Bristol City Council: A £1bn City Leap energy plan to help reach net-zero

At a glance
Who: Bristol City Council
What: $1bn City Leap decarbonisation plan
Where: Bristol
Why: To decarbonise heating and buildings
When: Plans approved in December 2022

The Challenge

Regional decarbonisation requires unprecedented levels of collaboration and with central Government policies failing to inspire confidence, cities and local authorities need to come up with innovative ways to raise capital for decarbonisation.

The Solution

Bristol City Council has finalised a new long-term plan to bring in more than £1bn of investment to make the city carbon neutral and climate resilient by 2030 which will transform energy and infrastructure.

How it works

Bristol City Leap was approved by Bristol’s Mayor and Cabinet in December 2022 and contracts to finalise the energy partnership have now been signed by to create a new joint venture between Bristol City Council and Ameresco, with Vattenfall as a sub-contractor.

The Bristol City Leap Project is described by the council as a “20-year journey towards transforming the way that Bristol generates, distributes, stores and uses energy”.

In January 2023, the council set up the contracts with the organisations that will steer the delivery of the flagship project.

The City Leap Initial Business Plan comprises two elements; the Low Carbon Energy Infrastructure (LCEI) plan developed by Ameresco, and the Heat Network plan developed by the Ameresco’s subcontractor, Vattenfall Heat UK.

Projects include an expansion of a leading heat network to account for more businesses and residents and installing solar panels and low-carbon heating systems at local schools. The Council has also confirmed that investment will be used to make social housing more energy efficient.

The LCEI investment plan outlines estimates for £135.5m of heat pump investment, £83.7m energy efficiency investments to reduce demand and optimise electrification of heat solutions, £86.7m investment developing 164MW of renewable generation and 158GWh of energy generated from renewable assets during the initial business plan period.

The Results

Over the next five years, the Bristol City Leap project will aim to deliver at least £424m across infrastructure projects that would reduce the city’s carbon footprint by 140,000 tonnes.

More than 1,000 new jobs, apprenticeships and work placements will be created, while a new Community Energy Development Fund worth £1.5 million will be set up. The Council has confirmed that its staff and sub-contractors within the supply chain will be paid at least the Real Living Wage.

By 2030: the Council aims to achieve EPC rating ‘C’ or better for all the Council’s social housing, significantly contribute to Bristol becoming carbon neutral, and supporting significant reductions in cases of fuel poverty and unhealthy homes.

The industry context

A survey of decision-makers at 50 local authorities in the UK has found that most have not begun properly delivering their net-zero transition plans on the ground, with funding constraints being the most common barrier to progress.

Conducted by property consultancy Cluttons and sustainable design consultancy AESG, the survey found that just one-quarter of the council representatives classed their employer as being properly into the ‘delivery’ phase of their net-zero strategy.

When the survey respondents were asked about the biggest challenges to delivering their council’s net-zero ambitions, 71% said that financing constraints were the biggest challenge. Rounding out the top three most commonly-cited challenges were a lack of in-house skills and a lack of resource.

The Bristol City Leap plan will also connect with local communities, with estimates suggesting that a minimum of £61.5m of social value will be generated over the next five years.

About the Council

Bristol City Council was one of the first local authorities to declare a climate emergency, making its announcement in 2018. It has since committed to delivering a net-zero city region by 2030 and doubling wildlife in the same timeframe.

Also in this timeframe, it is striving to deliver a net-zero carbon energy system through its City Leap Project with Bristol Energy.

To tackle its operational emissions, the council has previously invested heavily in renewable energy, energy efficiency, blockchain and battery storage. The local authority’s plans for mitigation across the city region involve working with local communities to embrace innovation in sectors like energy and transport.

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