A royal recruit has marked the successful one-year anniversary for an innovative carbon cutting network that brings together some of Britain’s biggest landowners.
The Fit for the Future Network, which was launched by the National Trust and the sustainable energy charity Ashden in November 2013, now has an international membership of 85 land-owning, charitable and sustainability organisations.
The network provides a model of change – where leading organisations can share and learn practical tools and techniques to help achieve their own cleaner energy targets and together contribute to the UK’s climate change targets (80 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050).
The latest organisation to sign up to the not-for-profit network is the Royal Household, which operates at Buckingham Palace, St James’s Palace, Kensington Palace, Windsor Castle, The Palace of Holyroodhouse and the Queen’s Galleries.
Since our energy strategy, “Grow your own” was published back in 2010, we’ve embarked on a journey of energy-awareness. We set ourselves two big challenges, to reduce our energy by 20% and to generate 50% of that remainder through renewable and low-carbon energy resources. We’ve committed to do this by 2020.
Some of this is nothing new for us. We’re lucky enough to have access to some amazing natural resources – water, sun (well, sometimes sun) and woodlands. Previous owners of our properties knew this – for example, at Cragside, Northumberland (where Lord Armstrong installed what was probably the first hydro-electric scheme in 1868). Not to mention many historic milling sites, such as Patterson’s Spade Mill, Morden Hall Snuff Mill, Winchester City Mill, to name a few. We’ve brought water-power back to Morden and we’re bringing it back to Cragside.
We’ve already done some great work at enthusiastic properties – from charging an electric mower through a small solar panel at Nymans Gardens to installing our first solar panels on a Grade-I listed castle at Dunster Castle (our latest listed building installation is at Lindisfarne Castle). We also do less obvious work behind the scenes, by replacing our oil-fired boilers with wood-fired ones – for example, Uppark, Chirk Castle, Calke Abbey, and Castle Drogo. Last year, we generated 6% of our energy needs through renewables.
Our biggest project to date is happening right now, in Snowdonia. We’re installing a 600kW hydro-electric system on one of our farms. This scheme will generate the electricity equivalent of over 600 3-bedroom homes. The project team there have just run a very successful open-day. Despite the constant rain, over 200 very keen people were in attendance to see the site and ask questions. We want to do more of this.
We’ve identified just over 40 sites (a mix of hydro-electric, wood-fired systems, and heat pumps) which will help us achieve our goal of 50% generation. Recently, we announced a new partnership with Good Energy, an energy supplier. For every new customer that signs up to their electricity and/or gas tariffs, a donation (£40 for dual-fuel) is made to the National Trust to support our energy strategy and investment in renewables. We’re exploring other options too.
On the energy-saving front, which is arguably more important for us, we have seen lights and equipment being switched off, new heating controls, roof insulation and secondary glazing being put in – all the actions we’d do at home. South Somerset properties went even further quite recently. Their green team held a “green week” which featured a fuel-free Friday, local apple juice and use of thermal images (which shows heating leaks from buildings) – all good ways to encourage energy-saving and the use of local resources.
Last year’s winter was so cold, that we did not quite meet our energy saving target. However, actions like those of South Somerset’s team are just what we need to manage and take ownership of our energy use. We know that whatever we save has a global impact, as well as local impact. Whatever you believe about climate change, we’ve seen the very real impact that freakish weather patterns has on our properties – from flash-flooding affecting historic buildings and contents to storm damage of centuries-old landscapes and ancient woodlands.
- Kirsty Rice has been the Energy Adviser for the National Trust since 2007. She is responsible for devising national energy strategy and reduction targets, in addition to providing advice on energy efficiency and renewable or low-carbon technologies. Her background is in project and financial management, working on environmental projects for the last ten years in public and private sectors.
- The Weekly Witter is a regular mouthpiece for our many specialists to talk about what’s on their minds at the moment.
The recognition in the ‘energy’ category of the Guardian Sustainable Business Awards was announced at a special ceremony last night with the judges saying that the Trust “shows that heritage shouldn’t stop sustainability – their approach was challenging and broad ranging – very large energy savings, moving towards energy independence, while preserving national heritage.”
Keith Jones, National Trust Environmental Practice Adviser for Wales, said “Winning this award is a great honour and recognition for all of the hard work of staff and volunteers across Wales.
“Our work in Wales is all about getting the balance right in terms of generating our own energy but perhaps more importantly about using less energy in the first place. It’s a mixture of the big ticket measures that can generate clean and green power as well as the simple measures that can reduce our energy footprint.”
In Wales the Trust manages sites as diverse as the beautiful medieval fortress at Chirk Castle and crofts on the magical Llŷn Peninsula. It encompasses visitor centres and bunkhouses, a Tudor merchant’s house and old coastguard cottages, along with the 19th century neo-Norman Penrhyn castle and Tredegar House in south-east Wales.
National Trust Wales has already reduced its energy use by 40 per cent in two years and is well on the way to generating all of its energy needs from renewable sources at its properties.
There has been a major investment in 190 separate projects across Wales using groundbreaking technology as varied as modern light bulbs to the UK’s first marine source heat pump. It has explored biomass boilers and solar energy.
Photovoltaic panels and Hydro alone will supply more than half of the energy needs for the National Trust in Wales by the end of 2013.
In the last year the National Trust has also been recognised for its environmental and energy work by winning the prestigious Ashden Gold Award 2012, UK Water Efficiency Awards 2012 and the Cooperative Community Energy Challenge 2012.
Last week I visited Croft Castle to consider how we will swap from the existing oil heating for the castle and visitor facilities in the stable yard to a wood fuel system. This is exciting in its own right, as not only will we get the benefit of swapping to a renewable fuel (wood chip), which we can produce from our own estates, but it will also remove the risk of storing oil in this sensitive environment. But what made this visit particularly exciting was that it marked the start of a new journey for the Trust, where we are taking a planned approach to making a significant investment in renewable energy, to help us meet our energy policy commitment that, after a 20% reduction in total energy demand, 50% of the remaining heat and power will come from renewables.
“In looking after special places for ever, we believe strongly in the need to reduce our energy consumption, wean ourselves off fossil fuels and, where possible, generate our own renewable energy.”
Peter Nixon, Director of Conservation
Energy is, of course, essential to our operations, and we spend almost £6 million a year on electricity, oil and gas. By cutting our energy consumption and generating more of our heat and power from renewable sources we will have more to spend on conservation at our properties, and on countryside and wildlife. We will also be a more resilient and adaptable organisation, better placed to face the future whatever challenges come our way.
“We’ve installed over 150 renewable energy systems over the last few years”
We’ve installed over 150 renewable energy systems over the last few years – everything from small log boilers to district wood chip heating systems, and from photovoltaic panels in fields and on roofs to hydro power systems (the latest to be switched on is the only Archimedean screw on the River Wandle in London). Some of these have worked brilliantly – Wales’ PV outperformed its specified output by a considerable margin – and some less so – Nostell Priory is struggling to make its 300kw wood pellet boiler perform at anything like its best. But we will be using these lessons learnt to ensure future renewable installations deliver all the benefits we demand of them. And we are being demanding! The wide ranging benefits expected include, of course, reducing our dependency on fossil fuel and cutting our carbon emissions, but we also have criteria focussed on investment return, the impact on significance and setting, and the ability the project has to further our conservation performance – through enhanced woodland management for example.
We are using the initial phase of the programme to test out our delivery mechanisms before we hopefully embark on the full programme which will get us to our 2020 target.
So as the country worries about whether there is enough gas to keep us going over this cold snap, it feels exactly right that we should be looking to the resources on our estates to ensure that we can (carefully) keep the heat and lights on!
- Lizzy Carlyle is Head of Environmental Practices at the National Trust, working to ensure properties, and the organisation as a whole, improve their environmental performance, be it in energy or water use, and waste production, minimise pollution risk, and make best use of their natural resources.
- The Weekly Witter is a regular Monday mouthpiece for our many specialists to talk about what’s on their minds at the moment.
- The installation of green energy systems like wind power can be controversial, to see the Trusts position on wind turbines please see here.