Collaborating to cut carbon and costs: raising ambitions to county-level

Sometimes we need to join forces to realise our ambitions. Suffolk County Council and Carbon Smart have been helping local businesses to identify cost and carbon savings they could never have achieved on their own – by working with their neighbours to form local energy networks.

A local energy network (sometimes called a district network) is one where heat or power is provided to multiple buildings or sites from one central source. The ‘local’ or ‘district’ network is a decentralised system meaning that the heat or power is produced close to where it is used, rather than through a large power station and transported through the National Grid, thus reduces transmission losses and lowers carbon emissions. Often such schemes include renewable energy or low carbon technologies such as solar panels or CHP (combined heat and power) plant.

Carbon Smart have been working with Suffolk for over two years, and this recent project forms the latest initiative to help the County reach its ambition of being the greenest county. To date they have supported businesses to increase their energy efficiency, generate their own power through renewable energy systems and are now trying to maximise savings opportunities through energy networks. For the businesses involved joining together for a network should bring increased resilience and security of supply, a revenue stream, more competitive energy prices and reduced emissions.

Carbon Smart have mapped the county identifying suitable sites for energy networks and we now have 5 projects moving forward including:

  • Maximising the value one site gets from their solar panels, with benefits like giving neighbouring businesses the opportunity to buy local, green electricity while relieving pressure on the local grid.
  • For another a CHP system will provide power to two light manufacturing sites who will share the benefit
  • We’re also working with the landlords of an industrial estate to explore all options for their mixed-use site – reviewing options energy efficiency and clean energy to supply their tenant businesses. Options include solar, biomass boilers or ground/air source heat pumps.

None of these projects would be feasible for an individual business, due to the scale of the systems, however by joining forces and working with neighbours, these larger scale, higher impact projects can become a reality.

By supporting initiatives like this, Suffolk County Council can enable many more carbon-cutting projects than any single business could undertake. Carbon Smart have seen many local business leaders catching the vision for cutting costs and carbon, and go on to access support and investment that would not have been possible without such a coordinated, scoping approach. Councils have the power to have a real impact when it comes to developing cleaner energy in their area and we hope that thanks to available funding and regional coordination, they seize it.

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