Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Positive action needed to help reduce town’s carbon footprint

INSTALLING solar panels and public charging points for electric cars are ideas being considered to reduce Henley’s carbon footprint.

Members of Henley’s Climate Emergency Working Group met to discuss ways of implementing environmentally friendly improvements to public buildings and homes.

Members supported two schemes which would provide solar energy to homeowners and council buildings.

They also favoured a trial scheme called Connected Kerb to provide public charging points for electric vehicles.

All their ideas will be considered by the town council’s planning committee next week.

Tony Hoskins, who chairs the group, said that the support of the public and neighbouring councils was crucial to success.

He said: “There is a tradition of there being talk without there being any action and it would be a shame if we had this opportunity but we had not recruited them or won them round beforehand.

“There is a degree of scepticism and we need to be prepared to show people the benefits, even if they don't necessarily buy into the science.”

The group wants to make Henley carbon neutral by 2030.

Solar energy could be provided by IDDEA, a renewable energy company which has installed more than 800 domestic, commercial and utility scale systems.

Once enough houses register an interest in the scheme, they would install the panels and give advice about maximising savings by using batteries, water heaters and monitors.

Rebecca Chandler-Wilde said: “They have developed a very efficient method of being able to install solar energy at an affordable figure.

“They would work with the town council but there is no money involved apart from some sample marketing to publicise the scheme and advertise the offer.

“They put people into a pool and then they will come and do all of the installations. They also give advice on lifestyle changes to improve energy usage.”

Creating solar power on public buildings could be set up by a company called Salix through interest-free loans, which are repaid over five years, or eight years for schools. The payments are made from the energy cost savings.

The scheme would apply to schools, emergency services properties, libraries, leisure centres and street furniture. A trial scheme is to take place at Badgemore Primary School in Hop Gardens, which has already joined LessCo2, a national scheme offering workshops on how to become more energy efficient.

As well as installing solar panels, the scheme involves kitchen equipment, lighting controls and LED lighting.

Mr Hoskins said: “This is about much more than just having public buildings with solar panels.”

A number of schools have been approached to be a part of this scheme.

Dick Fletcher gave a presentation on Connected Kerb, which has had a trial in Windsor and Brixton.

Different types of charging points would be installed in public places to encourage more residents to invest in electric cars.

Mr Fletcher added: “I am absolutely sold on them. I have had one for two-and-a-half years and, although they are more expensive to buy, they are much cheaper to maintain.”

The group also want to “retrofit” buildings with insulation and draught proofing to make them more energy-efficient.

Government grants are available through the Energy Saving Company for low-income households.

There is also the Cosy Homes Oxfordshire scheme, which is aimed at households who are able to pay for energy-saving measures.

The group also agreed to establish a Community Energy Society in order to manage and progress the associated projects.

It will be run by the members and they will have to put in their own funds. The town council will be a partner with no funding or management responsibility.

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