As austerity continues to bite, Edward Gurney, Solar PV Manager at Nottingham City Council, takes us through the Council’s innovative and ambitious energy projects that are helping to generate vital revenue streams and create jobs.
In the current economic climate, with pressure on budgets and resources scarce, councils need to find ways to generate their own income as well as cutting costs. Renewable Energy is a great opportunity to do this, generating a sustainable and reliable source of energy, making use of government incentives from innovative projects that generate revenue streams and creating jobs with the delivery and the maintenance of the schemes.
The Solar Team in the Energy Services Department at Nottingham City Council has, (over the past 3 years) installed over 14MW of Solar PV, including systems on nearly 4,200 homes as well as over 60 of our commercial/operational sites. Included in this are the two largest publicly owned solar canopies at two of our leisure centres, Harvey Hadden Sports Village and Ken Martin Leisure Centre.
We are now generating significant income from these projects and this is fed straight back into protecting frontline services. This helps us to plug the gap from austerity, and utilise a more innovative,
commercial and forward thinking business model. Our domestic portfolio is performing brilliantly and generating FIT and export payments. As well as this, the reduction in bills helps those who are most in need and in the fight against fuel poverty.
There have even been occasions this year where some of our buildings have been running on 100% of the energy produced from the solar panels on our roofs, including our Harvey Hadden Sports village, the largest of our leisure sites which has 267kWp of solar installed. We have big ambitions and don’t want to stop there, we are just getting started.
Nottingham has an ambitious energy strategy, and we are incredibly proud of the fact that we met our 25% carbon reduction target by 2020 (compared to 2005 levels) four years early. Our current focus
is on our next target, which is a 50% carbon reduction by 2030, and we hope to hit that target early as well. We plan to do this with more energy reduction projects and thus creating further savings, as well as generating more clean energy with the continuation of our solar rollout for more income generation.
The projects I have spoken about, and the ones that we have in the pipeline, will contribute to our UK100 pledge, which commits us to 100% green energy in the city by 2050. I believe all cities should be aiming for this. Unfortunately there aren’t enough councils that are doing it, and that’s because it’s not easy and requires a high level of commitment as well as constant attention and expertise. We believe that if Nottingham can continue to lead the way then others will follow, and we want to help all councils to be able to do this.
What has helped us achieve our goals so far, is that we have developed our own internal teams, from feasibility and delivery, to maintenance and monitoring, we do the majority of works in house. Over time, our teams have become market leaders, competing with private sector organisations. From solar viability studies and project management, to EPC’s and energy efficiency audits which support our PV projects. This gives us the flexibility and competitive edge to be able to deliver our schemes effectively and efficiently, without having to go out to market all of the time.
Critical to being able to achieve our aims going forward, we have developed our own products that we can provide to all sectors, such as our Power Purchase Agreement (PPA). This is where we install solar for free on commercial premises, so that the tenants and business owners get the benefit of cheaper energy compared to paying their energy company. This increases profitability for our clients, whilst also hitting our and their corporate goals of greenhouse gas reduction.
The Solar PV Framework we have developed also provides us with great access to market at competitive prices and this can provide all councils across the UK that same access if needed. In total there are six ‘lots’ that can cover all scenarios, from supply and install, supply or install only to specialist design, the flexibility of the framework has been developed purposefully to support all types of projects.
In conjunction with APSE Energy, we can now offer our services to all public sector bodies looking to reduce their energy consumption as well as their annual cost for importing from the grid. So as well as reducing our own costs, we have used this as an opportunity to further commercialise our activities. We can help our clients reduce their energy costs by around 30%, without any capital outlay from their often constrained budgets. A PPA offers a great opportunity to cut bills immediately and we have been working hard to put together an attractive PPA offer so that not only Nottingham can benefit from
the opportunities that PV presents but all councils in the country can. APSE Energy and Nottingham welcome any local authority getting in touch to explore these benefits further.
With technical innovations happening all the time and coming to the market, such as organic solar, solar roads and the continual reduction in prices for battery storage, managing energy will continue to be a critical area for generating income. More and more projects that were previously out of reach are now achievable.
APSE Energy and Nottingham City Council’s Energy Services Team complement each other to provide advice and support to help those council looking to generate income, reduce reliance on fossil fuels and avoid fluctuating energy prices. Please feel free to get in touch – we would be more than happy to help in any way that we can.
Edward Gurney gave a presentation on growing energy as a source of income at the APSE Central Region Seminar on 19 July. The presentation is free to download from the Central Region hub.