Scotland’s first carbon neutral town

Scotland’s first carbon neutral town

Plans are afoot to make Cumnock in Ayrshire Scotland’s first “Green Town” by making it carbon neutral with projects such as a community owned renewable energy system and the introduction of hi-tech digital systems and smart technologies. If successful it is expected that the project will be extended to further Scottish towns.

The project has been proposed by Scotland’s Towns Partnership and has been backed by the Scottish Government and Ayrshire Council with Scottish Power and British Telecom also supporting the plans.

Cumnock – which was previously a mining community – has 1300 residents, an amount thought to be perfect to test the project’s  different renewable technologies on a mass scale as well as a new smart grid and metres, a high speed communications network, new carbon neutral buildings and a series of cycle paths and electric vehicle initiatives.

Phil Prentice the head of Scotland’s Towns Partnership said “The vision for Cumnock is to create Scotland’s first truly sustainable energy town, a town which is carbon neutral and highly functioning but which respects the environment.

“Why not have Cumnock as the first town that owns and manages its own renewable energy supply, where education and business opportunities are improved through digital deployment and where smart meters, passive buildings, recovered brown space, cycling and pedestrianisation become the norm?”

He also stated that there are several other locations which the project’s blueprint could be incorporated.

“There are a hundred Cumnocks, small towns across Scotland,” he said. “These are the places that once were useful but then the industry left. Cumnock provided Scotland with the coal to power houses and businesses for generations. Now we are going to lead the way to show how energy can transform our future generations.”

Those involved met last week for the first time to rubber stamp the proposals and devise action plans with local community groups. It is expected that the initial work will commence on many of these within six months and that though it would be a long-term project we hoped many of its ambitious targets would be achieved in the first five years, with carbon neutral status reached within a decade.

Graham Campbell, district general manager for Scottish Power Energy Networks, claimed the town was ideally placed to embrace renewable energy with rivers and burns running through it that could be harnessed for hydro power and plenty of great sites to make use of wind energy.

He stated “the energy network is changing and we are now seeing a bigger uptake of low carbon technologies but that has been at a very local level. This is an opportunity to put Cumnock back on the map.”

He also claimed that a community run energy network could not only supply energy for the whole town’s needs but sell back additional energy to the grid.

“The reality is that this type of development is going to happen anyway. If we don’t take the initiative and do it then the private sector will leap in and reap the benefits. The community will be shut out. The revolution is already under way.”

Councillor Douglas Reid, Leader of East Ayrshire Council, said: “This is a hugely positive idea that could provide massive benefits for Cumnock and indeed the whole of Scotland.

“Although the idea is still at a very early stage, many different agencies including the Scottish Government and Scotland’s Towns Partnership have met with Cumnock Action Plan steering group to discuss what they could do to help Cumnock become Scotland’s greenest town.” All are committed to working together to bring the plans to reality, he added.

“Becoming a fully green town would obviously be a long-term project, but the opportunities it would present in terms of taking people out of fuel poverty, increasing jobs and boosting tourism are exciting ones.”

Speaking of the announcement a Scottish Government spokesperson said they will continue to “support regeneration, develop a sustainable economy, improve energy efficiency, tackle fuel poverty and consider how we can take this forward in other communities across in Scotland.”

The idea of carbon neutral town is a fantastic one but it will take a lot of time and money to implement all of the factors. That said it is an objective we should be aiming for if we wish to reach the targets set out in Government’s Draft Energy strategy which was released last week.

Staying in Scotland although moving much further north it has been stated that the UK Government could make a difference to the Scottish Island communities if the views from a recent consultation on island wind projects are taken into consideration.

SNP MP Angus MacNeil and MSP Dr. Alasdair Allan both submitted formal responses on whether future island wind projects should receive a subsidy despite the government already cutting subsidies throughout the UK. They are however considering treating remote islands differently.

Mr. MacNeil and Dr. Allan met with community and wind energy representatives prior to a meeting with Greg Clark MP, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and Jesse Norman MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for BEIS.

Mr MacNeil said: “I was encouraged by my meeting with the Secretary of State earlier this month and I really hope the UK Government will listen to the many representations which have been made to them on this issue.

“There is a strong view from the island energy sector that support from the UK Government is crucial as the way forward.

“This is a chance for the UK Government to make a real difference to island communities while at the same time reaping the benefits for the UK economy. The islands have the best wind resource in Europe and supporting non-mainland onshore wind through the Contract for Difference scheme offers the best value for money option for the UK Government.

“I look forward to discussing this with the Secretary of State when he visits the islands in the coming weeks.”

Dr. Allan added “The result of this consultation will be critical to the future of renewable development on the islands.

“There has been widespread support for further development of island renewables from the Scottish Government, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, local Parliamentarians, developers and, most crucially, communities themselves.

“There are hundreds of millions of pounds worth of investment from shovel-ready projects across the Western Isles that simply need the necessary infrastructure in place before they can be unlocked. The UK Government must now listen to reason and allow the island renewable sector the support it deserves.“

At ILI Energy we believe in subsidies in consideration for renewable projects in all regions of the country however we accept that they are unlikely to return any time soon. We can also appreciate that due a number of factors, particularly distance from generation facilities, these remote island communities deserve a subsidy on renewable energy projects more than most.

Therefore we hope that the UK Government take on board the consultation findings and offer a subsidy which allows the development of the renewable energy generation facilities and provides the islands with a secure supply of clean energy.

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