MORE tree planting and renewable schemes could be needed if Swansea Council is to deliver on its greenhouse gas aspirations because it’s hard to make old school buildings much more energy efficient, a senior officer has said.
Martin Nicholls, director of place, said the council had made a lot of progress cutting its greenhouse gas emissions but faced an obstacle with schools.
Councillors approved a motion last year calling for the authority to become “carbon neutral” by 2030, with Government backing. This would be achieved by cutting greenhouse gas emissions and offsetting remaining ones with measures like tree-planting and installing solar panels on council buildings.
The authority was already committed to reducing its emissions by 3% year on year.
Speaking at a council policy development committee meeting, Mr Nicholls said: “The challenge for me is that the significant portion of those emissions are within council buildings, and over half of those are in council schools.
“We can talk about reducing council vehicles and ‘greening’ the fleet, which we are already doing.
“I think the challenge is more around being able to do the level of work in some of our schools – many of them are of an age which is quite difficult to make them significantly more energy efficient than they already are.”
He cited a Welsh Government energy programme which he said would help, but added: “The reality is that we’re not going to reduce the numbers of schools, and therefore it’s probably going to be more dependent on offsetting, and renewables.
“But there clearly will be a need to make that year on year reduction of at least 3%.
“We have moved quite a long way but there is clearly an awful lot we will need to do to get there by 2030.”
The council sources all of its electricity from renewable sources.
Its electricity bill in 2019-20 was just over £5 million, £1 million more than the previous year.
Its gas bill was just over £2 million, £400,000 more than in 2018-19.
Schools account for 44% of this expenditure.
The council has planted lots of trees and is committed to planting more.
Solar panels have been fitted to several schools, the Guildhall and a care home, and a solar farm has been proposed at Tir John landfill site, Port Tennant.
New council houses will be greener than in the past, and existing council properties are being made more energy efficient.
A draft energy strategy will be brought before cabinet in due course.
Cllr Andrea Lewis, cabinet member for homes, energy and service transformation, said the 2030 carbon neutral target was achievable, especially if a council-led Swansea Bay tidal lagoon materialised.
“We have already made great strides,” she said.
“We want to try to exceed those targets wherever we can.”