17 July 2011
Work is underway to radically boost energy from renewable sources produced in Brighton & Hove, the local authority led by a minority Green Party administration.
In April, an independent scrutiny commission set up by the council called on the authority to help radically increase use of low-carbon power city-wide.
Now a report, discussed at last week's Brighton and Hove cabinet meeting, has outlined the council's response and highlighted progress towards the goal:
* The authority is pursuing is a major installation of large solar electricity panels on dozens of council buildings and schools, plus 1600 homes. Work is expected to start this year.
* Households are to be encouraged to take advantage of currently generous payments for domestic electricity generation under the Feed-in Tariff scheme.
* Some new or refurbished school buildings are being fitted with solar hot water and electricity panels plus air-and ground-source heat pumps which cut electricity use.
* The council has undertaken to work with developers of major schemes, such as Shoreham Port, to ensure as much renewable energy as possible is included.
* A Climate Change Action Plan will be published by the council in the autumn, addressing housing, transport, industry, commerce, and sustainable energy.
* A new online tool helping developers to plan low-energy buildings has been introduced this month by the council's planning service.
* The council is looking into setting up a Sustainable Energy Agency to co-ordinate green power initiatives in the city. The authority is also investigating how much energy could be generated by alternative sources such as wind power.
* A ‘heat mapping' exercise would identify areas where high energy demand might be met from small-scale low carbon generation locally.
* There will be work done to increase training and apprenticeships in the renewable energy sector. A bid for £1m of EU funds is being made, aimed at setting up apprenticeships related to green energy, and,
* Officials will investigate funding for a scheme to help communities generate their own low-carbon power.
Green cabinet councillor for environment Pete West said: "The council is gearing up for a massive investment in sustainable energy in the city.
"We're leading by example by starting with the city's biggest-ever solar electricity programme of our own.
"We will work to ensure this is effectively managed, helps the local economy and opens up opportunities for others to install solar electricity using the council's buying power to bring down costs.
"It's all about cutting carbon emissions, improving energy saving and insulation, cutting residents' energy costs, tackling fuel poverty, supporting innovation, economic growth, jobs and skills.
"There is no overnight fix, and we don't underestimate the technical and financial challenges. But the council will be working hard to overcome them with a range of partners and agencies."
The Renewables Scrutiny Panel was chaired by Dr Adrian Smith, of the Science and Technology Policy Research Unit, University of Sussex. Other panel members were councillors from various political parties including Cllrs Pete West, Warren Morgan, and David Watkins. The Panel held four public meetings, hearing from 26 expert witnesses, including council officers, representatives of city partner organisations, experts on renewable energy, sustainable energy businesses and local residents.