Plans launched for ‘Bridgend 2030’ decarbonisation strategy and latest on local energy schemes

Bridgend County Borough Council’s Cabinet discussed a series of reports into decarbonisation and energy schemes at a meeting this week.

They involved updates on the local authority’s ‘Bridgend 2030’ decarbonisation strategy, the Bridgend Town Heat Network, the Caerau Heat Scheme, and a Welsh Government Domestic Energy Efficiency Programme.

Welsh Government declared a Climate Emergency in April 2019 and has committed to achieving a carbon-neutral public sector by 2030. The focus areas are initially energy, transport, buildings and open spaces.

In 2019, Bridgend County Borough Council developed a Smart Energy Plan comprising a series of projects, including the planned heat networks in Bridgend and Caerau. These will form an important part of the decarbonisation strategy.

In addition, significant investment has also been made into active travel routes within the county borough and the conversion of all street lighting to LEDs has resulted in reducing associated emissions by up to 70% overall.

Other opportunities highlighted in the ‘Bridgend 2030’ Cabinet report involve delivering renewable power schemes on the council’s estate of buildings and land to produce electricity that offsets demands, smart metering across the entire estate, full electrification or hydrogen fueling of the council’s fleet of vehicles, and rapid expansion of community electric charging.

The council would look to jointly produce the 2030 strategy with the Public Services Board to co-ordinate efforts on decarbonisation across the county borough. Now that work to develop the strategy has been approved, a draft will be prepared for public consultation in the summer with the aim of having it in place by the autumn.

Cllr Richard Young, Cabinet Member for Communities, who will now chair the council’s 2030 energy board, said: “This is a really innovative, outward-looking report. The strategy brings together all of our environmental projects and aligns us with the aspirations set out in our Climate Emergency Response Programme.”

Cabinet members also heard about the progress being made on the Bridgend Town Heat Network Project.

The network plans to use excess heat from a combined plant and thermal storage facility based at the Bridgend Life Centre to heat the centre, as well as the Bowls Hall and Civic Centre offices.

The project, which was awarded a £1.2m grant from UK Government in August 2020, will also provide electricity to those buildings. A planning application for the thermal store is due to be submitted by the end of January.

Phase two of the project could then connect two hospitals, four schools and a care home, as well as a potential new development within Bridgend town centre. Additional funding of £102,150 from UK Government has been secured towards the £150,000 cost of preparing an outline business case for phase two, with the remaining £47,850 being provided by BCBC and funded from the Strategic Regeneration Fund.

Cllr Young said: “This project forms a major part of the council’s 2030 strategy. As community leaders who are asking residents to look at their energy consumption, we should lead the way by doing the same.”

Cabinet members also agreed to undertake an options appraisal for the Caerau Heat Scheme to determine the viability and suitability of alternative delivery methods.

Investigation work on the innovative project in Caerau has involved looking at how heat could be extracted from underground water inside a former colliery.

The local authority, which is overseeing the project, is working closely on the scheme alongside partners such as Welsh Government, British Geological Survey, Natural Resources Wales, Cardiff University, Energy Systems Catapult and The Coal Authority.

A report completed by The Coal Authority in September 2020 concluded that the water currently in an existing borehole is unlikely to be mine water with further investigation necessary.

However, indicative costs for further investigation work are estimated to be around £2.5m, more than three times previous estimates. A study on alternative technologies for the delivery of the Caerau Heat Scheme has indicated other options could involve air-source or ground source heat and individual property-based packages.

The options appraisal will review a range of options, including continuing with the original scope of the project seeking further funder agreement for the higher than anticipated costs, continue investigations into a smaller mine water-led scheme, seek an alternative source of heat for a scheme to serve homes, deliver a combined programme mine water scheme, serving the school, and an alternative heat source serving homes or provide home energy improvements on a home by home basis.

Cabinet approved the report and the options appraisal is expected to be completed within six months.

Finally, Cabinet also discussed a Welsh Government-funded project which aims to improve the energy efficiency of homes in Bridgend county borough and has identified Ogmore Valley and Porthcawl East as possible target areas.

The Domestic Energy Efficiency Programme’s primary focus is to reduce fuel poverty with homes being identified for inclusion based on data such as the Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation, Energy Performance Certificates, housing benefit and free school meals.

It is set to include property assessments and a package of works designed to improve the energy efficiency of the home.

It is the third phase of a Welsh Government scheme, which will be entirely managed and delivered by Arbed am Byth and Welsh Government, with the local authority only due to agree the area where the programme will be offered, sending out initial letters to residents inviting them to engage in the programme and attend information events, and providing support at community engagement events.

Before approving the scheme, cabinet members have decided to request further information from Welsh Government about the local authority’s role.