In view of the continuing human slide towards a warmer and destabilised global climate we recently asked the Leader of Islington Council, Councillor Richard Watts, about current energy saving and renewable energy policies being progressed within the Borough. This is what he had to say:
“Islington is the most densely populated borough the country and has the second lowest amount of open space in the country. That’s why it is vital that the council and others cherish and protect the green space we have in the borough. The Borough recently won the ‘Borough of the Year’ award at the London in Bloom awards for the best green spaces, community and residents’ gardens in the capital.
But our commitment to protecting our environment goes far beyond this.
Protecting our environment goes hand in hand with our commitment to helping residents with their bills and helping to improve their health.
Fuel poverty affects more than 1 in 5 Islington residents. With the ‘Big Six’ energy companies doing little to help people with their bills, the council has taken the lead on delivering insulation and installing new boilers in many council homes. 12,000 properties have benefited from cavity wall insulation, helping households to save £170 per year on heating bills. By replacing over 2,200 boilers, we have helped residents save £145 a year per household. On top of this, our upgrades to communal heating systems and work on solid wall cavity insulation will lead to further savings and reduced emissions.
In a time of massive Government cuts to the council, we are investigating further how we can save money and cut emissions. Solar panels will be installed on some council-owned properties; not only will this measure generate income for the council of approximately £130,000 per year, it will also help us to continue to produce cleaner energy in our borough.
Producing cleaner and more sustainable energy may seem like something that a local council would not have much of a role in. But in Islington, we are also taking pioneering steps to power homes and businesses in borough via energy produced in Islington. The Bunhill Heat and Power Network was the first power station built by a local authority for over a hundred years. However, unlike normal electricity production that wastes up to two thirds of the fuel used to make it, the Heat and Power Network uses otherwise wasted heat to heat homes and buildings, and to provide hot water. This is cheaper, more efficient, and greener.
We are incredibly proud of this pioneering work, but we want to do more. That’s why consultation and planning is well under-way on phase two of the scheme, which will see waste heat captured from the London Underground and a nearby electrical substation, and then used to heat up to 500 more homes; cutting bills and further reducing carbon emissions. Plans are also being looked into a third phase that could capture waste heat from the canal and a local data centre, and the possibility of a council-run energy company being set up to cut residents’ bills. These are exciting plans, and we will keep pushing to make them a reality.
A key element of cutting emissions is tackling the pollution caused by motor vehicles that drive on our borough’s roads. Diesel vehicles can emit up to four times more nitrogen oxides and 20 times more particulate matter than petrol vehicles and these pollutants have been linked to heart and lung diseases, which are major causes of long term illness and death in Islington. In 2008, the council introduced an emission-based resident parking policy to tackle CO2 emissions, and the move has helped encourage people to use less-polluting vehicles. We have introduced the Diesel Surcharge this year, to encourage residents to move away from diesel vehicles. The surcharge is the equivalent of £1.85 per week for resident parking permits for diesel vehicles. While this is an increase, we feel that this is a fair and proportionate way to help improve air quality in Islington.
The diesel surcharge is part of our wider programme of work to improve air quality, which includes enforcement at pollution hotspots, with fines for drivers who refuse to switch off their engines while stationary. Our 20mph speed limit on all the roads in the borough the council manages is also helping to cut emissions as vehicles accelerate less harshly. However, on top of these measures locally, we are aware that the majority of the work to improve air quality in the borough needs to be undertaken by the Mayor of London. This is why we are campaigning to ensure he does his share by replacing high-polluting buses and tackling polluting lorries that travel through our streets.
Islington Council is committed to reducing our emissions, to improving energy efficiency, and to helping our residents with their bills.
Best wishes, Cllr. Richard Watts