A COUNCIL is setting aside £230,000 over two years in a bid to cut its energy bills that are costing it at least £3.5 million this year.
The spending will include £150,000 from reserves this year to start four projects which are intended to save £300,000 on Torfaen Borough Council’s gas and electric bills in the 2023/24 financial year.
The remaining £80,000 – spread over the 2023/24 and 24/25 financial years – is to temporarily cover the cost of employing an officer to support the project.
Rachel Jowitt, the council’s environment director, said the officer would be responsible for gathering data on the council’s energy use therefore freeing up more senior officers to get to grips with the bigger energy saving projects.
The council is using its reserves to underwrite energy costs this year with the decision use the rainy day fund for what are essentially day to day running costs justified due to a spike in energy prices, in part due to soaring inflation and the squeeze on supply related to the war in Ukraine.
As well as having environmental commitments to reducing energy use, the council’s Labour cabinet was told it has to be prepared to pay more for energy than it previously did even if current prices fall.
The council’s carbon and energy reduction manager Gren Ham told the cabinet: “We can be reasonably sure energy prices are not going to go as low as they were a year ago, they will probably be somewhere between where they were and where they are now.”
The Welsh Government has a target for the public sector to be net zero carbon, meaning any emissions that it does produce are offset throught mitigations such as tree planting, by 2030 and Torfaen council says its project Apollo energy saving scheme is a response to the target which will also make running services more financially sustainable.
It will concentrate on schools and other council buildings that emit the most carbon emissions as well as generating energy through solar panels and seeking grant funding to support the work.
Cwmbran Coed Eva councillor, and cabinet member, Fiona Cross asked if there was the possibility the council could operate a similar scheme for outside groups such as community halls.
Ms Jowitt said the council has been awarded money from the UK Government’s Shared Prosperity Fund for just such a scheme and Mr Ham said the council has already advertised for decarbonisation officers to support businesses and communities.
The cabinet was told since 2019/20 emissions from council owned, and operated buildings have reduced from 8,100 tonnes of CO2 to 6,600 in 2021/22, calculated using Welsh Government’s annual Public Sector Net Zero Carbon Reporting methodology.
Council leader Anthony Hunt described those figures as “really encouraging” but said “we all recognise there is much more work to do” and added it is “important” the council encourages others to reduce their energy use “as well as doing the right thing ourselves.”
Carbon emissions saved as part of the council’s project Apollo will be reviewed on an annual basis.