“Energy for Edinburgh: time to get moving

Cllr Steve Burgess welcomes the council’s progress in setting up its own energy services company but says the proof of the pudding will be in the (h)eating.

Among the papers for the City Council meeting this week is a progress report on setting up an Edinburgh ESCO (Energy Services Company). As the councillor who first proposed an ESCO, way back in 2011, I’m pleased that things are moving on, although also slightly impatient for the organisation to get its hands on actual projects.

LESCOs come in a whole variety of shapes and sizes but the overriding aim is to move away from the from buying gas and electricity, and move instead to buying the services that energy provides: the heat, light and ability to run our computers and gadgets. Crucially, shifting to dealing in the services that energy provides acts an incentive to deliver that energy more efficiently. And since around a third of the energy that we currently produce is wasted, that move itself can save carbon emissions and cut fuel bills.

One of the main drivers of ESCOs in the UK has been investment in the generation and sale of energy. At a time of escalating fuel prices, big six monopoly and shrinking council budgets this has to be worth serious consideration. Other UK councils with ESCOs include Southampton and Woking. Closer to home Aberdeen has been running a power company for over 10 years and Glasgow City Council has also been developing its own project. At the European level, cities with ESCOs such as Munich and Berlin generate millions of Euros in direct revenue. These schemes are now expanding by investing in energy services projects in other cities and towns.

The initial focus of the Edinburgh ESCO or “Energy for Edinburgh” will not be in generation and sale of heat or power (although that is within its scope) but rather threefold:

· Generating electricity for the city council via solar provision at under-used or suitable sites

· District heating schemes: for example, at Saughton Park, Fountainbridge and at the Bioquarter in SE Edinburgh.

· “Retrofitting” a number of public buildings to make them more energy efficient.

Edinburgh has been slow at getting to the ESCO table; while Greens believe the current proposals could go further and should have a sharper focus on delivery of projects, they are better late than never. The city now needs to do what it can to make up for lost time.