This is a talk I gave at the meeting in Llanfarian school on 9th October:
When surveys are run on the most important issue in different constituencies in Wales, the most important issue to people in Ceredigion is health. No surprises there. And it’s the same in many other places.
But when people are asked what's the second most important issue, in Ceredigion the answer is the environment. That’s completely different to most other places, where green issues are way down the list.
So it’s clear there's a greater awareness and interest in environmental matters in Ceredigion. And the County Council administration reflects that by placing a high importance on making a real contribution to tackling climate change.
The main plank of that is that, since getting elected to run the Council, almost two and a half years ago now, we’ve put together a new Carbon Management Plan in consultation with the Carbon Trust.
The aim in the plan is to reduce the Council’s carbon emissions by 15% over five years. And you have to bear in mind that, in normal circumstances, emissions wouldn’t just be expected to stay the same but would actually rise.
We’re now two years into this 5-year programme and we’ve achieved 7.4% - almost half. So, in other words, after 40% of the time, we’ve achieved 49% of the target.
To do this we’ve had to involve all areas of the Council and in particular we’ve had to look very closely at the Council’s operational building stock, including our schools, because they are the least energy-efficient part of the stock - 69% of the Council’s emissions are from buildings.
I’ll just highlight a few steps we’ve taken:
- The street lighting programme, of changing to LED bulbs has saved 57% of carbon compared to 2007 and Ceredigion’s lights are now one of the most energy efficient in the UK.
- We’ve invested in more efficient fleet vehicles and better ways of working with them. Those emissions have reduced by 8.7% in the past two years.
- We’ve been running Operation Energy in selected schools in the county for the past three years. This encourages individual pupils to take part in energy reduction themselves. We give a certificate to every pupil taking part and a prize to the best performing school each year. So far 24 local schools have participated.
- One of the clearest savings has been the new Evaporative Cooling System at Canolfan Rheidol. That cost £42,000 and it saves £26,000 a year in energy costs. So it pays for itself in less than 2 years. And that, of course, highlights how the carbon agenda and the massive financial cuts all councils are now being subject to can come together. Carbon savings like this do require an initial investment. And most of the financial savings take a longer than 20 months.
Although we’re making good progress, of course there’s plenty more to do. These are the kinds of things we’ve got planned for the future:
- We’ll be installing a 50Kw solar array on the roof of the Council offices at Penmorfa in Aberaeron - the county’s second highest user of energy - and a 30Kw system on Minaeron, the social services offices in Aberaeron.
- You may be aware of the biomass heating system that serves Canolfan Rheidol and the Welsh Government building in Aberystwyth. The system is housed across the railway tracks in a building in Penweddig school fields. Over the Summer holidays we dug trenches across the playing fields. And soon we’ll be making the connections to extend the biomass system to include Ysgol Penweddig and Plas Crug Leisure Centre. So that single biomass system will be servicing four large buildings. That will produce an annual RHI (Renewable heat Incentive) income of around £95,000 p.a.
- At Ysgol Bro Pedr in Lampeter we’ll be installing an SBED Solar Collector. This will bring about a carbon saving of 14 tons, and £2000 saved p.a. in gas bills.
So those are the kinds of things we’ve been doing, and will be doing in the future, to meet our carbon reduction targets
As well as that we’re embedding carbon management within the Council’s practices. For example:
- The creation of a specialist energy department within the Council.
- The installation of automatic meter reading in all our buildings so we know exactly how they’re performing all the time and have the data to know what energy issues need to be tackled.
- The creation of council structures to make sure carbon management is centrally resourced and prioritise rather than being the responsibility of just one department.
So, as well as meeting our targets in the present, we’re planning for the future. Future council administrations will find life easier in terms of reducing carbon emissions and easier financially as a result of the decisions we’re making today.