Covenant of Mayors
  Covenant Newsletter November 2013  
Looking to become a European Green Capital city? Learn from Bristol’s champion strategy
{{{Interview with George Ferguson, Mayor of Bristol.}}} Investing in sustainable energy makes economic sense. Bristol is a case in point, as well illustrated by Mr Ferguson in this exclusive Covenant of Mayors interview. The first ever directly-elected Mayor of Bristol, who “prefers to be in the city than in the city hall” also attaches great importance to the social dimension, with tackling fuel poverty coming out as one of his crucial priorities. On top of creating jobs, helping to reduce energy bills and increasing the economic attractiveness of the city, Bristol sustainable energy strategy has also allowed it to become one of the lucky beneficiaries of the ELENA facility, with a €150 million project in the pipeline.

Bristol has been awarded the 2015 European Green Capital title. As such, the city has a lot to be proud of but if you had to pick only three key achievements, what would you share with the Covenant community ?

We are delighted and honoured to have been awarded the European Green Capital title. I look forward to being able to share Bristol’s experiences with other cities in the Covenant community during 2015 by which time we will have even more exciting projects to report on ! However, right now I am really proud that we have been able to :

  • Reduce Fuel Bills for Residents. Energy prices are rising globally and are a big political issue in the UK. I am proud that over the past decade we have been able to help residents reduce their energy use. We have done this by focusing on simple, cost effective measures that can be installed with a minimum of disturbance. We have focused on insulation of homes with cavity walls, loft insulation and heating upgrades and have targeted households with vulnerable residents.
  • Develop locally-owned renewable energy. Bristol City Council has invested directly in publicly-owned biomass, solar and wind energy and we have supported community co-operatives. I think it is really important that we show people that not only can we benefit from clean energy but local residents can benefit financially.
  • Create jobs in a world class cluster of green technology businesses. I am delighted that Bristol has been able to attract and support the growth of world-leading green technology and professional service businesses. Bristol offers them a highly skilled workforce, a great quality of life and a supportive atmosphere in which new ideas are valued and celebrated. Over 18,000 people are employed by these businesses within the city region.

Results, results, results. Can you tell us what Bristol has achieved so far in terms of CO2 emission reductions and energy-related job creation ?

Bristol has become the most energy efficient major city in the UK - with the lowest residential, business and transport energy use. Bristol uses about 20% less energy per person than the average major city. This means we also have the lowest carbon emissions – 4.6t CO2 per person. Bristol has been working to cut energy use in homes since about 1996 and we were a UK pilot city to develop a climate plan in 2003, working with Covenant of Mayors Supporter ICLEI. However, the first year we could collect local data on CO2 emissions was 2005 when the UK Government created a dataset for all UK local authorities. We have now set our targets based on this 2005 baseline and plan to reduce emissions by 25% by 2015 and 40% by 2020. We also set an energy reduction target of 30% by 2020.

I am delighted that Bristol is on track to achieve those targets despite our rapidly growing population. Bristol has already reduced its CO2 emissions by 18% between 2005 and 2011 (according to the latest data) and by 22% per person. And we have reduced energy use by 16% overall. We are now scaling up our investment in energy thanks to the European Investment Bank ELENA facility, with over €150m of investment in the pipeline. We estimate that this will create about 1,000 jobs – many in the construction sector which needs a real boost.

Financial engineering is presented by many as a solution to present-day liquidity problems, with local authorities facing budget cuts and forced to think out of the box. Any interesting examples to share in this respect ?

Bristol City Council has invested in four main areas so far, each with a different financial model. We have invested in energy efficiency in our own buildings by creating a €1m revolving “invest to save” fund which was set up by an interest free government loan and council capital funding. Savings from energy bills are reinvested into the fund and over €3m has been invested this way.

We have also invested in renewable energy projects, wind, solar and biomass, through municipal borrowing, as we were able to create strong business cases and generate profit.

The City Council owns many homes in the city and our housing department has invested in energy efficiency as part of their overall capital programme. This was possible because it was a priority of the tenants.

Finally we have worked with energy supply companies to help deliver their legal obligations to improve energy efficiency of homes. Under a variety of schemes we have been able to combine energy company and council funds to provide free or subsidised energy efficiency measures for vulnerable households. And by focusing in certain areas of the city we were able to create a very efficient delivery model which allowed our private contractors to reduce the cost of measures to households which did not qualify for subsidy.

    >> Covenant Monthly Newsletter November 2013 <<
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  The sole responsibility for the content of this newsletter lies with the Covenant of Mayors Office. It does not necessary reflect the opinion of the European Union. The European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained therein. The Covenant of Mayors was set up with financial support of the European Commission and consists of five associations of European local authorities: Energy Cities, Climate Alliance, Eurocities, CEMR, Fedarene, and ICLEI Europe.

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