Annual greenhouse gas emissions report 2021-22
In October 2019, East Sussex County Council declared a Climate Emergency, and in 2020 it adopted a Climate Emergency Action Plan. The approach taken in the Action Plan is that, to make its fair contribution to reducing county-wide emissions, the County Council will need to cut its own emissions by 50% during 2020-25.
This is based on a recognised methodology developed by the UK’s Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research for calculating the carbon budget by local authority area. A carbon budget represents the total quantity of greenhouse gases which can be released to the atmosphere if we are to contain temperature rises to a given level – this can be calculated globally and then broken down into national and sub-national budgets. The Tyndall model, based on current scientific understanding, indicates that to stay within a budget based on a rise of no more than 1.5 degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels (as set out in the UN Paris Agreement on Climate Change) the County Council needs to cut its own emissions by 50% during 2020-25.
This report gives an annual summary of emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) from the County Council’s operations, stated as carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) emissions. The report follows guidance from the Department of Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) on how we should measure and report on these emissions. Emissions are reported by financial year (from April to the following March).
The report covers:
- Scope 1 emissions: from fossil fuels used for heating schools and corporate buildings, and from Council's vehicles.
- Scope 2 emissions: from electricity used in building and for street lighting.
- Scope 3 emissions: from all other activities of the Council, including business travel, water usage, waste, procurement, staff commuting, and supply chain. This is by far the largest part of our total emissions, as is typical for a local authority, as most of the Council’s revenue and capital budgets are used to procure goods, services and works from third parties. As such, our scope 3 emissions mostly consist of the scope 1 and 2 emissions of other organisations (e.g. contractors).
Control v Influence: The County Council has direct control over Scope 1 & 2 emissions from our own operations, and can influence, but not directly control, Scope 3 emissions.
2.0 CO2e Emissions
2.1 Scope 1, 2 & 3 Emissions
Table 1 provides a summary of the County Council’s emissions in 2021-22. Scope 1 & 2 emissions are based on robust consumption data on our buildings and vehicle fleet.
Scope 3 Emissions:
Prior to 2020/21, only Scope 3 emissions from Business Travel and Electricity Transmission & Distribution were reported. From 2020/21 additional Scope 3 emissions have been included, notably estimated supply chain and staff commuting emission data.
Scope 3 emissions have been calculated using a mixture of measured data, where this is available (e.g. staff mileage claims, tonnes of waste), and estimates where robust data does not exist or would be too resource intensive to gather (e.g. from the thousands of companies in our procurement supply chain). Estimated emissions are based on a model produced for the County Council which applies industry specific emission factors to the County Council’s supply chain spend. This means that the Scope 3 emission figure provides an indication of the scale of carbon emissions rather than an exact measure of emissions.
Table 3 gives details of how individual emissions have been calculated. In common with other local authorities, our intention is to continuously improve data quality. This involves moving as much scope 3 monitoring as possible from ‘estimated’ to ‘actual’ emissions, for example by requiring major suppliers to report on their emissions. As the data is subject to continual improvement, Scope 3 emissions should not be compared directly between reporting years.
For the above reasons that our carbon budget and target currently cover our Scope 1 & 2 emissions but not yet our Scope 3 emissions. Our Action Plan currently focuses on reducing Scope 1 & 2 emissions, by reducing carbon emissions from buildings and investing in renewables. This is a similar approach to that adopted by most local authorities.
2.2 Performance Against Target
Scope 1 & 2 CO2e emissions: the County Council’s target is to cut its scope 1 & 2 emissions by half between 2020 and 2025, against the baseline year of 2019-20. Figure 2 shows the average reduction required per year to achieve this target (the blue columns) and progress during 2020-21 and 2021-22. In 2020-21, emissions fell significantly, in large part because of restrictions during the COVID pandemic. In 2021-22 carbon emissions decreased by 7% compared with 2020-21 (by 770 tonnes).
- Buildings accounted for 83% of Scope 1 & 2 emissions, with schools making up the largest share (see figure 2). Corporate buildings include all non-school buildings, such as office buildings, libraries and residential homes. School buildings exclude those that have converted to academies.
- Heating made up 60% of building emissions.
- Street lighting electricity consumption was down 16% compared with 2020-21, as all street lights have now been converted to low energy LEDs.
- The County Council’s fleet emissions were down 14% compared with 2020-21, due to reduced mileage as new ways of working continued following the pandemic.
- Estate changes accounted for 15% of the reduction in Scope 1 & 2 emissions, as some schools converted to academy status during the year and some corporate buildings were disposed of.
- Covid 19 impact: building energy usage increased in 2021-22 compared with 2020-21, partly due to a return to more normal operations compared with lockdown, and because of the need for increased ventilation, such as leaving windows open, to meet COVID health guidance.
- External temperatures: Spring 2021 was unusually cold, leading to higher fossil fuel consumption for heating. However, this was offset by a milder autumn and winter, so the overall weather-related impact on heating demand was around the same as in 2020-21.
2.3 Intensity Measurement
As recommended by the Carbon Trust, we divide our total emissions by our annual net revenue expenditure to give a carbon intensity measurement. This allows a comparison of energy efficiency performance over time, and benchmarking with other similar types of organisations. Carbon intensity in 2021/22 was 24.05 tonnes CO2e per £million, based on a net revenue budget of £416m and emissions of 10,021 t CO2e. Carbon intensity has fallen by 33% since 2018/19, and by 76% since 2008/9.
2.4 Actions to Reduce Scope 1 & 2 CO2e Emissions
Progress to date: since 2008/9, when we started to report our emissions, Scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions have fallen by over 68% (see figure 3).
We have used our Salix Invest to Save Recycling Fund to support 223 projects, worth £4 million and generating total annual savings of £848,000 per year. The fund has supported delivery of a wide range of projects, including LED lighting and streetlighting, building fabric improvement, heating controls, boiler replacements and ICT. This is supported by good housekeeping, plus monitoring and targeting.
On-site renewable solar energy generates around 1.4MW of clean energy each year, around 50% of this has been generated by schools that have since converted to academy status. From April 2021 electricity supplied to all corporate buildings and street lighting has been purchased on a green tariff and made available to schools that buy into our energy services. See Section 3.6 for details.
Other factors that affected carbon emissions are estates closures, academisation of schools, and the gradual decarbonisation of the national electricity grid due to a decrease in coal powered generation and increasing proportions of gas and renewable energy generation.
School operations gradually returned to normal during 2021-22, with the need to follow government guidance on ventilating buildings to help manage the risk of COVID infections. This led to an increase in school energy usage and carbon emissions, which were atypically low in 2020-21 when properties were closed for significant periods due to the pandemic.
Looking forward: To keep within our 5-year carbon budget we need to accelerate our carbon reduction programmes and focus on moving away from fossil fuels to low carbon heating, as well as continuing our programmes of installing LED lighting, and solar PV on roofs. Decarbonisation of heat projects can be complex and costly. Using government Public Sector Decarbonisation Funding, we will complete our first two pilot decarbonisation of heat schemes during 2022-23 and use the experience to inform the delivery of a further 7 schemes up to March 2025.
Projects underway in 2022/23 to reduce the County Council’s carbon emissions include:
- Installation of low energy LED lighting at 10 sites.
- Installation of solar panels at 10 sites.
- Installation of heat pumps in 2 primary schools with oil fired boilers that are scheduled for end of life replacement.
- Energy saving workshops for school and corporate building managers and caretakers, and for school business managers.
3.0 Other and Supporting Information
3.1 Reporting Period
This report covers the period from 1st April 2021 to 31st March 2022. Our base year is 2008/09, which was chosen as it was used for the previous national indicator NI185.
3.2 Geographical Boundary
All County Council operations are carried out within the UK.
3.3 Organisational Boundary
We have defined our organisational boundary via the equity share approach. Although we have 100% equity in the majority of our estate, there are some buildings where we are not in full control of operations but are still responsible for paying a proportion of the energy bills (e.g. some leisure centres). Adjustments have been made to these figures during the calculation phase, to take account of the portion for which we are responsible.
3.4 Operational Boundary
Table 3 shows what we have included and excluded from our reporting in 2021/22. We have used the 2021 conversion factors, published by BEIS.
3.5 Alterations to Previous Figures
No alterations have been made to previous emissions figures, with the exception of 2008-9 base year recalculations – see Section 3.7 for details.
3.6 Carbon Offsets
To date, we have not purchased carbon offsets to reduce our emissions, as our current focus is on emissions reduction through energy efficiency, decarbonisation of heat and on-site renewable generation. We are, however, looking into options for good quality offsetting to support our carbon reduction work.
From April 2021, electricity supplied to all corporate buildings and street lighting has been purchased on a green tariff. Currently, schools continue to purchase their electricity on a brown tariff, though the County Council has offered and encouraged the take up of green electricity by schools.
As is best practice, we do not count our green tariff electricity as a carbon reduction measure, because purchasing renewable electricity already in the marketplace makes very little material difference to total UK carbon emissions. On-site renewable and energy efficiency measures give direct carbon savings and offer a more robust mechanism for us to play our part in making genuine carbon reductions.
Instead, the County Council uses a location-based approach to calculate carbon emissions from purchased electricity. This approach uses the average carbon emission intensity of the national grid.
3.7 Renewable Generation
Some of our sites benefit from onsite renewable generation, in the form of solar thermal, solar photovoltaic and/or biomass boilers. Such measures provide zero or low carbon energy within a short time frame, rather than relying on improvements over time in the carbon intensity of grid electricity. It also demonstrates leadership and will help support growth of a local green supply chain. A breakdown of currently installed solar PV, which remains within our portfolio and reporting boundary, is shown in table 2.
3.8 Base year recalculation
In order to provide meaningful comparisons of our carbon reduction performance, we compare our current year with the baseline year of 2008-9, when we first started to report on our carbon emissions.
We periodically adjust the baseline year 2008-9 figures to take account of significant estate changes such as schools converting to academies and other site closures. We remove the 2008-9 carbon emissions for sites that have left the estate and add emissions for significant property additions.
This is done so we can track genuine performance improvements rather than, for example, counting carbon emission reductions for schools that convert to academy as a reduction, when those emissions remain in the county of East Sussex even if they are no longer within our building portfolio.
Re-baselining was done in 2014-15 and again in 2020-21. This means that the baseline year figures shown in this report will be lower than were reported in 2008-9, as at that time emissions were included for properties that are no longer in our portfolio.
We have automatic meters installed across most of our estate which allows us to report with a high level of accuracy on our electricity and gas related CO2 emissions. Street lighting consumption is un-metered and the local distribution network allocates our usage based on the information we submit to them on our street lighting stock. At this time, we only hold limited information on combusted biofuel (i.e. biomass), as the purchasing of this fuel is delegated to individual sites and so we lack sufficient data to report. Our data for solar PV generation uses a mixture of accurately recorded generation data and estimates based on kWp system size for some 3rd party owned systems installed on schools prior to 2021, where we cannot obtain generation data from the installers.
From 2020/21 Scope 3 emissions have been expanded to include emissions associated with procurement of goods, works and services. Table 3 itemises how these have been calculated. As can be seen, Scope 3 emissions associated with our highways contract, corporate waste, water usage, staff business travel and transmission and distribution of electricity used by the County Council are based on measured data and standard BEIS conversion factors. Emissions from the rest of our supply chain has been calculated by the consultancy Currie & Brown by applying proxy values to the total expenditure, which gives an idea of scale rather than an exact figure. This is because it is not practical to gather exact data on every contract and purchase transaction. Consequently, the County Council will focus on influencing and gathering robust data on emissions from contractors and suppliers where the likely scale of their emissions and the ability of the County Council to influence these emissions are greatest, for instance where the Council is a major client. As this data improves over time, so the carbon emission figures from procurement may vary significantly, as the figures become increasingly accurate.
We have made the best efforts to report on our emissions using the data we have available at this time and, although we are confident in the quality of the data that we hold, there will always be scope for further improvement and adjustment in years to come.