New energy strategy is a light-bulb moment for Buckinghamshire

Buckinghamshire generates little of its own energy, and the county is reliant on external sources for nearly 97% of its power. Only 3.2% is generated by local renewable sources.

But all this is about to change. Monday July 20, the County Council’s Cabinet adopted a new energy strategy aiming to tackle energy efficiency while increasing the amount of energy generated locally.

And it comes complete with a vision to potentially set up an energy services company.

The energy strategy has been developed by the five councils across the county over the past year with the Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes Natural Environment Partnership, supported by businesses, charities and community groups.

And County Council Resource Strategy Manager David Sutherland told the Cabinet this collaborative approach would help ensure that communities are central to the future of energy generation in the County and would be the main beneficiaries of the development of new energy resources.

He said the County Council had done much in recent years to reduce energy bills through its own carbon management plan with projects such as solar panels on the roof of County Hall, installing LED street lights and completing a large building insulation programme. Last year’s power bill was £6.5 million, a reduction on the previous year of 4.5%.

The new strategy was a game-changer, said Warren Whyte, Cabinet Member for Planning and Environment.

‘This strategy is a light-bulb moment for us,’he said. ‘Generating electricity and heat not only reduces our costs, but there are real opportunities to generate revenue from our own energy.’

Small scale community initiatives envisaged, working with the community interest company Low Carbon Chilterns, include projects such as roof-mounted solar panels at schools and community buildings.

An initiative already completed – the installationof biomass boilers in eight County Council premises – is expected to bring in around £180,000 a year from heat sales and the Government’s renewable heat incentive.

And the Energy from Waste plant, being built at Calvert in north Buckinghamshire, would generate22 megawatts of electricity once it’s on-stream in 2016 -enough to power a fifth of Buckinghamshire’s homes.

‘Changing the way energy is generated and used in Buckinghamshire is a big challenge and requires long term commitment if it is to be achieved,’ saidWarren. ‘Which is why our strategy sets out a 25-year vision and framework for action, which together provide the necessary certainty and flexibility.’

The County Councilwill beexploring the potential for a delivery body – such as an energy services company – to realise its energy generation aspirations and initiatives.