On 21 March 2019 Suffolk County Council’s councillors voted to declare a climate emergency, with overwhelming agreement to work towards becoming carbon neutral by 2030. It was the first council in the county to do so, with other councils in the county soon following suit.

We recently chatted with David Walton, Programme Manager for the Suffolk Climate Change Partnership, about the Council’s work together with other local agencies and authorities to achieve net zero emissions for all of Suffolk, and the role of community energy within that ambition.

How does renewable or clean energy fit within the wider plan for a Green Suffolk?

In Suffolk we appreciate the need for the decarbonisation and decentralisation of energy infrastructure across the county, as part of the low carbon transition. We constantly seek ways to maximise the benefits of this for our communities and businesses.

Independent analysis on emissions reduction pathways to achieve a carbon neutral Suffolk by 2030, carried out by Ricardo Energy & Environment in advance of the publication of a Suffolk Climate Emergency Plan in Spring 2021, has shown us that for Suffolk to be carbon neutral by 2030, the supply of electricity needs to fully decarbonise by then.

This means decarbonising the generation of electricity that feeds into the grid, which we do not have direct control over, as well as creating more renewables within Suffolk for local use, where we do have an influence.

Describe briefly the types of assets you have listed on PowerPaired as potential sites for clean energy projects. What do you hope to achieve with them, in partnership with community energy groups?

These are local authority assets, ranging from schools and libraries to offices and community facilities – even a former airfield! If an energy project can be developed on one of these sites, bringing additional local value to the community in which it is located, we would be very pleased to support it.

What other support does the Council have in place for scaling up renewable energy and, in particular, community owned renewable energy?

The Council is a member of the Suffolk Climate Change Partnership, which runs a service via Groundwork East, a local environmental trust, to support community groups with energy efficiency advice and support. The service would be very happy to support a group with advice on how to get started.

What’s your vision for the role of local authorities in helping the UK measure up to its climate and environmental targets?

Local Authorities should show leadership on the delivery of central government policy, and may extend this ambition where local circumstances allow. We are proud of our climate emergency declaration and its associated aspiration to make Suffolk carbon neutral by 2030 and are actively seeking ways to work together with our local stakeholders to realise it.

Suffolk County Council currently has 18 potential community energy sites listed on PowerPaired. To search for suitable sites in your area, please register for free or sign in at www.powerpaired.org.