Target for cutting greenhouse gas emissions exceeded

More savings on the way with rollout of LED streetlighting

Oxfordshire’s aim of becoming a zero-carbon county by 2050 has received a boost with news that a target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions was exceeded last year.

Oxfordshire County Council cut its own corporate carbon emissions by eight per cent from April 2019 to March 2020, beating its target of six per cent. The replacement of boilers and streetlighting with more energy-efficient models, the installation of solar panels and the purchase of more electric vehicles were all factors in the reduction.

Councillor Yvonne Constance, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet member for Environment, said: “We made a promise last year to put climate action at the heart of everything we do, and these figures show we are delivering on that promise. The measures put in place mean 1,132 tonnes of carbon dioxide have been saved from ending up in the atmosphere.

“We are committed to becoming a carbon neutral council by 2030. We are making wide-ranging changes to the way we work and also laying the groundwork for Oxfordshire to go zero-carbon by 2050 by delivering infrastructure, forming partnerships for joint action.”

Oxfordshire County Council declared a climate emergency in April 2019 and developed a Climate Action Framework in 2020 to set out how to achieve its net-zero goals.

One of the key projects is the programme to replace the county’s streetlights with highly efficient, environmentally friendly LED (light-emitting diode) alternatives. Scheduled to take four years to complete, the county council is investing £40 million over this period, which also includes upgrading columns – but is expecting it to lead to savings of more than £75m over the next 20 years.

The move will reduce the amount of carbon dioxide being produced by 70 per cent. Currently, the county’s street lights account for around 7,596 tonnes of CO2 every year – representing nearly 35 per cent of the council’s own operational emissions.

More than 2,800 streetlights were replaced in 2019/20, saving 245,109 kWh of electricity, and helping the council to exceed its emissions target for those 12 months.

And last week, a lighting upgrade project started at the county council’s park-and-rides at Thornhill and Oxford Parkway. It will introduce high-efficiency LED lighting technology with units pre-programmed to dim 50 per cent at night, increasing savings even further. And because they don’t need to warm up to reach full light capacity, they can be switched on slightly later – saving of 31 tonnes of CO2 a year and reducing energy usage by 70 per cent.

There will be no loss in quality as the new lighting will also be more clearly directed towards brightening both sites to help users feel safer and result in lower surrounding light pollution.

Jason Russell, Oxfordshire County Council’s Interim Director of Communities, said: “The decade to 2030 has been called ‘the decade of action’ against climate change. While it is true that over the next nine years remaining emissions will become progressively harder to eliminate, we are making substantial progress by taking early action to reduce energy consumption. This will maximise savings and help future-proof our services, assets and investments.”

The Climate Action Framework is affecting all aspects of council policy and responsibility, including:

  • Replacing its fleet with electric vehicles (EVs) and creating more EV charging points.
  • Generating its own clean power and buying from green energy sources.
  • Seeing what services can be delivered digitally.
  • Promoting active travel such as walking and cycling.
  • Reducing its demand for energy.
  • Setting sustainability standards for its suppliers.
  • Helping schools meet their low-carbon targets.
  • Maximising waste reduction and recycling.