Stoke-on-Trent City Council is working with technology company Siemens on a pioneering approach to energy-saving projects that are helping to cut emissions and reduce costs.
The council formed a strategic collaboration with Siemens in April 2017, when both parties started investigating how to improve the energy performance of the local authority’s buildings over a five-year period. Andrew Briggs, Strategic Manager for Sustainability and Green Infrastructure at Stoke-on-Trent City Council, says his organization is now benefitting from a range of innovative initiatives:
Our principal aim is to reduce energy consumption and provide efficiency, which will deliver carbon savings for the council. We want to do that in a commercially sustainable way. We recognise times are hard and we've got limited budgets. So, we’re trying to make the most effective use of resources and provide the most intelligent systems that we can sensibly deliver with the resources we have.
The council works in a holistic way, explains Briggs, citing the example of one project. Rather than just changing lightbulbs, the council undertook a lighting redesign program across all its buildings. The net improvements of this holistic approach are big in terms of reduced carbon emissions and cost savings, he says:
Local authorities and public organizations are an enormous consumer of energy. We have a duty and a responsibility to be leading by example. It's in the best interests of the community that the council is run as efficiently and as effectively as it can be. We’re trying to support the environment and the economy.
The council has invested £6.24 million in the initiative since 2019, comprising a £4.34 million grant from the national Public Sector Decarbonization Scheme, as well as council funding and private sector investment. The project covers a wide range of measures across 11 of the council’s key buildings. The scheme also includes the introduction of building energy-management systems from Siemens, which provide new levels of control, says Briggs:
It’s about trying to integrate a range of technologies with the view that everything we're doing, including solar, is about using energy first locally. It's about local, decentralized energy, and taking strain off the grid, providing resilience on-site, and providing something that we can control and manage more effectively through our integrated digital solution.
Briggs says the partnership with Siemens has been crucial. His small, but passionate team didn’t boast the capability and resources to design a range of solutions to the challenges the council faced. Siemens provided what Briggs refers to as a “whole-systems approach” to analyzing how technology could boost efficiency:
We brought them on as a strategic partner to work with us in delivering a range of proposals. We've utilised design ideas and, as we've secured public funds and additional resources, we've been able to increase the scope and scale of our work.
The first phase of the program involved a widescale LED lighting upgrade. A total of 5,440 energy-efficient LEDs were installed across the city over nine months. The system reduced lighting loads by 76%, which saved the council £205,663 annually and lowered carbon emissions by 437 tonnes each year. Across this project and a series of follow-up programmes, Briggs says Siemens helped the council procure solutions:
They were standing with us and ensuring that we got best value. They supported us and made sure that we didn't get a lowball from somebody in terms of a procurement specification that technically we didn't understand. They ensured that we undertook a proper analysis and made decisions with a proper rationale.
Other energy-saving schemes include the introduction of three combined heat and power (CHP) installations. These CHP systems will be operational by 2025 to generate electricity and steam for power and heat on-site, saving the council £250,000 per year. Air source heat pumps are providing a lower-carbon way of heating swimming pools in Stoke. Solar Photovoltaics installations, meanwhile, are creating additional on-site power generation, Briggs says:
We've been on a rolling program of works through to 2022, with a pandemic in the middle. It's been a fairly intense program for us to deliver the range of resources across the buildings and areas that are used, particularly as we’re trying to ensure that – in the midst of a pandemic – that we haven’t planned for a future that no longer exists. So we've had to address those considerations along the way.
To help manage its energy-saving technologies, the council has deployed Siemens’ Desigo building-management system. A dashboard flags the status, health and maintenance requirements of connected devices, while trend-monitoring and utility metering are reported by the system. Briggs says the system was implemented as part of a longer-term desire to manage and integrate other energy-saving technologies:
We've got a live system that my team can access from whatever platform they happen to be working on at the time and we've got good visibility of what's going on in our buildings. But we can also start to grow and expand that over time and make the overall management and control of buildings much smarter and more intelligent.
So far, the integrated approach to energy-saving technologies has produced big environmental benefits and net cash savings for the council. The projects across 11 public buildings in the city have reduced annual CO2 emissions by 1,415 tonnes and saved the council £628,258 per year in energy costs. Overall power consumption has been decreased by 4,07,272 kWh, while gas consumption has fallen by 2,864,974 kWh, explains Briggs:
I started out with a view that it would great it would we could reduce the cost base to the council. We've been able to demonstrate that in spades and now it's actually easier for me to go to the senior management team and suggest that we've got some other things that we would like to propose going forward.
Briggs’ team continues to ensure the technologies they’ve introduced are producing benefits. In the longer term, he’s keen to work with other public sector organizations, such as schools and colleges, universities and hospitals, to develop a wider and integrated approach to energy use across the local area:
“I think taking that staged approach could mean that, in not too many years, the city is in a position where it could start to detach itself from fossil fuels to the greatest extent. That's the broad ambition, which should save local people money because, fundamentally, it shouldn't cost any more money if we do it right.”