Forest of Dean District Council: Council Office Decarbonisation

Forest of Dean District Council is implementing a range of measures to decarbonise its Coleford office building, including installing a solar photovoltaic (PV) and battery storage system and replacing existing lighting with LEDs. The project aims to demonstrate how decarbonising assets and operations can be economically viable and deliver long-term financial benefits to organisations.

The challenge

The challenge was to identify and deliver a package of measures that would help decarbonise the Council’s Coleford office building, whilst also ensuring economic viability. As a small council with a tight budget, it is important that wherever possible projects such as these deliver a good return on investment by providing an ongoing revenue stream or cost saving. This decarbonisation scheme was subject to a rigorous risk assessment and then subsequent council approval to go ahead, whether external funding applications were successful or not.

The solution

A coordinated approach between different teams within the council, including estates, sustainability, finance and procurement, and the involvement of cabinet members in regular progress meetings enabled a plan to take shape that would deliver the necessary savings in carbon emissions and electricity bills. Following an energy audit and recommendations report by an energy consultancy in 2020, a £126,000 grant from the Government’s Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme managed by Salix Finance was secured in January 2021 to part fund the project.

The project includes a range of measures, the main one being the installation of a solar photovoltaic renewable electricity system on the building’s large south-facing roof. The grant award meant that a battery storage element could also be incorporated into the system, enabling greater potential electricity savings than first estimated. The project also includes a range of other measures, such as fitting seven day timers on printers in the office, replacing existing lighting in the building with LEDs, and installing some automatic lighting controls. The work is set to be completed by September 2021.

The impact

The measures combined are estimated to save the Council around 38 t C02e and £20k in energy bills per year. Whilst the Council is in a fortunate position to have received the funding from Salix, even without it the payback period would have been well within 10 years, demonstrating that investing in renewable energy generation and energy efficiency measures can be financially viable.

Lessons learned

Although the project has yet been completed, a few lessons have already been learnt along the way. One is the importance of ensuring sufficient time is allocated in the project time line for applying to the distribution network operator for a new connection for renewable energy generation. Whilst the solar PV system will not be exporting electricity to the grid, connection applications to the district network operator for new generation can still take up to 45 day. However, this was not originally known or accounted for, therefore potentially causing a slight delay to project delivery.