To consider the report of the Director Net Zero & City Management.
Dr Daniel Lash from the University of Exeter, Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Energy and the Environment will also be in attendance.
The Net Zero Project Manager presented a report on the work of the Net Zero team which would both assess the Council’s potential to achieve its commitment for its own corporate activities to be Net Zero 2030 and to deliver the City Council Carbon Reduction Plan, which was attached to the report.
The Net Zero Project Manager introduced Dr Daniel Lash, Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Energy and the Environment from the University of Exeter who also attended the meeting to present the Council’s Corporate Carbon Footprint report - ‘Achieving Net Zero’ which had been commissioned by the City Council offering an analysis of the Council’s own corporate operations and estate and associated greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This had been a huge undertaking where Dr Lash and his colleagues had met with officers from each service throughout the Council including Housing, Corporate Property, Procurement and Fleet Services to discuss their operations. The report also set out the challenges including financial constraints and staff capacity, and had helped to inform the Council’s Corporate Carbon Reduction Plan. The Plan included a number of potential actions and also offered the opportunity to track and measure activity across of the services as well as information included in the City Council’s Net Zero Risk Register.
Dr Lash advised that the commission had offered the opportunity to look at what Net Zero meant in terms of Exeter City Council’s own carbon footprint by 2030 and outlined the main themes of the report. (A copy of the presentation was attached to the minutes.) The approach was taken to update the Councils carbon footprint from the assessment made in 2018/19 and assess the potential to reduce these emissions across seven sectors including:-
· non-domestic buildings
· council owned housing
· F(fluorinated) gases,
· renewable energy and
· land use change/afforestation.
Dr Lash responded to Members’ questions:-
· in terms of the time anticipated for an offset of carbon by St Sidwell’s Point, (SSP) the carbon emissions were an estimate based on the cost of the actual building which had been built to a high Passivhaus specification. The reality would be quite different and a fairer comparison of the carbon emission was with the former Pyramids Leisure Centre which had been a facility at the end of its operational life. The Net Zero Project Manager added that SSP included additional monitoring and would be measured as a separate piece of work.
· with regard to Scope 3 emission, data collection was challenging and most contracts would only run for a specific period of time. In terms of referencing the quality of the data most suppliers would adhere to a regulatory regime regulation and would have their own carbon footprint to consider. Looking at simple spend factors was not enough and should include life style emissions to ensure a smart decision. It was hoped that suppliers would start to collate that information. His colleague, Peter Lefort from the University, was leading a consortium of public sector and other organisations who were looking at Scope 3 emissions. The Service Lead Net Zero & Business added that a review of an accreditation scheme called Green Accord and was working with the Council’s Procurement Team to encourage an increased take up of the scheme. This would also have the added benefit of improving the level of data held on local businesses and the Council’s carbon emissions.
· the average price for installing a heat pump would depend on each building, but it was anticipated to be in the region of £5,000 to £10,000 depending on the size of the property with any preliminary works an additional cost. Heat pumps did not perform well in poorly insulated dwellings.
· there were issues for the energy grid accommodating more charging points for electrical vehicles, with either street charging points or private off street charging on individual driveways to flatten the load on the infrastructure by charging in off peak hours. Wholesale movement towards electric vehicles and heat pumps would put pressure on the grid, but potentially local energy generation through solar panels would help manage this.
· the main focus of the Government’s overarching projections and focus of the production was on electrical vehicles, however if that changed other options such as hydrogen or methane could be considered.
· hypothetically, land offered carbon savings with the planting of more trees, but in the case of the City Council, the 25% of planting on Council land would only offer an offset of 7% of the residual carbon.
· the Carbon Action Plan offered an example of tree planting in the Valley Park but would require a detailed business case and no budget had been identified.
· the figure of building carbon neutral homes in the report was the number of City Council properties and would become part of the Council’s footprint rather than all of the homes identified in the Local Plan. The Member who raised this considered that a clarification should be made.
· the reference in paragraph 8.3 of the report, on future opportunities for Non Domestic photovoltaic (PV) generation from using a site as part on the University’s campus would be checked. The Net Zero Project Manager would clarify the detail, as the projection was hypothetical and she advised the site was owned by the City Council and used by the Devon Wildlife Trust.
· a Member’s suggestion of harnessing hydro power from the River Exe would only offer a relatively small amount of power. It was not included in the Carbon Reduction Plan as a number of factors including land ownership as well as a high cost for a relatively small yield were barriers.
· the Net Zero Project Manager explained the Carbon Reduction Plan did not currently include timings for implementation of any proposals, but offered the opportunity to select proposals or tasks based on the available resources and technology. The final column of the action plan did include an update on projects that were being delivered. She also advised that the Net Zero team had contributed to the discussions as part of the preparations for the Exeter Local Plan. It was anticipated that the team would continue to provide more feedback as the consultation progressed.
Members made a number of comments including:-
· the importance of having another opportunity to discuss all of the Council’s plans, strategies and policies in relation to climate change in one place;
· the Carbon Reduction Plan offered a good starting point for any future discussions and there was an acknowledgement of the good work already taking place which was all progress towards reaching the Net Zero 2030 deadline, and
· St Sidwell’s Point (SSP) enjoyed a number of net benefits from the Passivhaus specification and had enabled the closure of an older leisure centre which had become expensive to maintain.
The Service Lead Net Zero & Business advised that the management of car parking was now in her team, and offered an oversight of the balance to be struck between achieving Net Zero 2030 and retaining the level from income car parking to deliver wider City Council services. She responded to a Member’s enquiry over the scope for charging points for electric bikes in the city’s car parks. She added that they were looking at options to install additional charging points in the Council’s car parking network to help improve that option in more densely populated areas of the city.
The Chair thanked the Net Zero team and Dr Lash for an informative presentation and he looked forward to a further update in six months’ time.
Strategic Scrutiny Committee noted the following:-
(1) Corporate Carbon Footprint report, and Members acknowledged the detailed analysis and improved data provided on previous year’s reports, but also the challenge to improve data capture across the whole organisation. The projections reinforce the measures required across all Council activities, and that organisationally achieving Net Zero in such a short timeframe is extremely challenging;
(2) acknowledged the scale of the challenge set out in the Carbon Footprint Report and combination of aggressive carbon reduction measures included in the projections which will require a step change in Council policy, activity, and capacity;
(3) acknowledged the importance of the Carbon Reduction Plan, work already in progress, and service wide commitment required to deliver net zero, with a dedicated team to lead on activity. Equally, the need to undertake an annual assessment of the Council’s GHG emissions to monitor, identify change and evaluate actions needed to deliver net zero, and
(4) that to achieve Net Zero by 2030 will require an increase in capacity, financial investment and operational resource, both internally and from government at a national level.. Whilst the carbon footprint provides accurate carbon reduction measures, the precise amount of resource needed is currently unquantifiable. This will require a detailed investment plan based on costed proposals.