Bristol city-wide sustainable energy study

Establishing the evidence base for planning a low carbon future

Project duration: January 2009 to June 2009

 What proportion of its energy could Bristol generate from its own renewable resources?

This was one of the questions addressed by a report written for Bristol City Council by CSE and Adrian Smith, an independent planning consultant.

The aim of this study was to assist the Council in developing policies which positively encourage lower energy consumption (and hence carbon emissions) from buildings, alongside greater sustainable energy generation.

This is something all councils are obliged to do under the new planning-policy requirements handed down from central government, specifically the Department for Communities and Local Government which obliges local authorities to establish the ‘evidence base’ on which their own policies and targets for renewable energy and low-carbon development can be based.

Copies of the report can be downloaded here. [NB to keep the file size down, maps on this PDF are rendered in low resolution. A high-resolution version is available from this link on the Bristol City Council website (warning: 13MB file).

The study shows that if the city of Bristol exploited all its local potential sustainable energy resources to the full – which include wind, biomass, sewage, gas and solar technologies along with energy recovery from all municipal solid waste (MSW) – a reduction of around 22% of Bristol’s total CO2 emissions in 2006/7 could be achieved.

A series of maps, created using CSE’s technical knowledge, GIS analysis capabilities and planning know-how, are attached as annexes.

In addition, the report makes a number of recommendations regarding the development of Bristol’s Core Strategy policies on sustainable energy:

1) The council should publish an overarching statement on climate change – focused on climate change, CO2 reduction targets, and renewable and low carbon energy targets – to justify and contextualise the development-specific policies.

2) A low-carbon energy policy for new residential developments should be adopted, which sets increasing standards for CO2 reduction in stepped phases with reference to Building Regulation proposals up to 2016 and beyond.

3) There is a case for setting out a vision for sustainable energy that includes key specific projects – heat networks, larger scale renewables, new build applications and retro-fitting.

4) The Council should focus its energy strategy on developing the key resources of waste and biomass (woodfuel) to supply larger scale heat or CHP/CCHP plants serving what should ultimately be a citywide district heat network in the city’s Heat Priority Areas.

5) The strategic position within the community held by Bristol City Council provides an opportunity to facilitate multi-sector partnerships – especially for large scale mixed-use developments, where renewable energy infrastructure may be shared, or where Energy Service Companies (ESCos) may be involved to potentially reduce the additional capital cost burden.

6) The Avonmouth (docks) area of the city – predominantly industrial and with excellent transport connections – holds significant potential for wind and biomass. A more detailed local study is suggested, but, in the meantime, Avonmouth’s wind power resource (it already has three large turbines) should continue to be developed.

7) A strategic planning study on a citywide heat distribution network should be undertaken as soon as possible. The initial phase of a network is likely to be kick-started by a major new development with opportunities for a CHP/CCHP plant site – such as the proposed redevelopment of Southmead Hospital – and should also involve the provision of heat to nearby existing developments.

Encouraging low-carbon developments

In conclusion, the Bristol study recommends the introduction of an on-site generation policy in conjunction with an appropriate energy supply hierarchy to encourage developers to adopt low-carbon designs for new housing and other buildings.

Josh Thumim, co-author of the report, explains further: “An on-site generation policy will strongly encourage developers to firstly reduce demand by maximising energy efficiency in order to reduce the proportional contribution from generally more costly renewable technologies, but will also serve to stimulate the local skills market and supply chains for the renewable energy sector.”


Janine Michael, Head of Development at CSE, said: “The Centre for Sustainable Energy has developed a strong track-record in helping local councils meet the Government’s planning policy requirements. The approach we have developed includes some really innovative GIS mapping techniques which enable councils to explore at a street-by-street level the types of low carbon and renewable energy solutions which suit their area.

"Our whole approach is to support and encourage councils to aim high by setting policies which reflect the real potential of their areas, rather than just meeting minimum Government requirements.”

Contact janine.michael@cse.org.uk for further information on how CSE can help local authorities meet their planning policy obligations.

For further information contact:

Joshua Thumim | 0117 934 1439

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