The Highland Council is expected to save hundreds of thousands of pounds a year and significantly reduce its carbon emissions thanks to energy efficiency upgrades part-funded by the Scottish Government through Salix Finance.
The council have invested £7 million of funding (£3.5m investment provided by the council and £3.5m match funding provided by the Scottish Government through Salix Finance) in energy efficiency projects across the non-domestic estate, with a particular focus on schools and leisure facilities.
In schools the bulk of the fund will be invested in LED upgrades, which will create a more comfortable working and learning environment for pupils and staff. Some of the fund will be diverted towards the replacement of old and poor performing oil boilers, which will see a significant carbon reduction and help the Council to meet its target of being carbon neutral by 2025.
The upgrades were made possible thanks to funding from the Scottish Government through Salix, an independent, government-funded organisation that provides interest-free loans to the public sector for energy efficiency projects. The council utilised Salix’s Recycling Fund (RF), a ring-fenced pot of money held by the local authority, which is created with capital provided by the Scottish Government through Salix and equally matched by the local authority.
The fund aims to increase long-term investment in energy-efficient technologies across the public sector, by enabling clients to reinvest savings from previous projects to finance further energy reduction schemes.
Councillor Gordon Adam, chair of the Commercial Board, said: “Martin and the team have put a huge amount of time and effort into securing the fund and progressing the work. This is the largest fund in operation throughout Scotland and will be essential in reducing our spend and meeting our carbon targets. Scottish Government aren’t just investing in the projects, they are investing in the Council and our ambition.”
The project will see targeted improvements on over 50 sites, which will be broken down into lots based on geographical spread, involving both primary and secondary schools, leisure centres, depots, car parks and offices. Buildings will benefit from investment in a variety of technologies including LED lighting and controls, boiler replacements and over 2.5MW of solar PV and private wire supply.
Martin MacDonald, Project Manager and Salix Fund Manager at Highland Council, said: “We have a lot of pressures contributing to our high energy consumption and spend; a vast estate; huge geographical spread; older, energy hungry buildings; grid restrictions; lack of mains gas supply; higher than national average energy unit costs. A lot of those are out of our control, so we must do things smarter and more efficiently. The fund gives us that opportunity.
We have started from scratch and used data to identify and progress viable sites to maximise the benefits realised. This is about long-term, sustainable change for the Council. A lot of time and effort has gone into securing the fund and we are hugely appreciative of the ongoing support from Salix.”
Hayley Veenhoven, Senior Programme Manager at Salix Finance, said: “Funded by the Scottish Government, Salix’s investment in the Highland Council estate will support the invaluable work being undertaken to reach carbon targets which will see lasting benefits for the largest local government area in the UK.
The funding will not only provide significant financial and energy savings for the Council but will enable the development of their estate for years to come through both holistic reinvestment and the reduction of maintenance costs.
Salix are committed to a low carbon future and are tackling climate change through a strategic, long-term approach to reducing the carbon footprint of the public sector.”