28/04/2021 - RSN Seminar: Rural Decarbonisation

Date: 28th April 2021
Subject: Rural Decarbonisation
Chair: Graham Biggs, Chief Executive, Rural Services Network
- To download the Agenda for this seminar click here
- To download the Attendance and Apologies for this seminar click here
- To download the Learning Outcomes from this seminar click here


- Download the information presented on the day here

Learning Outcomes:
  • Eden HA newly installed electric charge points for e-bikes at Head Office, Penrith.
  • Lancaster City Council’s decarbonisation funding work at Salt Ayre Leisure Centre
Key Learning Points
Heat, Storage, Energy from Waste and Hydrogen:  Energy Decarbonisation opportunities for Rural Communities and Economies
  • Birmingham Energy Institute (BEI) is developing and applying policy to develop sustainable solutions at regional level. The BEI covers extensive research areas including thermal energy storage and how it feeds into transport/medicine etc.
  • BEI is part of the Energy Research Accelerator (ERA) which makes the case to government to wrap funding around decarbonisation themes. Technology needs to be developed to support economic growth.
  • National Centre for Decarbonisation of Heat, in conjunction with the CBI and University of Birmingham published the report “Net Zero: The Road to Low-Carbon Heat’ calling on government to set up a National Delivery Body (NDB) to decarbonise heat.  The NDB would work with local authorities to synergise local energy plans.
  • Focus on solutions and decarbonisation at scale in cities with rural seen as an add on to urban but very much needs its own focus on its own challenges. E.g. increase in electricity demand due to increase in Electric Vehicle usage, solid wall properties are hard to heat and costly, lower population numbers means reduced funding opportunities etc.
  • Heat decarbonisation – piloting economic models and develop community learning platforms. Energy Storage – investing in battery storage of electricity, thermal energy storage systems for heating, goods etc. Energy from Waste & Circular Economy – how this can be made circular as it has a carbon impact and how to reduce it.  It will be a long time before there is a zero-carbon impact of energy from waste. Hydrogen Economy – producing green hydrogen for local use, mapping transport networks, fuel cell agri-solutions and how to fund this.
  • Opportunities for rural economies - an increase in R&D research into rural decarbonisation, new industry partnerships, engaging communities, piloting projects and developing circular economy approaches to combine solutions.

Lancaster City Council’s 2030 Net Zero Plans and Progress
  • In 2019, the Council voted to create a zero-carbon district by 2030. The district is the most northerly in Lancashire with a population of 60K covering a large rural area.
  • Key to delivery of projects on this scale needs to have political ownership and a Corporate Plan. The Council focused on gathering data on current CO2 emissions from the Councils own estate and actions to have a baseline and the work was done in-house.  The data showed that 57% of emissions came from heating buildings via gas with a combined total of 7.5 tonnes of CO2.
  • Many of the buildings were heritage sites/listed buildings and therefore hybrid heating solutions were required e.g. biomass, air source heat pumps and natural gas.
  • Salt Ayre Leisure Centre was the worst building for CO2 emissions in the District. Took a 10-year plan approach and secured £6.8M in PSDS Funding. Used several initiatives including a 1.3MWp solar array, air source heat pumps, LED lighting etc.  Challenging timescale for funding. Already a net 12% CO2 reduction to the Council’s overall figures.
  • Council vehicles CO2 emissions data was also analysed. 61% of all fleet emissions came from 26 refuse collection lorries. Challenges included the price of Electric Vehicles (EVs) and charging supplies.  With the move from diesel to electric the Council had to know how much electricity was drawn down from the grid or other sources. Currently have 29 EVs with 2 electric refuse lorries due in Aug 2021. Charging points installed in all Depots and at key sites. Worked in partnership with Charge My Street to provide public access off peak. Plan to phase in more EVs as current vehicles need replacing.
  • Car Club Scheme re-directed the casual user mileage allowances into a pooled vehicles fleet which includes 9 EVs. Scheme will open to the public to book cars from May 2021.
  • Looking to increase efficiency of council housing stock next. Includes increasing the number of solar arrays and supplying energy to tenants.
  • Key message – do not delay, look at data, understand, plan, cost out and deliver, deliver at pace and plan for this.

The Future Role for Gas and Decarbonising Heat
  • Cadent Gas Ltd owns and operates half of the UK’s gas network and is looking at its role in the future energy system.
  • Hydrogen Strategy – The Government knows that electricity alone is not the only decarbonising solution. Cadent is looking at HyDeploy – blending hydrogen with up to 20% methane (blue hydrogen), using the same gas appliances so minimum disruption to customers.
  • H21 Projects – safely preparing the existing gas network for 100% hydrogen flow.
  • HyNet – is the first real project based in Liverpool Bay.
  • A whole system perspective is needed for the economic case for hydrogen. It will require consumers to understand the costs/alternatives/hybrids etc.  Consumer preference will be key to heat decarbonisation with a plan for all homes, to manage expectations, costs, and disruptions.
  • Decarbonising Heating off the Gas Grid – the Government is considering tackling Oil and Coal Heating ahead of wider heat policy decisions. Cadent would prefer a whole community approach to decarbonising.
  • Large Village Project – Cadent is looking into this as it would need the most appropriate area and storage as it would need a lot of hydrogen.

UK100: Countryside Climate Network
  • Traditionally, rural areas are seen as an “add-on” to urban areas. The UK100 set up the Countryside Climate Network in June 2020 to combat this and to drive more attention and more funding to local authorities.  There are 27 local authorities currently in the Network covering 45% of land area in England.
  • Three strands to the Network: Information Sharing, Shared Policy Asks and Insight & Engagement.
  • 75% of rural residents believe cutting emissions will create new job opportunities according to work undertaken by Climate Outreach for UK100 on rural attitudes to climate change. There is the same level of interest to address climate change in rural areas as there are in urban areas.
  • Rural Local Authorities need to be at the forefront of climate change and UK100 agrees that they also need more funding and supports the RSN’s call for fairer funding. Significant under funding, the higher costs of delivery, structural bias, market failures and the one-size-fits-all approach are all constraints.
  • Policy Asks include that Government policy is workable and rural proofed, to consider sparsity and rural Local Authorities seen as key partners.
  • Latest report from UK100Power Shift – Research into Local Authority powers relating to climate action (published 03.05.21)
Any Other Key Outcomes from the Seminar

RSN’s Revitalising Rural Campaign Specific Policy Asks of the Government is for fairer distribution of national resources to rural areas and more nuanced national policies.  There are 14 Chapters in the campaign and one looks at “Decarbonising Rural Communities and Economies”.  As new Government strategies are announced, RSN puts them through a “Rural Lens Review” which adds depth and texture to the Policy Asks.   A fresh crosscut of the Revitalising document being worked on will look in more depth at younger and older people, working age families and businesses (includes agri.). It will also look at the impact of various issues on these groups of people and develop case studies (personal experiences) rather than dry policy discussions.


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