The organisations have calculated that public sector organisations in the UK could generate up to some 3 gigawatts of power – enough to power all the households in Newcastle, Birmingham, Sheffield, Leeds, Liverpool and Doncaster combined and save 3m tonnes of carbon dioxide per year – by installing renewable energy technologies such as wind turbines and hydropower schemes on their land.
Public sector bodies own more than 10 per cent of the land in the UK including tens of thousands of buildings and over one million hectares of land. Despite this, only a tiny fraction of the total amount of green energy which the UK is capable of producing comes from renewable energy projects on public sector property.
Although many public sector bodies are already beginning to investigate how they can utilise their land to generate renewable energy, the Environment Agency and Partnerships for Renewables are calling for more organisations to install clean energy technologies to help reduce carbon emissions in addition to generating revenue from the sale of electricity and saving the taxpayer money.
Last year the Secretary of State for the Department of Energy and Climate Change, Ed Miliband, and environmental groups highlighted the need for public sector bodies to take a lead role in the fight against climate change and promote green energy.
The Environment Agency is urging other public sector bodies to follow its example after its announcement in November 2008 to build up to 80 wind turbines on Environment Agency owned land across the country, developing around 200 megawatts of renewable energy capacity – enough to power 90,000 households and save around 200,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide every year. In addition the turbines will generate up to £2.4 million of revenue every year – money that will be ploughed back into protecting and improving the environment, and adapting to climate change. Other organisations such as British Waterways have also announced similar plans.
The Environment Agency recently ranked as the top green UK public sector organisation in the annual Sunday Times Green List. 99 per cent of electricity used by the Environment Agency is from renewable sources and stringent targets are in place for reducing energy and water. Recycling facilities are available in the offices covering 20 different types of waste. The organisation’s green travel policies have led to a mileage reduction of some 8.9 million miles over the past two years alone and in three years, the Environment Agency has managed to reduce its overall carbon footprint by 14 per cent and water use by ten per cent.
Environment Agency Head of Climate Change and Sustainable Development Tony Grayling said:
"Investment in green technology such as wind turbines not only help cut carbon emissions and secure more home grown energy – they also make financial sense to those involved and ultimately save the taxpayer money.
"The pressures businesses and the public sector are facing may tempt them to cut corners and spend less attention on environmental improvement programmes, but it is now more important than ever before that we look to alternative sources of energy to meet our demands."
Stephen Ainger, Chief Executive of Partnerships for Renewables which was established by the Carbon Trust in 2006, said:
"By embracing and fulfilling its renewable energy potential the UK’s public sector has the opportunity to not only demonstrate strong leadership domestically, in the fight against climate change, it has the opportunity to set the standard for public sector organisations to follow globally. The role of the public sector organisations leading this movement, such as the Environment Agency and British Waterways, should not be underestimated".
Friends of the Earth’s Executive Director Andy Atkins said:
"The public sector has a key role to play in cutting emissions by harnessing the UK’s vast renewable energy potential. Developing green energy could create tens of thousands of new jobs, reduce our dependency of the tyranny of fossil fuels and give this country real influence in the global battle against climate change".
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