Jim Orr: Committed to a leaner greener Capital

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Whether you believe we all have a duty to combat climate change or you just want to cut energy bills, everybody knows there is too much energy getting wasted in Scotland these days.

At Edinburgh Council we are tackling this challenge head on and our vision is for a low-carbon, resource-efficient city with a key target of a 42 per cent reduction in carbon usage city-wide by 2020. The projects we are already committed to or investigating are many and varied.

Energy Service Companies (or ESCOs) are arms-length companies which have explicit energy or carbon-related objectives and Aberdeen has led the way on this with Aberdeen Heat and Power.

This company provides low cost, high-efficiency district heating to hundreds of homes. Glasgow is finalising its ESCO arrangements, which look like they will be broader in scope and scale than Aberdeen’s. In Edinburgh, we plan to bring forward a business case for an ESCO very soon. The potential objectives range from retrofitting energy-saving measures, to micro-generation, to tackling fuel ­poverty via district heating or a ­combination of them all.

The Sustainable Energy Action Plan (or SEAP) is another major project which will be launched soon.

It will be vitally important in ­meeting our carbon-cutting targets and involves extensive engagement and partnership working across all sectors of the economy. Other cities have struggled to get this right, but we’re determined to succeed.

Back to our own estate, energy audits have been completed for all our schools and we are analysing the results. Good use of Building Management Systems, which regulate heat, power and water usage so that they are consumed responsibly and only when buildings are occupied, can pay for themselves in savings in only a few years. Staying with schools, one of the most important carbon-cutting improvements of all is behaviour change, and we are even taking this message to primary schools via our new Small Steps pilot scheme.

We have been partners in a district heating pilot in east Edinburgh and, while this has had its challenges, we will learn from it. We are also investigating a pilot scheme for a solar farm on land for which we have no plans and which private sector ­investors would fund and install. The ­benefit to us would be a reduced carbon ­footprint, cheaper electricity and a substantial annual rental income.

Following a very successful white street lighting pilot, the council has also secured a £2 million interest-free loan to extend the coverage. This will save us money directly in energy costs as well as through carbon taxes.

Here at Edinburgh Council, we are determined to be part of the ­solution rather than part of the ­problem and our ambition is to be a truly ­sustainable city.

But if we are to reach our goals, ­everyone in the city has to play their part too. Together we can make our city an even better place to live.

• Councillor Jim Orr is lead member for sustainability at Edinburgh City Council