High cost of keeping district’s lights on

Falkirk Council needs to shrink its carbon footprint by cutting energy bills
Falkirk Council needs to shrink its carbon footprint by cutting energy bills

A five-year plan that could shrink its carbon footprint and save Falkirk Council £6 million on its utility bills by the start of the next decade has been agreed.

The new approach detailed in its latest Carbon Management Plan could slash carbon dioxide emissions by nearly 13,000 tonnes by 2021.

Members of the council’s executive rubber stamped the way ahead when it met.

The plan scrutinises the carbon footprint the council produces running its buildings and services.

The executive was warned if action to cut the council’s CO2 emissions is not taken now it is expected that by 2021 they will have increased by 11 per cent and result in an additional £4 million annual spend.

Now the focus is to slow the growth by nearly half to six per cent over the period by rolling out a series of projects that will reduce how much energy the council uses.

Costs associated with energy, water, transport and waste are increasing at a faster rate than the council can implement changes in use.

In her report, Rhona Geisler, director of development services, said: “We are effectively running to stand still.

“Business as usual is not an option. A step change is required to stabilise the carbon footprint. Additional projects and policies must be developed and fast tracked to implementation.

“At present Falkirk Council is short of demonstrating any substantial contribution to the national CO2 reduction targets.”

How the council operates over the next five years will be key to delivering the potential savings identified.

Ways of stabilising the growth of emissions and introducing ambitious schemes to reduce them by 2.5 per cent year on year which together could avoid costs of around £4 million will be explored - and will include:

* ‘smarter’ use of its offices by maximising their occupancy;

* raising staff awareness about energy efficiency;

* purchasing vehicles with low CO2 emissions.

Plans already agreed, including introducing more efficient street lighting, replacing heating systems in some primary schools, installing more energy efficient equipment at Falkirk Crematorium and fitting LED lighting in high schools will push that figure to nearly £6 million.

Since the council started tracking its energy and carbon emissions eight years ago the amount used has grown steadily by around three per cent and CO2 emissions by 13 per cent.

The need to increase the size of the council operation to meet the demands of a population that has grown by four per cent, coupled with rising energy and fuel bills, has led to carbon related costs soaring from £5.9 to £10.3 million.

Falkirk is now one of only “a few” Scottish local authorities whose carbon emissions have continued to grow - overtaking all the benefits gained from carbon and financial savings delivered by projects in the past.

The Climate Change (Scotland) Act of 2009 calls for every public body in the country to contribute to national targets to cut carbon dioxide by 42 per cent and generate 100 per cent of its electricity needs by 2020.