Street lights could be turned off and new roads ditched to help make Devon carbon neutral by 2030

Street lights could be switched off and new roads scrapped as Devon County Council (DCC) bids to become carbon neutral by 2030. 

A new shuttle bus to transport council workers from Exeter train stations to County Hall is also among the ideas to  help reach the climate change-busting aspiration.

The council’s cabinet unanimously on Wednesday agreed to revise the authority’s energy and carbon strategy in response to the climate emergency which they declared earlier this year.

It will also no longer be the authority’s default position to build new roads to tackle congestion, while discussions with town and parish councils will take place about switching off street lights.

DCC’s carbon footprint has already fallen by almost 40 per cent since 2012/13 – and the council expects to hit its 50 per cent reduction target in 202, nine years earlier than planned.

The authority will now aim to reach a 70 per cent reduction by 2030.

The remainder of the carbon footprint will be offset at levels which will gradually increase to reach carbon neutrality by 2030, initially through government-approved tree planting schemes.

As part of the new Energy and Carbon Strategy, DCC will discuss with town and parish councils the prospect of reducing the amount of time that street lights are operational.

It will also try to improve the capacity of the National Grid so more electric vehicles can be used, and move away from a default position of building new roads to tackle congestion.

Reducing the county council’s carbon footprint will save around £3.4million in energy costs, a cabinet meeting this week was was told.

This is compared with the original 50 per cent target, but decarbonising the supply chain is also expected to cost £3million in 2030, if achieved through carbon offsetting alone.

DCC will reduce its carbon emissions by improving the energy efficiency of its buildings, installing solar panels on its assets and buying renewable energy direct from new solar power projects in Devon.

It also plans to install in-car technology in its vehicles and school transport contract vehicles to encourage more efficient driving and reduce emissions.

The aim is for 50 per cent of the authority’s vehicle fleet and 100 per cent of school transport contract vehicles with fewer than eight seats to be converted to electric vehicles by 2030.

Councillor Roger Croad, cabinet member with responsibility for environmental services, said: “We’re making great strides in reducing the carbon footprint of the county council and it has reduced much more rapidly since 2012/13 than we had originally envisaged.

“As we’re likely to achieve our 2030 target next year, it’s a positive step to set an even more ambitious goal of being carbon neutral in the next 10 years.

“Reducing our carbon footprint obviously supports the drive to tackle climate change, and carbon offsetting provides additional environmental benefits in terms of improving air quality, enhancing wildlife habitats and reducing flood risk.

“Being carbon neutral is a challenging objective but we’ve signed up to the Devon Climate Declaration and increasing our efforts is the best way to demonstrate our commitment.

“Reducing the corporate carbon footprint by 70 per cent by 2030 will avoid £3.4million in energy costs in comparison to the existing 50 per cent target.”

Cllr Croad added: “Decarbonising the supply chain by 2030 will come at a cost.

“Some measures will save money – more efficient technology and embracing digital service provision for example – but carbon offsetting, which will be necessary to achieve carbon neutrality, could cost about £3million in the year 2030, so new financial resources will be needed to cover these costs.”

Projects that the council will implement to reduce the carbon footprint include:

  • Deep-retrofit of Lucombe House;
  • 50 per cent of Devon County Council-owned fleet of vehicles converted to electric by 2030 (cars and small vans);
  • 100 per cent of school transport contract vehicles with fewer than eight seats converted to electric by 2030;
  • 2MW of solar PV installed on Devon County Council assets;
  • Facilitation of a minimum of 23MW new solar PV capacity in Devon enabled through a corporate power purchase agreement between the council and generators.

Ten additional recommendations from the Climate Change Standing Overview Group were also added accepted by the cabinet.

The projects that the council will incorporate into a revised Energy and Carbon Strategy include:

  • Adding additional targets and strategies in the plan to address the 30 per cent (of current figures) residue corporate emissions after 2030 and not rely on carbon offset;
  • Undertake discussions with town and parish councils to switch off street lights;
  • Write carbon reduction expectations into contracts for new leases;
  • Review the heating strategy across the council estate to encourage less carbon being used;
  • Ask the LEP (Local Enterprise Partnership) to invest in improvements in the link with national grid to support greater use of renewable sources of energy;
  • Use influence to improve and increase the grid capacity for electric vehicles;
  • Explore the local opportunities around school transport to move to carbon neutrality;
  • Explore the encouragement of train travel on council business by putting on a shuttle bus to the station;
  • In line with the Friends of the Earth ’33 actions local authorities can take on climate change’ report, does not have a default position to build new roads, considering other options where possible, and have regard to the carbon impact of building new roads;
  • Explore greater opportunities to use the residual heat from waste processes including incineration for heating in localities.

Cllr Rob Hannaford, leader of the Labour Group, said that he welcomed the report and the clear ambition to be carbon neutral by 2030.

Cllr Alan Connett, leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, added that the lack of jargon in the report was welcomed, adding: “Avoiding the extra £3.4million in enegry costs would alone be a reason for doing something.”

Cllr Frank Biederman, leader of the Independent Group, added: “We are moving in the right direction. There is some really good positive stuff we have done and we are finding opportunities to reduce it further.”

DCC retained its existing target to source 30 per cent of its energy from renewable sources by 2030.

Exeter to hold ‘carbon neutral festival’ in climate change battle