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Council reduces carbon emissions by 16 per cent in one year

Published March 11, 2021 1.32pm

A council's Cabinet will hear about the extensive work carried out in County Durham in the last year to combat climate change.

Our Climate Emergency Response Plan (CERP) was approved by Cabinet in February 2020, detailing over 100 projects to be carried out over two years to meet targets to reduce carbon emissions in our operations by 80 per cent by 2030, and become a carbon neutral county by 2050.

In a review of our performance since the plan's approval, Cabinet will hear that provisional estimates show carbon emissions have reduced by 16 per cent in one year.

Cabinet will hear more details of our climate actions when it meets on Wednesday, 17 March at 9.30am. Members of the public can view the meeting live via DCC on YouTube.

Energy usage in our operations

This is due to energy efficiency work within our operations including boiler replacements, installation of ground source heat pumps, and moving our electricity tariff to 100 per cent renewables.

Staff working from home since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic has also created a positive impact on our emission figures from reduced usage of buildings, business travel, and use of our fleet.

Provisional estimates reveal a 20 per cent reduction in electricity from buildings, a 14 per cent reduction in gas for heating, and a six per cent reduction in fleet and transportation.

Cabinet will hear how we plan to build on this positive reduction in emissions beyond the coronavirus pandemic by, for example, introducing increased flexibility of working from home.

Initiatives carried out this year

Within the last year, we have carried out a number of other schemes to reduce carbon emissions as part of our CERP. These include:

  • An £8 million low carbon depot for our fleet, including a £5 million European funding investment for a new solar farm which will meet the depot's energy needs.
  • An LED retrofit scheme, which installed LED lighting in over nine council buildings in 2020 and a list of a further 20 buildings have been identified and surveyed as being suitable for the scheme. Two schools have also had LED lighting installed through zero per cent loans from the nationally run public sector Salix scheme.
  • Salix Funding gained for Abbey leisure Centre and Meadowfield Depot.
  • In the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, over 600 hectares of peatland in County Durham, is being restored this winter on sites ranging from Killhope, Eggleston and Holwick moors.
  • The Business Energy Efficiency Project (BEEP), which last year provided support for 97 businesses, with a total value of £292,000 for projects that emerged, and grant funding of £67,000. The work carried out with these grants will save 435 tonnes of CO2 emissions.

Cristina Moreira, owner of Casa Yoga studio in Sedgefield, was able to save 4.6 tonnes of CO2 per year as a business through our BEEP scheme.

Cristina said: "It has been a great experience working with BEEP. As a small business, we strive to be as energy efficient as possible and BEEP gave us some great advice and tips on how to achieve this. They were also able to help with a grant towards the cost of the work."

Electric Vehicle Charge point Scheme

Cabinet will also hear about our ambition to encourage an uptake of electric vehicles which will help facilitate the decarbonisation of transport.

We are currently installing over 100 community electric vehicle charge points across the county to set up an infrastructure which will allow residents to charge their vehicles safely and conveniently.

Officers have already installed 35 public charge points in Chester-le-Street, Consett, Seaham and Stanley, with another eight due to be installed in April 2021 including two new rapid charge points at Belmont Park and Ride and Nevilles Cross. 

Later in the year, the Weardale Electric Vehicle Accelerator (WEVA) project will see ten new charge points installed in Stanhope.

We have also provided increased charging options eight of our depots, installing 27 new electric vehicle charge points for our own fleet.

Continue our climate change plan

Cllr Brian Stephens, our Cabinet member for neighbourhoods and local partnerships, said: "Since the approval of the CERP last year, we have worked on a great number of actions, projects and initiatives which will provide environmental benefits across the county and contribute towards our pledge to become carbon neutral by 2050.

"Although the coronavirus pandemic has had a dreadful impact on all of us, it has created a small environmental positive in terms of reduced energy usage and carbon emissions. It is important that we continue to implement our climate plan to sustain the momentum gained from this short-term benefit."

Cllr John Clare, our climate change champion, said: "We have made some real successes in areas of the CERP that have already been executed and this is clearly demonstrated in the review of our progress one year from the plan being approved. We will continue and extend this progress to achieve our ambitious climate goals and become a carbon neutral county as soon as possible."