Nottingham City Council is taking steps to become the UK’s first carbon neutral city by 2028. PlaceTech asked Wayne Bexton, head of energy services, to explain how it’s going.
Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Wayne Bexton, head of energy services at Nottingham City Council, and chair of the D2N2 [local enterprise partnership] Energy Board. I’m responsible for ensuring the way the council produce, provide and use energy is in line with our manifesto targets and ambition for Nottingham to become the UK’s first carbon neutral city by 2028. Additionally, I’m helping to coordinate a joined up regional response to energy and sustainability.
What does climate emergency mean to you?
Nottingham City Council has been committed to tackling carbon emissions for years and has worked with partners across the city to shape a sustainable future for Nottingham. We’re the leading UK city within the energy sector and with recognition for our investments in projects such as solar and vehicle to grid technology and initiatives such as our district heating company, Enviroenergy, we are in a fantastic position to make significant change in becoming fully carbon neutral by 2028. A range of bold policies have seen us already exceed our 2020 target to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 26% with a figure of 41%, and we are on track to meet our 2020 target of 20% of energy generation from low carbon sources.
How are you dealing with rising cost, risk and environmental impact of your properties?
Energy services has developed a policy of insourcing to build greater capacity, flexibility and cost effectiveness in order to deliver its project and service aims, while using available resources to provide services to commercial clients. ‘Insourcing’ is the process of delivery in-house and is regarded as a pragmatic approach to increase efficiency to meet council objectives. This innovative approach from the council generates additional income, supporting other projects and frontline services within the council. Commercialisation within energy services focuses on embedding a business-like approach across the service and organisation, supporting risk-based thinking and investment opportunities.
When it comes to managing and implementing innovations, what has worked for you?
We’ve embedded an innovative mindset within energy services to embrace disruptive technologies, whilst simultaneously managing risk. Our key has been sourcing grant funds and sponsors to allow our innovations to be piloted; if they prove successful, we can then ensure they form part of our business-as-usual activity, allowing the process to start again. This methodology allows energy efficiency programmes and energy projects to save money, generate income and deliver our climate and sustainability objectives. This model of municipal energy services is vital to lead the transition of local energy provision to a smarter, dynamic and carbon neutral status that works for all.
What is your one advice to companies trying to get ahead of the climate emergency?
Energy services is passionate about knowledge sharing, collaboration and a consistent approach to the energy agenda. Nottingham is seeking to develop a coordinated response amongst local authorities to harmonise approaches, align with national policy and provide opportunities for collaboration at scale. When it comes to ‘getting ahead’ of the climate emergency I believe it is important not to forget that all organisations are facing similar challenges and it’s therefore only beneficial to commit to sharing best practice, new technologies and effective ways of working with others. A first in the UK, Nottingham City Council completed a groundbreaking Innovation Gateway pilot with drone company HexCam, combining district energy network maintenance with thermal imaging systems. The drone system uses high accuracy thermal imaging system to detect leaks from the district heating network, making it possible to safely and conveniently cover the entire network. Typically, a small leakage can run for years without it being found in the traditional way, and running up to 12 cubic meters per day. The pilot enabled Nottingham City Council to survey 91km of piping in just two nights, estimating significant cost savings of £100,000 a year.