Council use of renewable energy


Renewable energy comes from continuously available sources that do not rely on exhaustible, polluting fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas. The main sources of renewable energy in the UK are:

  • wind - both on and offshore
  • sunlight - solar photovoltaic and thermal
  • water - conventional hydro, and the developing technologies of tidal stream and wave
  • biomass - including wood chip and energy crops

Our energy bill is in the order of £10.7 million and like all large users of energy the council must pay a charge to the government for the carbon dioxide it emits, known as the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC). This is currently £12 per tonne and will total over £500,000 in 2012. It is expected to be £750,000 in 2013.

Bristol was one of the first local authorities to buy electricity generated from renewable sources, when contracts were negotiated for the Create Centre and the Records Office (B Bond) in 1998. Since then, more properties have been using 100% renewable electricity. This contributed towards the target set out in our Energy Policy of buying 15% of the council's electricity from renewable sources by 2010.

We are now working to the “20-20-20” targets:

  • a reduction in EU greenhouse gas emissions of at least 20% below 1990 levels,
  • 20% of EU energy consumption to come from renewable resources and a
  • 20% cut in primary energy use compared with projected levels, to be achieved by improving energy efficiency.

Projects that we are carrying out are listed below.

Wind farm at Avonmouth

Planning approval was granted in 2009 to build two wind turbines in Avonmouth, with a capacity of up to 3 MW each. The council are now in a position to develop the wind project and tenders are being negotiated for the supply, installation, operation and maintenance of the two turbines for the council.

Further information about this project: Avonmouth Wind Turbines Project.

Solar energy

We are investing in solar energy on council-owned buildings and schools. Believed to be the largest project of its kind in the UK, the initiative will save council taxpayers almost £60,000 each year, and generate income from the Feed in Tariff of around £100,000 a year for 25 years.

The new solar arrays cover almost the same area as 15 tennis courts and will generate nearly half a million kilowatt hours of free electricity every year - enough to meet the needs of more than 140 typical homes. The solar arrays will also save around 280 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year. The installations have been carried out as part of our £1 million PV for Schools programme, with the first completed at St Annes Park Primary last October. More installations have followed at schools across the city.

We are working with Western Power Distribution to investigate the use of battery backup and storage systems used in conjunction with solar PV generation and local DC electricity networks. For more information see Western Power Distribution's So La Bristol website.

Biomass heating systems

The council has installed a number of biomass boilers in part resulting in Bristol now having the largest cluster of biomass boilers in the south west of which 15 are in council-operated buildings. We will continue to replace old oil and gas boilers at other council-owned sites with biomass boilers, where this is viable.

The installation of biomass boilers reduces the energy costs of the council, helping to meet the Council’s carbon dioxide reduction targets. It also promotes the Council as a leader in biomass and sustainable energy and benefits the local economy, as money is spent on a local fuel source and not on foreign imports of oil and gas.

The first biomass boiler installation, at Blaise Nursery, won the RegenSW Green Energy Award for 'Best Renewable Energy Project in the South West'. This uses wood chip made from wood ‘waste’ generated by the council’s parks and woodlands as its fuel source.

Blaise Nursery is also the South West's first wood fuel station, processing wood chip for other biomass boilers installed by the council. As part of the wood fuel station development, a large pole barn was built to store wood chip and a special tipping trailer was bought to deliver wood chip to other council sites. However, as this is a finite resource, we are investigating the greater management of the council's own woodland. This has an added benefit for the City's wildlife as management of woodland increases biodiversity.

Blaise Nursery Biomass Boiler information sheet. (pdf, 325 KB) (opens new window)

We are installing 10 more biomass installations in council-owned buildings over the next four years, including one at Horfield Leisure Centre.

Energy efficiency

The council operates the Salix energy efficiency fund for Bristol’s non-domestic buildings: a £1.2 million fund, operated on an “invest to save” basis. Bristol is one of the highest achieving public sector bodies operating the Salix fund. The programme delivers annual cost savings of over £800,000 and annual carbon savings of 4,450 tonnes (correct July 2012).

A notable project recently completed is a £1.1 million street lighting upgrade to efficient white light technology. The majority of projects are simple insulation, lighting and heating improvements.

Energy efficiency is the most cost effective “hard” measure for saving energy and reducing utility spend. Recent MAC (Marginal Abatement Cost) curve analysis of Salix funded projects (pdf, 4 KB) (opens new window) condenses complicated data into a graph showing cost effectiveness and size of carbon savings. It shows that the efficiency measures that we have done save more money than they cost.