Edinburgh carbon neutral 2030: 'Private property owners need to play their part'

All sectors of housing will need to pull their weight if Edinburgh is to meet its target to become carbon neutral by 2030, a senior councillor has warned.

By David Bol
Tuesday, 29th October 2019, 6:00 am
Edinburgh City Council's affordable housing already meets 'silver' sustainability standards
Edinburgh City Council's affordable housing already meets 'silver' sustainability standards

The city’s housing chief has warned that focusing solely on improving energy efficiencies in social housing will have a “minimal” impact on the Capital’s pledge to become carbon neutral by 2030.

Edinburgh City Council has outlined dozens of short and medium term measures to cut the Capital’s carbon footprint in the next 11 years – including for the housing it provides. But the councillor in charge of housing has called on the private sector to play its part in ensuring Edinburgh reaches its target – which will become enforceable in 2037. Independent research commissioned by the council has revealed that £8 billion of investment will be needed by the entire city, just to cut the Capital’s carbon use by 67 per cent.

The council’s road map to 2030 says the authority is “committed to ensuring the highest standards of sustainable design and construction are achieved” while a number of the council’s major developments including Granton, Meadowbank. Fountainbridge and Powderhall “will be designed to achieve a high environmental performance”.

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Existing council homes are being upgraded to meet the Energy Efficient Standard for Social Housing (EESSH) by 2020, while higher standards will be sought after 2020. A pilot is being planned for Kirkliston “to accelerate the use of renewable energy, through targeting retrofit in consultation with tenants”.

Last week, council leader, Cllr Adam McVey, said the “holy grail” of improving heating systems in tenement flats across the Capital would be to move “from an underground gas supply across the city to an underground heat supply” and investigate “a renewable district heating model”.

Housing, homelessness and fair work convener, Cllr Kate Campbell, told the council’s policy and sustainability committee that taking carbon out of the authority’s own housing stock will only have “minimal” impact on hitting the zero carbon target.

She said: “The council’s housing stock only accounts for around three per cent of carbon emissions in the city, new housing is built to a minimum of silver standard and the Energy Efficiency Standards for Social Housing mean that we have really good levels of energy efficiency already across our stock. Of course we can do more and we undertaking a huge amount of work to look at this.

“But we have 60 per cent of owner occupiers in Edinburgh, which is high compared to other cities, and 25 per cent of housing is in the private rented sector. So we need to look at housing in the round. We need to consider what legislative changes might help, but also what we can do to incentivise and drive change – both for new build, which is being looked at through planning, and for existing homes.”

She added: “I’ve asked that the next report looks specifically at how we can work with the private sector and home owners, both in terms of stick, but more importantly carrot because, especially with owner occupiers, the opportunity to intervene legislatively is limited. And if we focus just on social housing the impact on carbon emissions will be minimal.

“In terms of new build, if we can drive up energy efficiency standards across all tenures we will also drive down costs for all developments. Because if higher standards are adopted by everyone it means there will be more research and development, and adoption of modern and innovative methods of construction across the sector. And that will, over time, reduce the costs of higher energy efficiency standards.”

The council is set to strengthen the local development plan policies “in favour of sustainable growth” as well as review the Edinburgh Design Guidance to prioritise removing the reliance on carbon in newly-built homes.

St James Centre set for low carbon energy scheme

A flagship retail development in the city centre has announced a low carbon energy system – with a lease agreed for 33 years.

Edinburgh St James has agreed a partnership with ENGIE, who will provide and manage the energy centre – which will save traders money in reduced energy bills and serve all homes as part of the development with affordable heat and chilled water for cooling.

The scheme will also encourage sustainability and recycling throughout the site – with electricity generated from the energy centre used to supply power elsewhere.

The on-site combined cooling, heat and power (CCHP) energy centre, typically has an energy efficiency of more than 80 per cent compared with 56 per cent for a more conventional system. In addition, allowance has been made for expansion of the service into even more sustainable technologies as they are developed.

Martin Perry, director of development at Edinburgh St James, said: “It became clear from the outset that ENGIE’s commitment to cost-savings in a low carbon environment aligned with ours, Edinburgh City Council’s and the Scottish Government’s aspirations for our existing and future partners, residents and occupiers within the development.

“This deal marks another milestone on the road to completing this transformational project for Edinburgh. To have been fortunate enough to agree a partner of the quality of ENGIE takes us another step closer to the project completion and we look forward to a long and successful relationship with one of the very best energy centre operators in Europe.”

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