City Council reduces carbon footprint by a tenth in last year after installing energy efficiency measures

Published: Wednesday, 6th November 2019

Oxford City Council has reduced its own carbon emissions by more than 900 tonnes in the last year. This reduction is the equivalent amount of CO2 produced by a single car driving 2.9 million miles.

These latest figures show the council has reduced carbon emissions by 10% in a single year and over 40% in the last four years. Since 2015, the Council has reduced its annual emissions by the equivalent amount of CO2 produced by a single car driving 12.6 million miles every year.

The reduction in the council’s carbon footprint is largely because of the installation of energy efficiency and conservation measures, including LED lighting upgrades, and an increase in the amount of electricity used by the council coming from renewable energy, following the installation of solar PV on council-owned business premises and purchase of renewable electricity.

As a member of Low Carbon Oxford, a network of 40 public, private, and not-for-profit organisations that aims to reduce citywide emissions by 40% of 2005 levels by 2020, Oxford City Council had ambitious targets to meet.

Earlier this year the City Council unanimously declared a climate emergency and, subsequently, set a vision to reduce its own emissions to net zero by 2030 at the latest. That’s twenty years earlier than the government target and ten years earlier than the International Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) “higher confidence threshold” for limiting global warming to 1.5C.

The latest data is published in the latest Greenhouse Gas emissions report.

The report examines CO2 as well as GHG emissions (tCO2e) from all electricity and gas used in City Council buildings and related sites, including leisure centres, depots, offices, and car parks. The report also examines travel, vehicle fuel consumption and water use in buildings, and sites.

Last month the Oxford Citizens Assembly on Climate Change, the first Citizens Assembly to be held on the issue by a UK city, addressed how Oxford can reduce its emissions across five interrelated areas (buildings, transport, waste, renewable energy, and biodiversity and offsetting) while also delivering the benefits of a move towards an environmentally sustainable city.

A full report on the feedback and recommendations of the Assembly will be published the week commencing 18 November. The report will be presented to Cabinet in December and Full Council in January 2020. The Council will then approve a budget and action plan in February.

The Council is releasing this information as part of its commitment to produce annual updates on the progress made against the Council’s decarbonisation commitment, in order to allow for effective public scrutiny and accountability.

Oxford City Council is responsible for 1% of emissions in Oxford and seeks to work closely with emitters to accelerate the shift to a zero carbon Oxford while also improving the health and wellbeing of the city and our citizens. The University of Oxford is the largest contributor to the city’s footprint at 8% of total emissions.

The City Councils seeks to involve, support, and enable residents, businesses, and community groups to establish and implement successful policies, approaches, and technologies that reduce emissions across our society.

The City Council calls on the UK Government to provide powers and resources to make enable emissions reduction across Oxford as fast as possible.

“Oxford City Council is well on its way towards being a Zero Carbon Council by 2030. But the aim isn’t to set a target you can comfortably reach, it’s to stretch the boundaries of what is possible, and I believe the Council must go even further and faster. Publishing updates about our progress against the Council’s targets is critical for building trust in politics and, critically, that commitment to going further and faster.

“Our Council is showing what is possible if you show strong leadership and stretch yourself. That’s why we’re taking the opportunity presented by our annual update to call on partners and other emitters to join a citywide response to the climate emergency we face, set ambitious targets, implement the right measures to meet them, and publish annual updates. The public and future generations will rightly ask what the Council and other organisations anchored in the city are doing to tackle our climate crisis at this point in history. We’re looking forward to receiving the findings of Oxford’s Citizens’ Assembly and sharing news about the Council’s next steps in our fight against climate change, and we hope others will be responding with a similarly high level of ambition.

“The future is going to look very different and we need a just transition for workers and energy users. I’d like to see the Government support this transition with the creation nationally of new public sector climate jobs which benefit Oxford's citizens, environment and economy.”

Councillor Tom Hayes, Cabinet Member for Zero Carbon Oxford

“Like Oxford City Council, ODS is committed to promoting sustainability and we have put systems in place to ensure we are as green as we can be. For example we are ISO14001 combined with ISO9001 Quality Management System accredited, which aims to minimise their adverse impact on the environment by adopting “greener” processes.

“Over 2018/19 ODS won 8 national and local awards for the quality of services delivered for a cleaner, greener Oxford, including the APSE Transport Operations & Vehicle Maintenance Best Performer and LAPV Future Fleet Awards Most Sustainable Fleet Management 2019. Currently, zero or reduced emissions vehicles make up 15% of the ODS fleet and we aim to raise that percentage to over 25% by 2023.

“It is not yet possible to replace some types of services vehicles, such as heavy goods vehicles, with reduced emissions models. Instead, we have taken alternative approaches to reducing emissions in this category by relocating HGV vehicle inspections into the Oxford area, reducing the mileage from HGV inspection journeys. This inspection site has also been opened up to other companies utilising HGVs. We estimate we have achieved a 6.7 tonne CO2 reduction per year through reducing fleet HGV mileage.

“Working on behalf of the Council, over 2018/19, ODS reduced CO2 emissions in 464 properties by installing or upgrading loft installation. An average of 40kg CO2 emissions reduction per year per property is estimated to be achieved by this work.”

Shaun Hatton, Director of Operations at ODS

Key highlights

As part of its Carbon Management Plan, the council aimed to reduce CO2 emissions by a minimum of 5% compared with the previous year, which it has exceeded.

Key highlights from the report include:

  • The City Council’s greenhouse gas emissions (tCO2e) have reduced in 2018/19 by 9.7%
  • Electricity consumption has decreased by 3.8% and gas consumption by 4.1%
  • Net carbon emissions from the council have reduced by over 40% since 2014/15
  • Leisure centre emissions decreased by 11.6%
  • Vehicle fuel emissions has increased by 1.6%, however the rise has been limited due to lower emission and electric vehicle purchasing
  • The City Council is generating more than 10% of its electricity needs from PV on its own buildings

The Report

Overall, the report found that in 2018/19 emissions from the City Council reduced by 9.7% - with a 3.8% decrease in electricity consumption, and a 4.1% decrease in gas consumption.

In 2018/19 a range of energy conservation measures were implemented by the council, including: LED lighting upgrades at tower blocks, officers, and Park&Rides sites, solar PV installation of council owned buildings, pool covers in swimming pools, and more.

Since 2014, net carbon emissions from City Council estates and operations have decreased by over 40%.

The areas that contribute the most of the Council’s CO2 emissions are from:

  • Heating and electricity consumption in Council operational sites (e.g. office buildings, depots, leisure centres, car parks, sports pavilions, public conveniences and other miscellaneous sites)
  • Fuels consumed in Council fleet vehicles (e.g. refuse trucks, vans and pool cars), non-road going vehicles and plant (e.g. lawnmowers, chippers, and portable heaters)
  • Travel for business purposes (e.g. fuel consumed in staff-owned vehicles, pool cars and from the use of public transport to conduct Council business)
  • Operational waste deposited in landfill sites (generated from Council operations)

Leisure Centres

City Council owned leisure centres (Barton Leisure Centre, Ferry Leisure Centre, Hinksey Outdoor Pool, Leys Pools and Leisure Centre, and Oxford Ice Rink) account for over 40% of the council’s building related GHG emissions.

Leisure centre emissions decreased by 11.6% in 2018/19 compared to the previous year. Electricity consumption at the buildings has seen a reduction of 3.5%, and gas consumption by 1.8%.

The percentage of carbon produced per visit has decreased by 32.1% following a significant increase (30.32%) in visitor numbers at the sites.

Commercial operations

The City Council has seen an increase in its commercial operations as it as it transforms into Oxford Direct Services, with services such as commercial waste collection, private and HGV vehicle MOT testing and ground and building maintenance being provided.

Due to increased activity, emissions related vehicle fuel has increased by 1.6%. However, the rise has been limited through the upgrading of vehicles to lower emission (including electric) vehicles, and more fuel efficient vehicles. Eight electric vehicles have been added to council’s fleet in 2018/19, with 22 vehicles added since 2016/17.

Renewable Energy

In 2018/19, 10% of the Council’s total electricity was generated from renewable energy installations from Solar PV. The city council has PV locations at Leys Pools and Leisure Centre, roof top solar panels can be found at Rose Hill Community Centre, Horspath Depot and St Aldate’s Chambers.

The council has also been purchasing 100% green electricity across its portfolio for the past two years from renewable energy guarantee of origin (REGO) sourced supplies. This is to further national investment in renewable generation.

However, priority is given to investment in onsite generation capacity within the Council’s own estate.

Sustainable Buildings

The Council’s own planning requirements for larger developments insists on a Natural Resource Impact Assessment and a 20% reduction on total energy/carbon compared to a Building Regulations. This influences both new Council buildings, as well as those built by other developers in the city.

The emerging Local Plan proposes to raise this requirement to 40% on site renewable energy or low carbon technology requirement - above current Building Regulations for regulated energy.