Councils in the dark on their energy use

Many councils in England have no idea how much energy they use, a new survey reveals.

The findings make it “inconceivable” that they will become carbon neutral within 30 years, as the government has mandated.

According to the survey, 43 per cent of councils – 93 of the 214 local authorities that responded to a freedom of information request from electrical contractors’ trade body ECA – do not measure the energy they use in council-owned buildings, or know how much carbon they produce.

This is even though 265 (65 per cent) of councils have declared a climate emergency. And for the past quarter century, every housing authority has been required under the Home Energy Conservation Act to maintain an up-to-date plan on the relative energy efficiency of homes in their area.

ECA energy adviser Luke Osborne said the findings were “highly concerning”. Without immediate changes, “it is inconceivable that councils are going to become carbon neutral in less than 30 years”, he said.

Despite 78 per cent of councils in the survey saying they are planning towards net zero operation by 2050, 47 per cent say they do not have a strategy in place to reduce the carbon emissions from housing, offices and other buildings. Of the 49 councils in the survey that stated they would be carbon neutral by 2030, 11 do not know their current carbon footprint.

Council buildings pump out large amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2). On average, a council HQ building emits 1,234 tonnes of CO2a year, according to ECA. Overall, English council headquarters emit more than 250,000 tonnes of CO2a year – the equivalent of 150,000 return flights from London to New York.

Many councils have older, energy-inefficient buildings, said Osborne, but there are simple measures that could be implemented quickly, such as switching to LED lighting and monitoring occupancy levels. “There is a lot of rhetoric out there, but very few action plans,” he said.


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