Future looks bright for energy in Hampshire
Tuesday, 23 October 2012
Faced with ever-rising gas and electricity prices and amid growing concerns about future energy supplies and climate change, Hampshire County Council is set to agree a long term energy strategy that will not only save money and reduce carbon emissions, but also offer local communities access to secure, affordable or low carbon energy.
The innovative new strategy, which will be discussed at the Cabinet meeting on 29 October, builds on the interim energy strategy agreed in February 2012. The aim is to deliver reductions in energy costs and carbon emissions, increase energy security and position the County Council as a community leader on energy.
Increasing energy prices
With energy prices forecast to increase by 50% above inflation by 2030, potential gaps in future energy supplies and the need to reduce carbon emissions, the County Council's ambitions of cutting costs, increasing efficiencies and continuing to deliver high quality services could be seriously threatened.
As a major employer and purchaser of goods and services, the County Council spent £15.7 million on energy for 670 sites in 2011, including £11.5 million on school buildings. Around 178 sites currently have gas and electricity bills of more than £20,000 a year. The buildings owned by the Council include residential care homes, museums and libraries as well as offices. The £4.2 million spent on energy in non-school buildings could escalate to a massive £16 million by 2030 if steps are not taken to tackle the issue.
New opportunities to generate energy
The County Council is a Waste Authority with three Energy Recovery facilities that already produce energy that powers 53,000 homes.
There are also new opportunities for the Council to become involved in generating and selling energy., providing scope to generate more income, reduce overheads and increase efficiencies.
The implementation of a programme of pilot projects and feasibility studies, such as the successful 'Insulate Hampshire' and Ecotec 21 is key to developing the longer term strategy. Other options include investing in community energy generation, more efficient energy generation such as Combined Heat and Power (CHP) technology and developing projects that improve the way energy is used in Hampshire.
The proposed strategy sets out how the County Council will deliver a leadership response to energy including developing mechanisms, potential partnerships, research collaborations and financial arrangements to enable the maximum benefit from available opportunities. The four objectives are to:
- reduce energy consumption and increase efficient energy use in the County Council estate and in Hampshire
- invest in local energy projects that support the energy strategy's key principles
- integrate energy into 'place-shaping' - strategic planning and upgrading of new and existing infrastructure to ensure efficient energy delivery and use, combined with sustainable waste management
- facilitate community access to secure, affordable and/or low carbon energy and energy services.
Range of options
Following approval of the interim energy strategy in February this year, a range of options based on reduced energy use, purchase, generation and sale builds on earlier work to develop internal expertise and provide robust evidence of the costs and benefits of the different approaches.
Cllr Ken Thornber, Leader of Hampshire County Council said:
"We currently spend in the region of £15.7million on energy across our whole estate, with schools accounting for most of this. Rising energy bills are a significant concern, particularly with the continued cuts in funding for the foreseeable future. It therefore makes good sense to look at how we can save energy to drive down costs and cut carbon emissions, as well as potentially generating our own energy.
"As a Council, we are well placed to maximise new opportunities and provide strategic leadership for energy on behalf of residents and businesses in Hampshire. As a significant employer, energy consumer and landowner, we have a responsibility to use our resources in the most efficient way - the less money we spend on energy the more there is to fund other vital services, which Hampshire residents rely on."
Expertise in energy management
The County Council has developed expertise and experience in cutting carbon emissions and reducing energy use by, for example, fitting new boiler technologies and encouraging staff working in buildings to save energy. Other innovations include piloting alternative low carbon energy sources such as the installation of biomass boilers at Queen Elizabeth Country Park and Runways End Activity Centre, and using solar energy to heat hot water and power buildings.
Cllr Thornber added:
"We now need to build on our experience, look carefully at how we can cut energy use and generate more of our own energy to ensure that Hampshire continues to prosper through having a safe, secure and cost-effective energy supply in the future. By taking action to increase the security of local energy supply and reducing our reliance on national infrastructure, we will also be in a better position to ensure business continuity in case of extreme weather and climate change."