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Cambridge City Council: net zero by 2030

It’s good to see that Cambridge City council has recently declared a target to reduce its Direct Carbon Emissions to Net Zero by 2030 and has published a strategy to achieve it.

It is important to realise that this target is just for the measurable emissions that are under the Council’s own direct control (e.g fuel and electricity used for vehicles, business travel, offices, leisure facilities and the crematorium). The Council also aims to help the wider community in the geographical territory of Cambridge reduce emissions, for example through its procurement, its policy and regulatory powers, and from property it leases out.  This seems appropriate, although of course we’ll all need to do a lot more to get to Zero Carbon in time to avert a catastrophe.

In their strategy, they commit to steadily replacing all council vehicles with ultra-low emission ones, aiming that by 2028 the entire fleet of Council vans, trucks and bin lorries will be either fully electric or hydrogen.

To help decide how to decarbonise their buildings, they commissioned the energy experts Bouygues to identify the challenges, opportunities and costs. In the resulting report, Bouygues recommended measures that in total would reduce the direct emissions from the Council’s 29 largest buildings by 69% by 2030, mostly by replacing gas heating with heat pumps.  This programme will cost around £1M a year, some of which will come from government grants. This is clearly the right thing to do, and in the long term should save money and improve resilience too. 

Parkside swimming pool is by far the largest single source of carbon emissions, alone accounting for nearly a third of the energy used by the council’s buildings. The second largest energy user is the Guildhall (using 10%) closely followed by Abbey Pool, the Corn Exchange and the Crematorium.

Parkside and Abbey pools are mainly heated by gas so, helped by a £1.7M Public Sector Decarbonisation grant, there is an urgent project underway to replace the gas boilers with heat pumps and add additional solar PV, This should very substantially reduce their energy use and carbon emissions.

Currently there’s no known technological way of reducing emissions from the Crematorium’s gas burners, but one recommended option was to compensate by installing lots of solar PV on carparks.

Reducing the carbon emissions from the Grade 2 listed Guildhall and Corn Exchange is tricky, because there’s no space for heat pumps.  However Bouygues suggest investigating a community district heating scheme, in partnership with the other big energy users in the area such as the Grand Arcade and Cambridge University.

Developing such a district heating network won’t be easy or quick, but that’s a very good reason for starting discussions now.

(C) Anne Miller. Image credit N Chadwick