This article was written by Ben Burfoot, Energy Theme Lead for Reading Climate Action Network and Sustainability Manager at Reading Borough Council.
What is Cop doing today?
Today is energy day at COP and delegations will be focusing on the issue of ‘Accelerating the global transition to clean energy’.
What are we doing in Reading?
Below are a sample of some of the local initiatives taking place – that are helping us reach the RCCP strategy (2020-2025) aim that Reading takes urgent action to decarbonise its energy networks, increase energy efficiency and create renewable energy capacity:
Local Renewable Energy
Reading Borough Council and Reading Community Energy Society have together installed around 10,000 solar panels across the borough in Reading and plan to install many more. This clean local energy directly reduces the energy that needs to be imported through the grid and lowers the carbon intensity of local energy being consumed. By installing 16 panels on an average sized house, as much energy can be generated over the course of the year as is typically consumed.
Reading Hydro was built and recently commissioned by a community of volunteers and local share holders. It supplies local clean renewable energy to the Lido in Reading. The continuous generation opportunity provided by the river offers a high ‘yield’ of energy. It is a fantastic achievement and shows what local volunteers can achieve and leads the way in local clean community energy.
Readings new local plan includes much more stringent energy efficiency and low carbon requirements, requiring developers to meet a ‘Zero Carbon’ standard. This standard will ensure that development is genuinely zero carbon on site or more likely will meet a net zero carbon level by purchasing carbon reduction measures in other projects in the town such as retrofitting existing housing with carbon reducing measures.
Council houses remain some of the best standards of energy efficiency in the borough with an average of EPC C grade and with many benefiting from free energy from solar panels.
Local Authority New build is also being built to increase the housing supply and improve the standards. They are being built to a high on-site standard with Passivhaus design principles (A very low emission building standard with high energy efficiency and air tightness), renewable energy (PV panels) and heat pumps.
The first whole tower block of Council homes received heat pumps in 2021 and phase 1 of a new External Wall Insulation Programme started.
Putting it all together
It is a combination of measures that will give us the best chance of making our ambitious net zero target by 2030. Our buildings must have very low heat loss so that we can control when we use power to heat them, allowing us to synchronise with the times when the power on the grid is at its lowest. The roofs of our buildings are capable of generating a good proportion of the power we need, by installing photovoltaic solar panels.
The Reading Zero Carbon Depot project is bringing together locally generated energy and using the storage in electrically powered bin lorries to cherry pick the lowest carbon times on the grid. The site is all electric and we are migrating the Councils 200 or so vehicles to electric. In the future vehicles will be able to supply sufficient power to the grid to enable the smoothing out the supply and help to match it to our renewable generation.
District Energy Networks are being planned and integrated into our new developments. These will act as large scale heating systems for dense new housing developments in the town, supplying heat pumped from rivers and aquifers to heat modern energy efficient buildings.
As an individual: Insulate your home
As an organisation: Switch to a Green Energy supplier