New street light dimming proposals in Peterborough to reduce carbon emissions

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New proposals to reduce street lighting in Peterborough will be brought forward in order to reduce carbon emissions.

A revised Carbon Action Management Plan has hailed the impact of dimming in certain parts of the city, with plans to establish minimum lighting levels now being developed.

The Conservative-run council said that carbon emissions from the dimming of street lights had reduced significantly in recent months, and that it hopes to “allow some of these benefits to be sustained” under its new plans.

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Overall, emissions generated by the council have reduced by more than 17 per cent in a single year, dropping from 11,607 tonnes of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) in 2018/19 to 9,613 tonnes in 2019/20.

Street lights in Peterborough could be dimmed further under plans from the city councilStreet lights in Peterborough could be dimmed further under plans from the city council
Street lights in Peterborough could be dimmed further under plans from the city council

This has been in part due to decarbonisation of the national electricity grid.

The authority declared a climate emergency in July 24, 2019 which saw it commit to making both its activities and the city’s activities net-zero carbon by 2030.

The new plan - which draws on recommendations from a council cross-party working group - focuses on actions related to council functions and includes 21 commitments for 2021.

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Proposals for the entirety of the city are set to be released at the end of the year.

Cllr Nick Sandford, council Liberal Democrat leader and a member of the working group, said the new city-wide plan “needs to be really ambitious if the city is to have any chance of achieving its goal of getting to net zero carbon by 2030”.

He added: “Our officers are going to be carrying out public engagement on a number of possible measures to tackle the main sources of carbon emissions, including transport and stationary energy, and the likely carbon impacts of each measure will be calculated before a draft plan is presented to Cabinet and Full Council in December.”

More than a quarter of emissions from council activities come from cultural services (26.3 per cent), followed by waste and street cleaning company Aragon Direct Services (20.9 per cent) and street lighting (20 per cent).

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The largest single contributing building to emissions is the Regional Fitness and Swimming Centre in Bishop’s Road (approximately 681 tonnes of CO2e) - which is due to be replaced by a new facility at the Pleasure Fair Meadow Car Park in Oundle Road - followed by the council’s Sand Martin House offices at the new Fletton Quays development (443 tonnes).

In 2020, the council finished upgrading 17,000 street lights to energy-efficient LEDs.

It then agreed to dim street lights in residential areas by 20 per cent between 9.30pm and 5am, by 20 per cent on traffic routes between 9pm and midnight, and by 40 per cent between midnight and 5am.

Examining the effects of that decision, the authority said it had reduced carbon emissions by 183.7 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent - more than 1.5 per cent of the entire reduction over the year.

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Moreover, during the coronavirus pandemic it then rushed through a decision to dim lights in residential areas and on traffic routes by 40 per cent from “switch on to switch of” over a limited period due to the sharp reduction in traffic.

Although the effects of this have yet to be measured, it said: “Proposals to establish minimum lighting levels are currently being developed which it is hoped will allow some of these benefits to be sustained.”

Other areas being targeted included large emitting peat-based soils, of which 60 to 80 per cent in the UK is estimated to be in the Peterborough/Cambridgeshire area, moving the mayor on to an electric or hybrid vehicle, achieving 100 per cent clean energy across the council’s functions by 2030, and having highways contractor Skanska utilise an “alternative lower carbon fuel for their vehicle fleets”.

There are also plans to set up a Climate Change Partnership group, involving young people, and convene a citizen’s assembly.

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The emissions registered by the council do not include: those arising from waste treatment, employee commuting, passenger transport and organisations it has a direct involvement in, such as Medesham Homes.

In a report outlining its new carbon management plan, the council said: “Peterborough has the potential to be a truly sustainable city. A city which has a thriving local economy, strong communities and a sustainable way of life. A city where our residents are healthy, happy and prosperous.

“To achieve this we will need to do things differently. If everyone on Earth lived as the average Peterborian, British or European citizen does, we would need nearly three planets’ worth of resources to sustain us

Peterborough City Council has committed to take action to reverse the trend of increasing consumption of natural resources and instead put Peterborough on the road to becoming a truly sustainable city.

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“It remains clear that there is an unprecedented urgency to address climate change. The climate science is unequivocal. There is recognition that the impacts of climate breakdown are already causing serious damage around the world.”

21 Commitments for 2021

1. Develop and trial a proposal for minimum street lighting levels across the city to maximise carbon savings, balancing environmental, social and economic factors.

2. Roll out ‘Carbon Literacy’ training during 2021, initially focusing on Members of the Climate Change Cross Party Working Group, Change Champions and lead officers from each department across the Council.

3. Seek to secure funding from future rounds of the Public Sector Decarbonisation scheme (or an alternative source) to improve the efficiency of the Council’s estate.

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4. Develop a process for collecting additional emissions data from the Council’s farm estate and seek funding to undertake research to identify potential opportunities to reduce carbon emissions from peat soils.

5. Develop a process for collecting additional emissions data from 3rd party organisations including Medesham Homes and Opportunity Peterborough.

6. Develop a process for collecting additional emissions data from purchased materials and work with the Council’s procurement team to identify mechanisms to improve the sustainability of the council’s procurement process.

7. When normal Mayoral duties resume, a new lease for the Mayoral car will be considered which will include options for an electric or hybrid vehicle.

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8. To ascertain and review options to enable the Council to consider switching to a low carbon gas tariff.

9. Begin to implement recommendations from the fleet review undertaken by Aragon which will see the introduction of new electric vehicles.

10. Develop detailed carbon assessments for two major highway projects and use the information to influence the final design.

11. Engage with national government on the resources and legislation necessary to empower local government to deliver our climate ambitions.

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12. Develop a Business Case to establish the viability of switching the local Skanska fleet to an alternative sustainable fuel.

13. Investigate the opportunities to reduce emissions from the Regional Swimming Pool, currently the Council’s single highest carbon emitting site.

14. Continue to rationalise office floorspace thereby reducing energy demands, for example, excess floorspace at the Town Hall will be leased.

15. Initiate a process to identify adaptation opportunities across the Council’s operations and potential interventions.

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16. Roll out further guidance and training for staff in relation to the recently introduced ‘Carbon Impact Assessment’ procedure – a new assessment which requires all Council decisions to be assessed for the carbon implications of the decision being made.

17. Actively participate in a citywide Climate Change Partnership forum, and the annual Climate Change Action day.

18. Further develop the cross-party Climate Change Member Working Group, so that each political party of the Council can both champion carbon savings, scrutinise decision making and steer further carbon savings initiatives and ideas.

19. Work with other local authorities to ensure best practice is shared and opportunities to collaborate are identified and developed.

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20. Hold the second annual Climate Action Day, known as March Forth to engage businesses and residents across the city. This day will be a celebration of the work to date, as well an opportunity to share ideas on how to tackle climate change and take a pledge to adopt climate friendly behaviours for the day.

21. Conduct a staff travel survey once Covid-19 restrictions are lifted to understand the change in travel behaviour. Opportunities to support home working where feasible will be explored.

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