Edinburgh’s renewed push for sustainable energy

Jamie Hailstone talks with Adam McVey, interim chair of the newly launched Energy for Edinburgh, about the city’s goal to significantly reduce carbon emissions by the end of the decade

With ambitious plans to cut carbon emissions by 42% within the next four years, Edinburgh City Council is putting itself at the forefront of the sustainable energy revolution.

The local authority’s sustainable energy action plan (SEAP) commits it to target five key areas – energy efficiency, district heating, renewables, resource efficiency and sustainable transport – in a bid to tackle fuel poverty and boost the local economy.

And the council has also set up its own energy services company (ESCO), Energy for Edinburgh, to help make these plans a reality.

Speaking to Environment Journal, the interim chair of the Energy for Edinburgh board, Adam McVey, said the council chose to go down the route of an ESCO for two main reasons.

‘One is that there were a lot of projects for council buildings and assets that were not progressing as quickly as they should,’ said Cllr McVey. ‘Part of the reason for that was a lack of capacity within the council to deliver those projects, source the funding and make them happen.

‘Secondly, outside the council there was a feeling there are lots of projects in the city that need a “glue” to hold them together. There are a lot of ideas and people interested in taking on projects, like ground-source heat pumps in Leith, but no vehicle to take them forward.

‘No one was coming forward to be that lead to merge all the relevant partners together. It was to provide a mechanism for those projects outside the council estate to happen as well.’

Cllr McVey said one of the main areas the new company will focus on will be district heating, because ‘it’s one of the projects, which is the most difficult to deliver and needs sort of vehicle to hold different stakeholders together’.

He added Energy for Edinburgh will also be looking at increasing the number of solar panels, which he said is still an ‘untapped resource’ in the city.

‘One of the tests for any of the projects that the ESCO takes forward will be around additionally,’ he added. ‘We don’t want to duplicate anything that anyone else is doing. It’s about accelerating progress in key areas.’

I think there is more collaboration and understanding across the public sector about the need to tackle some of these issues, whether that’s driven by a need to create efficiency, meet carbon emissions or a desire to reduce fuel poverty

The SEAP contains a number of commitments, including the publication of an Edinburgh district heating strategy and heat map, which will provide the framework for establishing a city-wide heat network by 2020.

The council is also leading a large-scale energy retrofit programme, which will be targeted initially at the largest public sector buildings in the city, and will aim to tackle all local authority-owned buildings within the next four years.

And it aims to establish a smart energy business district to test out the application of a number of energy efficiency measures such as smart meters.

‘This ESCO will be about trying to create new projects and be able to be set against our carbon targets,’ said Cllr McVey. ‘We will look at what’s being delivered and trying to clear any blockages, and be a bit more robust.’

Looking at the wider picture in local government, there is a growing appetite among councils to get involved with the energy sector, either through third party suppliers or ESCOs like Energy for Edinburgh.

‘I think there is more collaboration and understanding across the public sector about the need to tackle some of these issues, whether that’s driven by a need to create efficiency, meet carbon emissions or a desire to reduce fuel poverty,’ said Cllr McVey.

‘I think these three drivers will make more public sector bodies look to create some sort of model. I think in local government, an ESCO is an obvious thing to do. I think some of the smaller local authorities in Scotland might do it on a regional basis. I think every public sector body, for various reasons, will be trying to buy into this agenda.’

Photo by aandreou

Jamie Hailstone

Jamie Hailstone

journalist

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