City plans electric car points and solar panels

Alana Beaton shows off a solar meadow at the Midlothian Campus of Edinburgh College. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Alana Beaton shows off a solar meadow at the Midlothian Campus of Edinburgh College. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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A CITY-WIDE network of electric vehicle charging points will be built under plans to slash the Capital’s carbon emissions over the next five years.

The proposals would see Lothian Buses install the technology, which will also be available to the public, as the firm rolls out electric plug-in hybrid buses – all part of a push to set Edinburgh on course for a carbon-free future.

Turning disused land into ground-mounted solar panel arrays and converting car parks into solar “canopies” are also among a range of measures being pursued or explored as part of Edinburgh’s Sustainable Energy Action Plan (Seap). And efforts to shift 15 per cent of all city commutes from motor vehicles to bikes by 2020 – up from eight per cent currently – will continue to move ahead, with plans to increase the share of budgetary spend on safe cycling routes, storage areas and other schemes to seven per cent.

Alternative energy sources are also set to be provided at key developments across Edinburgh, including a combined heat and power system at the £850 million St James retail development and a micro-hydro power site as part of the Saughton Park revamp.

Council leaders said their plan had been put together after signing up to the EU Covenant of Mayors and reflected a 
commitment to hit a carbon reduction target of 42 per cent – more than double the 20 per cent goal agreed to by towns and cities elsewhere in Europe.

A future of plentiful and affordable energy awaits if the plan is achieved, they said, adding that success would help alleviate financial pressures bearing down on thousands of families living in fuel poverty.

Sustainable transport and green groups in the city have broadly welcomed the plan’s goals, branding them a “good step forward”.

Matthew Crighton, chair of Friends of the Earth Edinburgh, said successful implementation would provide a major boost to the Capital’s green credentials and the quality of life enjoyed by residents.

But he called for more in-depth information on how each Seap measure would lead to a fall in Edinburgh’s overall level of carbon emissions.

He said: “If the actions listed are completed, Edinburgh will make both an important contribution to tackling climate change and also be a better place to live and work.

“For example they will bring us warm homes which are cheap to heat, energy-efficient workplaces and quieter and cleaner streets.

“However, the plans need to be more concrete, setting clear timetables and quantifying the emissions which can be saved from each measure.

“It isn’t clear from this 
document how the council’s target of a 42 per cent reduction by 2020 will be achieved. While it makes clear that the rate of emissions reductions must be accelerated, it doesn’t set out the how it can all add up.”

And stressing that the task of decarbonising the city’s economy was not the sole responsibility of the city council, he called on partner organisations to make clear their commitment.

“The report rightly points out that it’s a plan for the city, not just the council, and much of it needs to be implemented by other organisations,” he said.

“We would like to know if those other organisations have bought into the plan – the health board, the universities, large private employers, banks and retailers. Public bodies have a duty to contribute to the targets in the Climate Change Act so they should already have put plans in place.”

The city council has said it will work with a range of partners – including local groups and businesses – to develop new initiatives aimed at cutting emissions and focussing on the role communities play in delivering projects such as energy co-operatives.

Replacement of street and tenement stair lights with energy efficient LED systems and the establishment of an energy services company, Energy for Edinburgh, are among other actions proposed.

Sustainable transport leaders said the council’s drive to boost levels of cycling throughout the city was achievable.

John Lauder, director of Sustrans Scotland, said: “The target of 15 per cent commutes by bike by 2020 is a long standing commitment by City of Edinburgh Council and one which Sustrans fully supports.

“In particular, the council’s Active Travel Action Plan is well constructed and it is increasing the budget for cycling on an annual basis.

“With eight per cent of commuting journeys in the city already by bike, there is every indication that Edinburgh will achieve the 15 per cent target over the next five years.”

Opposition leaders said there was still much to do to convince residents of the plan’s merits but stressed that, if fully delivered, it could put Edinburgh ahead of the pack.

Councillor Chas Booth, 
environment spokesman for the city’s Greens, said: “Central to the plan is showing how using energy sustainably is about creating a better, more competitive Edinburgh which unleashes the vast jobs potential in both 
improved energy efficiency and new types of energy supply.

“However, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. It’s good to set challenging targets on transport and energy supply but only if all parts of the council are signed up to meeting them properly – the council needs to put its money where its mouth is.”

He added: “If the city gets this right, it’ll be in the vanguard of a fairer, greener economy.”

Directors at Lothian Buses said they were committed to using new technology to slash carbon emissions.

A spokeswoman said: “We strive to lead the way with the latest industry technology and we’ve invested in our fleet to meet the latest carbon targets.

“We’re fully engaged in the Sustainable Energy Action Plan and look forward to making further investments in new technologies which can benefit our passengers and the wider city environment.”

Councillor Lesley Hinds, environment leader, said: “Climate change and the rising cost of energy are huge issues, affecting each and every one of us, so it is absolutely necessary that we make every effort to address our own impact.

“We are already making moves to tackle carbon emissions and fuel poverty in the city, with a number of initiatives in place, and the SEAP will not only build on these but will inspire and encourage new ways of reducing 
emissions.”

We’re charging ahead of the rest

THE Capital is already ahead of the game when it comes to electric cars, with a network of charging points that is the best-used in Scotland.

A survey by the RAC Foundation found there are as many as 1100 electric cars on Scottish streets, with the biggest share of those believed to be in Edinburgh.

And the city sits almost unchallenged at the top of the electric car league table, with drivers in other council areas shunning charging points.

In Glasgow, just 60 per cent of the city’s 42 points were used during August 2014, with the same proportion of Dundee’s 40 points being used. In Edinburgh, every one of the 38 charging points across the city were used that month.

Many of the Capital’s public charging points are run by the council or public institutions such as Police Scotland, NHS Lothian or the city’s universities and colleges.

Andy Kerr, executive of green energy hub the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation, which has two charging points of its own, said: “Electric vehicles are a classic case where people are a bit nervous about them, they feel a bit different, but once you start driving one, you will tend to use it again.”

Proposals to ensure green outlook for the Capital

Key proposals from the Sustainable Energy Action Plan include:

• Establishing a Housing Energy Forum for the city, addressing energy efficiency and heating;

• Launching a large-scale energy retrofit programme targeted initially at the largest public sector buildings in the city and ultimately applying to all non-domestic (ND) buildings in the city by 2020;

• The replacement of all street lights in the city and stair lights in communal tenement properties with LED systems by 2020;

• Taking forward at least three major district heating schemes in the city by 2020;

• Evaluating a number of renewables projects including solar, photovoltaic, heat pumps, biodiesel and waste heat;

• Progressing the Zero Waste Project and the Energy Recycling and Recovery facility which will deliver considerable carbon savings;

• Aiming for 15 per cent of all commutes by bicycle by 2020;

• Implementing a new electric vehicle strategy aiming to roll out infrastructure across the city by 2020;

• Creating energy zones in local communities;

• Working with the ten largest public and private sector organisations in the city and encouraging the development of energy reduction targets;

• Establishing an energy service company, Energy for Edinburgh, to be launched in 2015 to take forward a range of key energy projects in the city.