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Helping deliver net zero for Essex County Council

Having secured Salix grant funding in 2020, Essex County Council commissioned Mitie to support it with its ambitious decarbonisation programme. With its own commitment to decarbonise Britain by helping public and private sector organisations meet their sustainability targets, Plan Zero, Mitie was well placed to help the county achieve its goal of reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050. As part of the project, Mitie is planning and delivering a number of initiatives to cut carbon emissions and improve the energy efficiency of all of the Council’s buildings, including schools, records offices and resource centres.

Given that every building in the Council’s estate is different, the work kicked off with Mitie auditing each site to collect baseline data on energy consumption and carbon emissions. Through these surveys, Mitie was able to determine that the buildings were generating over 18,000 tonnes of carbon, as well as identifying solutions, such as installing double glazed windows and solar panels, to cut carbon at each individual location.

Having used the surveys to create a clear net zero pathway for the Council’s estate, Mitie’s sustainability and procurement experts helped Essex County Council apply for the UK Government’s funding for low carbon projects, the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme. The programme was designed collaboratively, to ensure that grant criteria was met and secure the best value for money for the Council.

Once the funding was approved, Mitie started to deliver these solutions. For example, hundreds of double-glazed windows are currently being installed to reduce the amount of heat lost and keep buildings warm during the cold months, limiting the amount of energy needed for heating and generating significant financial saving. Meanwhile, lighting systems in 24 sites have been switched to more energy efficient alternatives, such as LED, which will save around £100,000 in energy bills and 144 tonnes of carbon a year. With the LED installation now completed at all of these 24 sites, Mitie is now looking to change the lights in a number of other key buildings to save an additional 30 tonnes of carbon each year.

As well as improving energy efficiency, Mitie is working with Essex County Council to ensure that its buildings’ heating systems are sustainable. This includes replacing heating systems currently in use at three sites with air source heat pumps, switching from the current gas-powered heating system to lower carbon electricity.

As moving buildings away from gas to electricity can increase energy costs, Mitie has designed the project so that Essex County Council can use the financial savings from implementing other sustainability solutions to fund the operational costs of switching the buildings to electricity from renewable sources.

Similarly, solar panels will also be installed to generate renewable energy to power many of the sites, with the recommendation in the Essex Climate Action Commission recent report that solar panels should be installed on all available roofs by 2050, helping to significantly reduce carbon emissions and energy costs at these sites. Mitie has already installed roof mounted solar panels at 15 schools across the country and is planning to expand this programme to another 12 schools and 16 County Council buildings across Essex before the end of 2021. However, solar panel installation isn’t possible at every site, for example there’s not always enough space to install them. Therefore, Mitie is helping Essex County Council negotiate green energy contracts to switch the buildings to renewable energy, helping limit the Council’s carbon footprint.

From securing funding, through to designing a strategy and then putting it in place, delivering net zero requires a broad range of expertise and skills across many different areas. By working collaboratively with the right partners who can bring this knowledge and experience, forward thinking organisations, like Essex County Council, are leading the way on sustainability for public sector bodies.