Local authorities play a crucial part in influencing emissions in buildings, surface transport and waste – together representing around 40% of all UK greenhouse gas emissions. If the UK is to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050, as outlined by the Government, energy efficiency will need to increase across the public sector.
Public bodies should look at the wider picture to do this by mobilising local residents, community groups, sources of finance and businesses to enable the implementation of transformational projects such as district heating and enabling low-carbon cities. There is now, more than ever, a case for investing in public sector efficiency and sustainability as the cost of energy and water continues to rise.
There are still a number of identified projects with compelling returns on investment that may not have been implemented, such as combined heat and power and installing smart meters. Local authorities might also look at renewable energy as the answer to cheap energy, however, the Government has reduced tariffs which makes the payback time longer.
Furthermore, the proposed VAT increase by the Government on solar panels and wind turbines is the latest blow in what has been a tough year for the renewable energy industry. If the Government goes ahead, the proposals will see the VAT on solar panels, wind turbines and ocean hydro turbines increase by 15%, from the current 5% to 20%. The proposed increase is likely to cause more confusion and uncertainty for the public sector as it switches to sources of renewable energy, and could potentially further stall UK-wide projects by local authorities to reduce fuel poverty that have already been affected by previous renewable energy cuts earlier this year.
However, when considering the retrofit of renewable technologies in commercial buildings, the emerging low-carbon movement is beginning to address challenges and it is clear that a detailed consideration of buildings is the key to making large, cost-effective carbon dioxide emissions savings through this method. Undertaking energy surveys and assessments at the start of the process informs the procedure of selecting appropriate retrofit measures. Business opportunities are identified, with their associated benefits and risks. Longer term retrofit funding schemes such as the Government’s Green Deal are beginning to emerge. However, the tension between long-term goals and short-term priorities remains a barrier to major retrofit and the assessment process.
This makes it more important than ever to review all areas of energy reduction that can help to have a positive impact on the environment. Buying at the right time and with the right supplier product can also help to reduce costs and could potentially release funds for businesses to invest in new renewable technologies to reduce their energy consumption.