Project to cut carbon emissions in public buildings recommended to Cabinet

Solar panels on the roof of Barnsley Town Hall is one of a raft of energy efficiency improvements proposed as part of a £5.6m project to slash the carbon footprint of public sector buildings across Barnsley.

Cabinet will be asked to approve the proposed Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme at their meeting on Wednesday March 24.

The project will involve upgrades to building services including heating and lighting systems, as well as upgrades to building management systems that automate the operation of buildings. The result will be improved energy efficiency and reductions in carbon emissions.

The entire £5.6m project will be funded through the UK Government’s Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme, a £1 billion fund established to enable public sector bodies to improve energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the public estate, as well as boosting the low-carbon economy and supporting the economic recovery from the Coronavirus pandemic.

The works will help Barnsley Council achieve its target of reaching net-zero carbon emissions before 2040 across its own operations, and a net-zero borough by 2045. Net-zero means carbon emissions are brought close enough to zero that any remaining emissions can be off-set through carbon removal projects such as tree planting.

Six of the eight council-owned buildings in the first phase of the project will benefit from the highly efficient combination of solar PV panels to generate electricity, and air source heat pumps to generate heat from that green electricity: Barnsley Town Hall, Westgate Plaza, the Digital Media Centre, Royston Leisure Centre, Hoyland Leisure Centre and Dearneside Leisure Centre.

Barnsley Crematorium’s roof isn’t suitable for solar panels, and Gateway Plaza already has them, but all eight buildings will benefit from building management system upgrades, and Gateway Plaza, the Digital Media Centre, Westgate Plaza and Dearneside Leisure Centre will all be fitted with ultra-low energy LED lighting.

The proposed works across the eight buildings will give an estimated saving of 632 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year, amounting to around 46% of total emissions for these buildings.

The second phase of the scheme includes building management system upgrades at all 11 secondary and special schools across Barnsley built as part of the Building Schools for the Future programme. This will result in energy saving at the sites, and the council and schools are expected to benefit from a reduction in energy costs.

Cllr Tim Cheetham, Cabinet Spokesperson for Regeneration and Culture, said: “This government funding gives us a fantastic opportunity to make really significant investments into our public buildings, which will help us make a significant reduction in our carbon footprint, while protecting these important assets to make sure they remain sustainable long into the future.

“The council is preparing to switch energy tariff and from 1 April the council will be purchasing 100% renewable electricity. This switch, as well as installing air source heat pumps and solar panels on some of our key buildings including the town hall, will mean we can heat and power these buildings with a significant reduction in the use of fossil fuels which is a huge step forward in our drive to net-zero carbon.

“The investment will be a significant boost to the economy and we’ll be working with suppliers to ensure local labour and supply chains are used wherever possible.”

Read the full cabinet report.

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