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Improving the energy efficiency of Bristol City Council’s buildings


Bristol City Council, like many large organisations, produces significant amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. In 2006/07 the city council produced around 56,000 tonnes of CO2 from its building and street lighting infrastructure. With a target of a 60% CO2 reduction by 2050, recently accelerated to a 3% year-on-year reduction to 2020, considerable investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy projects is necessary. The Energy Management Unit (EMU) operates an investment fund for energy efficiency improvements; however, the necessary scale of investment outweighed the available capital.

In 2005 Bristol City Council became one of 19 pilot members of the Local Authority Energy Finance (LAEF) scheme: a sustainable energy efficiency fund run and part-funded by Salix Finance. As a result, investment into energy efficiency has increased dramatically. Of all LAEF participants, Bristol has undertaken the greatest value of energy efficiency projects, in monetary terms.

Building details

Type of building
Bristol City Council owns, operates and leases over 1200 sites, encompassing many building types. These include:

- 280 “Corporate Buildings” (this designation covers offices, libraries, museums, car parks, public toilets, crematoriums, youth centres, day centres and residential elderly peoples’ homes);
- 6 leisure centres;
- 156 schools and early years centres/nurseries;
- 80 “non-building” sites (water features, swing bridges, lock gates, etc), and;
- 730 social housing sites (usually with communal areas such as stairwells, lifts and laundries).




Bristol City Council’s aim is to reduce CO2 emissions by 3% year-on-year to 2020, largely through energy efficiency improvements with capital provided by the LAEF scheme.


Bristol City Council’s Carbon Reduction Strategy, produced by the Energy Management Unit

Key points
Scheme overview

_ Salix Finance was set up in 2004 in order to help public sector organisations reduce carbon emissions. Salix and Bristol City Council created a €1.29 million (£900,000) ring-fenced fund: monies are dedicated to implementing energy conservation projects via internal loans. These loans are repaid using the annual energy/cost savings – once the loan has been repaid the project recipient continues to benefit from the cost savings. As repayments are recycled back into the fund, they become available for re-investment.

_ For each building, the following occurs:

- Identification of high consumption by EMU billing data, monitoring or a survey if requested by staff;
- Energy survey undertaken and list of potential energy saving measures produced;
- Costs acquired and potential energy savings calculated;
- Contract signed – EMU pays for work from loan fund;
- One year later, loan repayments commence until the loan is repaid.

_ The main benefit for a site is that projects funded through the scheme are no-cost: without undertaking the energy efficiency improvements, no cost savings are generated - what would make up the savings/repayments is spent on fuel bills anyway.

_ Measures installed

_ A wide array of measures have been installed under the scheme, including:

- Loft and cavity wall insulation;


- Pipework and plant room valve/flange insulation;


- Draught proofing and glazing projects;
- Boiler replacements and fuel switches (oil to gas);
- Boiler controls, Building Management Systems (BMS), local heating controls;
- Improvements to hot water systems;
- Office equipment upgrades;
- Lighting upgrades; e.g. replacement of GLS bulbs with energy efficient compact-fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and upgrading to T5 luminaires;
- Automatic lighting controls – occupancy detection and daylight dimming;
- Time controls for electrical items, such as space heaters, water heaters, and office appliances;
- Voltage optimisation;
- Destratification fans.

_ Project types involving the installation of different measures are often combined in order to reduce the payback time and minimise paperwork. For an overview of the main project types, please see the chart below.


Reason for inclusion as Shining Example
The LAEF scheme is an excellent example of Bristol City Council’s commitment to reducing CO2 emissions and helping move more buildings “towards Class A”. The scheme has provided a significant level of funding for the installation of energy efficient measures, and it is self-perpetuating because money saved through reductions in energy consumption are recycled back into the scheme.

Costs &


Costs &


Funding for the LAEF scheme was provided by Salix Finance and Bristol City Council. Salix provided €575,000 (£400,000), delivered in €144,000 (£100,000) tranches, providing a predetermined spend rate was met. The city council made €719,000 (£500,000) available at the scheme’s inception. The fund is an open, interest free loan and will be paid back at a time when the Energy Management Unit feels that energy efficiency potential has been maximised.

_ One of Salix’s conditions is that the LAEF scheme is not allowed to operate at a loss. In order to facilitate this, at the individual project level, once the costs have been collated, a 6% administration fee is added to the loan value. This covers the EMU’s costs for surveys and project management and essentially makes the position of LAEF scheme manager self-funding.

_ The other Salix requirement is that individual projects must have a payback time no greater than 5 years.


_ At the time of writing, 59 completed projects bring about annual savings of €170,000 (£117,000) and 782 tonnes of CO2. These figures are constantly rising as more projects are completed.

_ Case Study

_ Other benefits vary according to the project type, but usually result in improved building comfort and additional savings on maintenance budgets. However, unexpected benefits crop up – a great example is Trenchard Street Multi-Storey Car Park. This project involved installing over 1500 T5 fluorescent lamp conversion kits over 11 decks of a 24 hour multi-storey car park in the centre of Bristol. Lighting controls were also fitted: photocells switch off lamps on the outer decks when natural light levels are high enough and passive infrared (PIR) movement sensors control approximately half the light fittings.


PIR movement sensor

_ An immediate drop in electrical consumption was achieved – see graph, below. Annual savings are in the region of €29,000 (£20,000) and well over 100 tonnes of CO2, as well as an expected maintenance cost reduction due to the longer life expectancy of T5 tubes.

_ However, as soon as the new lighting was installed, car park staff started receiving positive comments from members of the public about the brighter lighting and how they felt safer. CCTV operators also noticed a big improvement in image quality within Trenchard Street.


Partners details

Partners & Roles
The main partner is Salix Finance, who supply funding, advice and project support. Project specific technical support is provided by Halcrow Group Ltd, a consultancy organisation who specialise in the provision of planning, design and management services for infrastructure development.


51 buildings have benefited from energy efficiency works to date, with some sites being subject to multiple projects. Take-up of the scheme was slow to start with, but as news of the scheme has spread, the EMU has received more and more requests for energy surveys to be carried out and the list of potential projects is growing rapidly.

_ Obstacles have been met:

- High equipment and installation costs often cause projects to overrun their 5 year maximum payback period – a problem exacerbated by the current low electricity and gas unit prices.
- A reluctance to commit budgets to repayments.
- Lack of staffing to deal with the increasing workload.

_ Solutions to these problems have been:

- Projects are often combined, e.g. relighting works, with high costs and long paybacks, are packaged with low cost/high payback measures to improve viability.
- By firstly focussing on departments that actively want to reduce energy consumption, project commitments are attained much more quickly. Case studies of completed projects and additional benefits achieved are then circulated to the relevant personnel, usually with the intended effect of encouraging other departments to take part in the scheme.
- A permanent member of staff was recruited in July 2006 to run the LAEF scheme.

_ As part of the scheme, Salix provide an effective project monitoring system, SERS (Salix Energy Reporting System). SERS allows instant project reporting of cost savings and carbon emission reductions.

Lessons Learned
The Energy Management Unit has compared various carbon reduction projects being undertaken – biomass heating, small and large scale wind power, CHP and energy efficiency. Within Bristol City Council, improving energy efficiency has the lowest cost per tonne of carbon dioxide saved, thereby making it the most cost effective method of reducing carbon emissions.

To know more



Bristol City Council
Energy Management Unit

James King

+44 (0) 117 92 23284



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