievable through the government-backed Feed-in Tariffs (FiTs) looks too good to be true. If you add to this the civic leadership and environmental box-ticking you can carry out, the believability gap gets even wider. There must surely be a catch. In a few sentences the above captures the emotions and the possibly illogical response when very positive business cases are put to potential installation customers. Questions usually follow. What is the life or stability of the panels?

Show your confidence As a company, we are so sure of the upside financial benefits that we went to the council asking for permission to use their buildings for installations without them having to pay for the installations.

What is their energy return and the security of the tariff applied? What huge It seems every client wants planning issues must there be and what is to talk themselves out of their performance in British weather? taking the step to install. It seems every client wants to talk themselves out of taking the step to install. I feel sure some are looking to be the one who comes up with the catch, as many are We spoke with great confidence, so afraid of finding out too late. dispelling all myth and legend surrounding PV. We shared all available guarantees, Our approach mitigating any perceived risk. It was also In Swindon’s case we seem to have important to show examples from others overcome this fear, (if fear is what it is) and who had seen the light (excuse the pun) have just done it. and gone before them. Civic Energy


Training and skills: showcase

© Swindon Commercial Services

Installing the solar photovoltaic panels on Swindon Commercial Service’s own building.

Take small steps We had grand schemes worked up for Swindon, large projects involving thousands of buildings or houses. This ‘big bang’ approach was never going to work, or rather would not work quickly enough. An incremental investment, £900,000 originally, from Swindon Borough Council on five medium-sized buildings was the key to unlock the opportunity. From those installations, Swindon Commercial Services Ltd now has a platform of practical and political experience. It also provided lessons in terms of the timescale for PV projects, how the local media react, pitfalls and how to overcome them. Create a ‘shop window’ for promoting further investments The choice of the sites to install upon first were considered using a risk-based evaluation. Our criterion was to find the easiest and cheapest building, with the highest profile and large expected returns.

The choice of the sites to install upon first was a considered using a risk-based evaluation. I should say here, that Swindon Commercial Services Ltd is a wholly owned company of Swindon Borough Council. For Swindon Commercial Services Ltd, we created a fantastic shop window of installations. From there we could encourage further council investments or bring along other potential clients. 49

The five installations therefore had to, like any good shop, display a range of potential. Our display included homes, a school, a flat roofed building, a curved and pitched roof profile industrial buildings and a bus depot. Most of these installations were above the 50 kWp FiT threshold, reduced on 1 August 2011.

Even with all the arguments for doing something in front of us, we still sometimes need a kick. This strategy has clearly worked and we are currently undertaking works on orders placed after the original Swindon Borough Council investment and on sites for many other clients.

The call to action Even with all the above arguments for doing something in front of us, we still sometimes all need a kick. Throw into the equation a once in a lifetime opportunity with a deadline to decide to buy in or not, and Swindon was out of the blocks like Usain Bolt. This deadline took the form of the fast-track review of larger PV installations, which has now reduced the potential gain on larger schemes. In just nine weeks we had promoted the idea, gained council support and gained all cabinet approvals (cross-party support) and funding, dealt with all planning questions ordered, and installed and registered four of the five schemes. The last one undertaken (in case you are wondering) was the school, which,

operationally and customer-wise, worked best in the school summer recess. In summary, was Swindon brave? Yes, I believe they were, but they were also very wise and are today very pleased they moved to act so quickly. Other prompts may well be in the pipeline from government, but the business case to install still looks incredibly attractive when compared with other possible investments available to our public, council and housing association clients. Bill Fisher is the Managing Director of Swindon Commercial Services Limited. He has held this role in various guises from 2005 to the present day. Bill spent more than 35 years in local government before moving to head up the company. In his previous life within Swindon Borough Council he held many roles heading up various client and delivery service departments. Bill is a member of numerous trade and service organisations more recently becoming a full member of the Institute of Directors. Swindon Commercial Services Ltd is a wholly owned company of Swindon Borough Council, and combines the best of the public and private sectors. The company employs over 850 dedicated and skilled employees with a turnover in excess of £65 million per annum, providing services to a wide range of clients including local government, housing associations and private businesses in Wiltshire and beyond. Swindon Commercial Services Limited Waterside Park, Darby Close Cheney Manor Trading Estate Swindon SN2 2PN | Tel: 0845 600 6422 Email: s cscustomerservices@ Web:


Sunbeams in the dark By Paul Rogerson

Almost 40 years ago now, Sir George Porter (Lord Porter of Luddenham, as he later became) said he had: “no doubt that we will be successful in harnessing the sun’s energy”. Many, at the time, were sceptical, but Sir George’s confidence rested on solid foundations – he was, after all, a specialist in photochemistry and a Nobel Prize winner to boot (as well, it may be remarked in passing, as being an alumnus of that redoubtable institution, Leeds University). Without question, therefore, Sir George would have been mightily impressed to see the progress made today in the field of solar photovoltaic technology.

In the early 70s, Sir George also more famously observed that: “If sunbeams [had been] weapons of war, we would have had solar energy centuries ago”. In saying this, Sir George sought to draw attention to the importance of the perceived ‘needs of the state’ (or as Niccolo Machiavelli might have put it, the ‘self-interest of princes’) in influencing the pace and direction of research, innovation and development in critical areas of both science and manufacture. By the enactment of the Climate Change Act in 2008, our modern princes - in government and parliament – have signalled very clearly their recognition of the pressing dangers posed by climate change, and their determination to see these dangers more effectively addressed throughout the realm, not least by those lesser princes, the leaders (both political and managerial) of the nation’s local authorities. Unhappily, of course, the Bill’s enactment coincided with the onset of what

has turned out to be a new age of austerity for most authorities: an age that has seen key investment pledges torn up and budget reductions imposed. It would perhaps have been surprising, then, if local authority leaders, raging against the dying of the light, had not allowed the preparation of plans for capturing sunbeams to slip from the top of their agenda.

knowledge immediately reveals new areas of ignorance”. But, there can be little doubt that the effort will prove to have been worth the biscuit. The national (and indeed international) imperative to address these issues has not changed, and will not change; the world will turn and, as far off as a new dawn may currently seem, it will come.

But, truth to tell, this is the very time when the political and managerial leaders of local authorities should be taking the opportunity to extend their knowledge, and deepen their understanding, of the green agenda, and to press for the putting in place of coherent, corporate strategies detailing how statutory climate-change targets will be met comprehensively within their areas in ways that will maximise the access of the authorities concerned to all available funding.

So, to close (hopefully, not too harshly) with the words of the good Niccolo to would-be successful princes: “the wise man does at once what the fool does finally”.

No one claims, I think, that this will be a quick or easy process. As Sir George himself conceded, “new

Paul Rogerson was Chief Executive of Leeds City Council from 1990 to 2010. For Paul’s full biography, please see information on the Civic Energy Editorial Board on page 2. Contact:

Civic Energy


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