Vikki Slade, Associate Director – Planning, Public Affairs and Sustainability
As we move towards COP26 and the realities of changing climate are sharply coming into focus – with the first heat warning for the UK and flooding across Europe – Cratus hosted the second in our Decarbonising Energy series of webinars. To achieve Net Zero by 2050, we all have our part to play and while councils themselves are only responsible for a tiny proportion of carbon emissions they have the opportunity to influence their communities and lead long-term changes in the way we live our lives.
As councils look to follow up their declarations on the Climate and Ecological Emergency, many are including the provision of renewable energy in their neighbourhoods to both reduce the carbon footprint of the area but also to raise income as Government grants shrink and income from other sources remains unstable following the Covid-19 crisis.
This webinar showcased some of those authorities who have set up companies and used their own land innovatively for several years; from the construction of standalone solar and wind farms through to using their carparks and plant nurseries to generate energy as a secondary output.
Whilst three quarters of councils have now made a climate related declaration, the number who have actually set out their strategy is far lower and the flagship councils like Bristol, Swindon and Cambridgeshire offer the opportunity to inspire others to ask the question about avenues previously untravelled.
The use of Solar Green Bonds, and individual ownership of shares in wind farms like Ripple also gave a further dimension to the involvement of local people in development of renewable energy and it will be fascinating to see whether the forthcoming COP26 in Glasgow moves this debate on within the Green Finance agenda.
Another key area of focus for the Global event in November is public empowerment. Those of us in local government know only too well that for long term behaviour change, residents need to feel that they are part of a decision making process. We heard from the councils and Community Energy South about how neighbourhoods are creating their own roadmaps to Net Zero and from the Centre for Sustainable Energy about the need to consult earlier and in a more meaningful way.
Emissions from the energy sector fell by over 10% in 2020 compared to the previous year, predominantly down to the changing sources of power, but emissions from private homes increased. This was most likely due to an increased use of domestic settings during the Covid crisis but it does demonstrate that it is not enough to simply switch to renewable energy but to also retrofit homes and reduce their need for heat if we are to do our bit to stop the planet warming too much.
In our final episode, Cratus will be looking at some of the innovations in the energy sector such as hydrogen and pyrolysis and asking two additional questions:
- Can the grid cope with the change to electricity from other more polluting sources of energy?
- Do we need to look at working together as regions to deliver large-scale projects and do we have the structures in place to deliver on this?