INTERVIEWS

Carbon management officer, West Sussex County Council

It’s my job to get carbon emissions down
I am one of three people in the council’s carbon management team. We’re responsible for delivering the council’s energy and water management project with two main goals: reducing carbon dioxide emissions across our estate and working closely with schools to do the same. We offer schools advice and support on reducing their energy use and are able to offer them interest-free loans to help finance energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.

Energy savings are the gift that keeps giving
Over the past three years our target has been to hit 10 per cent carbon savings on our 2008/09 baseline. As with a lot of local authorities it is important to keep costs down and we therefore mostly rely on our Salix fund [the government-backed energy efficiency investment body], which means our projects have to be Salix-compliant. This is a revolving fund replenished with the savings achieved on our energy bills. With the money we save each year we can invest in further energy saving projects.

Efficient lighting offers a quick payback
A project has to have a payback of under five years to qualify for Salix funding, but we’ve delivered projects that payback within a couple of years. The T5 lighting conversion technology has one of the quickest paybacks, and is one of the easier technologies to measure. It can be an expensive option to replace old light fittings but we have had some success with securing funding for new lighting refits, particularly where lights are on 24/7.

It can be tough winning everyone over
Some of the engineers were apprehensive because they’d not encountered this type of conversion technology before. We carried out some trials in a small number of light fittings in my office, that way I could have first-hand experience of the light output and ensure that the lamps and ballasts remained secure in the fitting.

Maintenance contractors won’t thank you
The new system is doing wonders for maintenance costs, as the new more energy efficient lamps have a much longer life than the older T8 and T12 lamps meaning there are fewer maintenance call-outs to change the lamps. And Energys, the company that supplied the converters, offered a two-year warranty, so if anything goes wrong in the first two years they’ll deal with it.

You don’t achieve sustainability by throwing away fittings that still work
In an ideal world you’d rip it all out and replace it with the best tech, but it just doesn’t work that way. Council budgets are tight and retrofit technologies offer a cost-effective solution to energy saving. It’s also not very sustainable to throw things away that work, and some of our fittings are only a couple of years old. It’s very quick to go down the converter route, rather than a full refit, because it’s just like changing a lamp and doesn’t involve rewiring a whole building.

We have to lead by example
Energy savings are important to everybody. Any savings we can make are definitely appreciated by our finance director. Carbon dioxide emission reduction is one of the council’s main priorities, so we’re working hard to reduce our estate’s carbon footprint. We want to encourage the rest of the county to do the same and we can’t do that if we do not put our own house in order first – we have to lead by example.

It’s important to find a supplier you can trust
Our relationship with Energys is fantastic. We trialled other retrofit technologies, but they couldn’t compete. Energys could give us the certification and testing data to give us confidence in going forward. Some of the other companies we looked at didn’t seem to have experience or evidence for their claims. We undertook a lot of due diligence checks and Energys were always more than happy to answer questions. It’s important that you do things properly. To date we have rolled the technology out to 54 of our sites and we have been really pleased with the results. We are identifying further suitable sites for T5 lighting conversion and look forward to continuing to work with them.

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