Agenda item

Working Towards Net Zero - Exeter City Council's Corporate Carbon Footprint Report and Carbon Reduction Plan

To consider the report of the Director Net Zero and City Management.



The Service Lead Net Zero and Business presented the six monthly update on the work of the Net Zero Team to reduce the City Council’s carbon emissions and delivery of the City Council’s Carbon Reduction Plan, working toward the 2030 target. The updated Carbon Reduction Action Plan (v3.0) contained a combination of actions set out in the City Council’s Achieving Net Zero Report (2022), and further corporate decarbonisation measures in progress across the Council. The report also included an update of the City Council’s latest Carbon Footprint and GHG Inventory results for 2021/22. The Action Plan was used as the team’s work programme.  Of note was the 6% reduction of 2,000 tonnes of co2 on the previous year.


The following work and projects were highlighted:-


·         the relaunch of the environmental accreditation scheme, Green Accord to help the business community reduce their own carbon emissions. The Green Accord has been adopted by the UK Business Climate Hub and are working with Devon LA’s for adoption across the county.

·         the team continue to support a number of groups in respect of the Devon Climate Emergency sharing best practice with other public sector organisations across the County.

·         carbon literacy training continues to be rolled out for officers and Members, and will mandatory for members.

·         an electric vehicle strategy was being developed for the Council to enable a bid for funding to install EV charging points in the Council’s car parks from the Local Electric Vehicle Infrastructure fund (LEVI).  Funding is through Tier 1 LA’s and is part of a collaborative county wide project.

·         the South West Energy and Environment Group (SWEEG) have helped with a solar survey assessing 13 Council properties for the installation of solar panels, thereby offering energy security and reduced energy bills.

·         a proposed study to understand the costs of achieving Net Zero by 2030 across the organisation is being commissioned.  The Council will require additional external funding from either private investment, Central Government or any other sources.

·         the Portfolio Holder and the Net Zero Manager had visited Bristol City Council to share best practice in relation to Net Zero.

·         £6.4 million funding had been secured from the Public Sector Decarbonisation Fund for the RAMM and the Riverside Leisure Centre, contractors have been commissioned to carry out the work.

·         the Housing Team have been successful in achieving a Green Homes grant to continue to retrofit homes around the city.

  • a bid for funding from Sport England in support of the energy efficiency of swimming pools was due to open soon.


The Service Lead Net Zero and Business responded to the following questions from Councillors Read and Moore which had been submitted in advance:-


Questions from Councillor Read

A Government grant of £1.49m via the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund has been secured for 2023 through to 2025. The funding award represents 43% of the estimated retrofit costs, with the remaining 57% of £1.998m funded by the City Council. Assuming this is all spent on retrofitting the Council housing stock, what percentage of the stock will then be successfully retrofitted after this money is all spent? Will it all be spent by end 2025?


A match funding grant from the City Council would enable a further 245 properties to be retrofitted. It was estimated that 20% of the housing stock would then have been fully retrofitted. It was a condition of the current grant award that the delivery window of April 2023 to March 2025 was met, with all of this allocation of the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund grant being spent by then. However, the Council Housing retrofit programme will continue beyond 2025, funded by Housing Revenue Account resources and supplemented with other grant funding if this can be secured.


Can we be sure that the new EV charging policy adopted will require all EV charging stations to be built out from the pavement and not restricting the pavements?



In respect of the Electric Vehicle (EV) Strategy and funding, the City Council will be identifying suitable locations, but primarily they will be located in the Council’s car parks across the city. On-street charging points are the responsibility of Devon County Council, discussions ongoing in regards to city and county wide locations.. She would speak to colleagues at Devon County Council about their location.


£238,435 has been spent from the £1m one off net zero budget. Budget has been committed for City Council Net Zero, which includes temporary staffing (two officers), SWEEG membership for an additional three years, feasibility studies, Carbon Literacy training and solar infrastructure maintenance”


Why has so little of this budget been spent? How can the city reach Net Zero if the budget is not spent? What is the rest of the budget allocated for within the net zero project? Has this been scoped for? When will it be spent?



The one off £1m Net Zero budget is programmed to last four years, and the Council has just completed Year 1.  The Net Zero team were constantly seeking external funding opportunities to support the delivery of the action plan, which on occasion, enables the one off budget not to be utilised.  This enables the budget to last beyond the four years, or to deliver additional activity.     


In response to an additional question on the budget scope, it would be allocated for two temporary members of staff, for the next three years. The one off budget will also be used as an enabling fund to allow the team to seek additional external funding and utilise some of the budget for the delivery of small scale projects.  


Questions from Councillor Moore


Direct emissions and removals from Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) - why are these excluded from the calculation given that many of the Council’s parks are built on landfill sites and the methane off gassing has to be managed? Is the methane being measured.




In calculating the City Council’s carbon emissions, SWEEG have not been made aware of any managed landfill sites or methane on any City Council owned land.  If there are any, and the data is available, then of course it can be included – this will be looked into immediately. 

In terms of the report in relation to the District Heating Network Energy Indirect emissions from consumed energy imported through a physical network are excluded from the assessment - so does this mean that energy from any district heating won’t be considered? If so why that is considered a mitigation in the Carbon Reduction Plan?




There are no Exeter City Council properties currently fed by a District Heating Network. If in the future, there is the opportunity to connect to a District Heating Network, this will be investigated. .


Are all the Council’s corporate property ownership included? [as these will need to be upgraded to a C to comply with legislation]




City Council commercial properties that are leased, are not currently included. As EPC rating data is available for commercial property, we will be able to include carbon emissions going forward. This is the same with the Council’s housing stock.


How is renewable energy considered an offset given that the electricity network is not going to be net zero until at least 2040.




It is how the electricity generated by the City Council’s solar panel is accounted for by the energy provider (off-taker).


Why is tree planting work not considered an offset and are there any other nature based solutions on land or in water under the control of the Council that could be identified for offsetting?




The Director Net Zero Exeter & City Management, offered a response and will look at opportunities for tree planting on City Council land. He referred to Northbrook, and consideration at a planting scheme, which once agreed, can be used as an offset. Tree planting needs to reach maturity before it is useful as offsetting, and to offset the current level of carbon would need to cover many of our parks with trees. The Council are working with the Wildlife Trust to look at opportunities on Council sites to strike a balance between offering an amenity, protecting the biodiversity and carbon offsetting.


The Portfolio Holder Climate and Ecological Crisis responded to the following Members’ enquiries:-

·         the launch of the Council’s solar farm, which has 3,700 panels, generates 1.2mw of energy, and an additional 2mw of storage. This is used to charge electric vehicles with unused energy sent back to the grid.  It will support the rolling out of the electrification of the Council’s fleet of refuse vehicles. The project has been shortlisted for three national awards.

·         a recent visit to Bristol City Council with the Net Zero Project Manager was very successful. Bristol CC were working with Bristol City Leap and a renewable energy company called Ameresco to attract external funding. There had been an opportunity to talk to their officers and also City Council Portfolio Holders in her role. 


The Service Lead Net Zero and Business responded to the following Members comments:-

·         Members would be contacted over a proposed open day for the Solar Farm.

·         the retrofitting of social housing aims to reduce the Council’s carbon emissions.  The Service Lead responsible will be submitting an article for the forthcoming Scrutiny Bulletin and provide more information on the work of the team.  The Director also referred to the challenging financial constraint of retrofitting 5,000 properties and progression and completion of the project will be dependent on that. He agreed with a point raised by the Chair, in relation to the skills shortage and wider skills shortage of suitable staff across the country.

·         Exeter College’s Green Construction Advisory Panel were leading on training and skills development to support retrofit activity, the Service Lead was engaged with that work. She agreed with a Member’s suggestion of taking any opportunities to share awareness of the work being carried out by neighbouring local authorities to retrofit their social housing stock. 

·         a figure of the City Council’s carbon footprint as a contribution to the city was provided and is 7.7%.  2019 is the last city wide carbon emissions report that was produced, so this is the best year to do a comparable comparison.  2019 City wide carbon emissions – 476,221 co2 t and City Council carbon emissions – 37,095 co2 t.

·         work was being commissioned to identify the total financial figure needed to achieve Net Zero 2030.

·         the Net Zero team were looking at alternative funding sources to reduce carbon emissions in social housing through retrofitting. Other than through the Government, and would need to bring that forward to SMB and through the Committee process.

·         she thanked a Member for the information relating to the Deep Green contact and they had contacted her to collect data on the energy generated from the data centre in the Civic Centre, and the energy consumed from the leisure centres and exploring the possibility of a data centre on location.

Due to the ongoing work and study that was about to be commissioned on identifying the costs of delivering Net Zero 2030, Members agreed to remove the last sentence of the fourth recommendation “From current resources available, Members debate the City Council’s 2030 net target”.

Strategic Scrutiny Committee noted the following:-


 (1)    Members acknowledge progress made in the Carbon Reduction Plan, the results of the most recent carbon footprint report and the scale of the challenge ahead; 

(2)     that the Carbon Reduction Plan is an evolving ‘live’ document, and continues to be reviewed on a six monthly basis to monitor progress, and evaluate actions needed to deliver net zero in what is a fast changing environment;

(3)     Members acknowledge the priority ranking of high, moderate and low that has been added to the Reduction Plan to reflect the greatest potential reduction towards the Net Zero goal; and

(4)     to deliver Net Zero for the City Council by 2030 will require a significant increase in financial investment and operational capacity internally, from Government at a regional and national level and potentially from private investment. 


Supporting documents: