Climate change recommendations for Essex to achieve carbon neutral target

Essex will need to create a new community infrastructure like a town in Germany if it wants to reach a net zero carbon county by 2050, climate change commissioners have said.

Climate change commissioners have used Feldheim in Germany, a 100 per cent renewable energy self-sufficient climate neutral village, as a “great example” of what could be done in Essex.

The case study was part of a climate change presentation by commissioners who have decided on a raft of recommendations that will be put to Essex County Council (ECC) next year as part of the fight to reduce carbon emissions.

But Jacqui McGlade, who sits on the commission, said that to get to net zero faster than 2050 the county needs to adopt a ‘Connected Essex’ scenario.

This essentially takes elements from a so-called engaged society model that relies on community structure initiatives with a high degree of electrification and green transformations that depend largely on government programmes.

Ms McGlade said: “We thought very firmly we could do something more ambitious.

“We see within the grass of Essex a different scenario which is essentially taking the best out of the engaged and green transformation.

“Where we really tried to look at is time horizons that are nearer to now because the mantra here is the quicker we do it, the better it will be.

“Not only in terms of costs – because of the cost of inaction – but more importantly, we can build on a momentum that will broadly bring in a lot more of society and how we actually bring in communities in solving their own scenarios.”

Among the scenarios are bringing clean energy to Essex at  scale and enough renewables to meet most, if not, all of the county’s demand for energy. Another is to be at the cutting edge of renewable generation, and storage, creating new supply chains and new feedstocks.

But commissioners add that it means involving everyone to get Essex to net zero. The commision said: “We must create a community infrastructure to put Essex at the vanguard of climate action.”

The commission added that Essex should see solar as key to its net carbon ambitions. By aiming for solar panels to be installed on every available roof –  domestic, industrial and commercial by 2050 – 25 per cent of rooftops by 2030 and building 1.43 GW of large scale solar on available land without unduly compromising agricultural land by 2030.

Ultimately, Essex should aim to produce enough renewable energy within the county to meet its own needs by 2040.

Commissioner Roger Morris said that Feldheim, which utilises wind and solar generation alongside biogas-fired heat, uses pig manure as feedstock. It is said to be a “great example of what we can do here in Essex”.

This heat generation also produces high-quality fertiliser that the local agricultural cooperative uses.

Residents in Feldheim built their own mini smart grid to allow locally produced heat and electricity to be fed straight into their homes.

Residents’ energy prices have dropped by a third and 99 per cent of the energy generated is sold back to the grid. The energy generation has also created local jobs as well as inadvertently creating an eco-tourism industry.

Mr Morris said: “This what is actually working.

“99 per cent of the energy generated is sold back to the grid. This is now more possible for us to do in this country because of the changes to the energy market regulation. We can do this here.”

Waste recommendations include reducing per capita waste by at least 10 per cent by 2030, ecelerate recycling activity to achieve a minimum 70 per cent recycling rate by 2030 and cutting out waste to landfill by 2030.

Waste commissioner, Adam Read, said: “We can’t achieve any of these targets and improvements without collaborative action and collaborative ownership of the problem.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter