Climate change

What the council is doing

Local authorities are directly responsible for between 2 to 5 per cent of their local area’s emissions. However, councils have many levers that can be used to deliver wider local action to reduce emissions and prepare local areas for a changing climate.

The latest version of the Council’s Net Zero Emissions Action Plan was approved by the Council’s Cabinet in March 2023, setting out an updated set of actions to progress the ambitions to:

  1. Achieve net zero in the council’s organisational greenhouse gas emissions by 2030
  2. Support the community on the journey to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, which links to the UK-wide same date target set by the UK Government

Progress since July 2021 includes:

  • completing the switchover of the Borough’s 26,000 street lights to LED 
  • purchasing new ultra low emission operations vehicles to decarbonise the council’s fleet, currently featuring 27 full electric and 7 hybrid vehicles
  • installing solar panels and loft insulation to improve the energy efficiency of 669 lower income Swindon households, through the Local Authority Delivery scheme
  • launching an innovative renewable energy group-buying scheme (Solar Together) to give Swindon homeowners easy access to purchasing solar panels 
  • installing the Borough’s first on-street electric vehicle charging points
  • progressing plans for the rollout of a Borough-wide food waste collection service to an additional 90,000 households from Autumn 2023
  • installing new battery storage and vehicle charging points at the Council’s operations depot to fully harness solar energy
  • planting around 51,500 new trees across the Borough, including 18 sites in the Great Western Community Forest area
  • progressing a large scale habitat creation partnership with Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, including the Swindon Forest Meadows programme and creating new woodland, scrub and grassland at Mouldon Hill  
  • running carbon literacy training for councillors and senior leaders and managers

Harnessing solar energy to power council buildings and vehicles

Our operations depot and Household Waste Recycling Centre (HWRC) is powered by renewable energy from the nearby council-owned 2.5 MW Barnfield Solar Farm on a former landfill site. 

A 0.5 MW battery at the operations depot allows us to store and use excess renewable energy. Fast-charge points allow charging of 16 electric vehicles simultaneously. 

A 12MW/24MWh battery is due to be energised in May 2023 that will be connected to the local electricity network, supplying the equivalent energy to power for over 3,000 local homes for two hours. 

Graphic showing different elements of the Waterside Park energy innovation hub

This builds on our previous work to reduce emissions, including leading these renewable energy projects:

  • Wroughton Airfield Solar Farm, capacity 62 megawatts (MW) - one of the largest ground mount solar parks in the UK
  • Chapel Farm Solar Park - capacity 5 MW, the first solar farm funded by a council backed community solar bond, that won a national ‘Best Renewable Energy Initiative’ award
  • Common Farm Solar Park - home to two solar farms on the same site sharing a grid connection, a 5 MW community scheme and a 3 MW commercial scheme. The first solar farm in the UK to invite people to invest directly through Council solar bonds.

Renewable energy generated by Council-owned solar parks Common Farm and Chapel Farm, and sold to the grid, is equivalent to 40-50% of the total electricity used by the Council.

Image of row of solar panels

A report commissioned by the Committee on Climate Change explains more about the role of local authorities in supporting local and national efforts to reduce emissions.

The UK was the first major economy to create a legally binding target to bring greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. In October 2021, the Government published a Net Zero Strategy setting out policies and proposals for decarbonising all sectors of the UK economy to meet this target.

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