Cllr Jon Burke, cabinet member for energy. Photograph: Hackney Citizen

Hackney Council has announced that it will obtain 50 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources by April next year.

The announcement is one plank in a range of decarbonisation measures unveiled by Cllr Jon Burke (Lab, Woodberry Down), cabinet member for energy, sustainability and community services.

The Town Hall has signalled that its long-term aim is to work together with other local authorities to collectively “move the dial” towards cleaner sources of power.

In an exclusive interview with the LDRS, Cllr Burke said: “Hackney purchases £8.5 million of energy a year to operate its corporate functions. About £2 million of that is gas, £6 million electricity, so there’s a significant potential to decarbonise the functions of the council by changing the way we procure.

“In early 2019, we will be obtaining 50 per cent of our electricity from renewable sources. That’s obviously a big step forward, and puts us up there with a handful of other local authorities who are using their existing procurement to move the dial on renewable energy.

“We’ll be able to say that this isn’t a ‘greenwash’, as with a Renewable Energy Guarantees of Origin certificate, we will clearly demonstrate the sources of renewable energy that we obtain.”

Whilst shifting the council to cleaner sources does represent an additional cost to the council of around £80,000 annually, Cllr Burke underlined that this larger bill will be absorbed by parallel energy efficiency commitments under globally-recognised ISO50001 standards.

Cllr Burke added: “I don’t believe it’s impossible over time for our buildings to reduce our consumption of gas and electricity by between 15 and 20 per cent, which would translate into savings of well over £1 million a year.

“There’s huge scope to achieve significant energy efficiencies. I’m notorious for walking into meetings and switching the lights off and ensuring that the blinds are open.

“There are decisions that we need to make over time about whether or not light or heat systems are fit for purpose or if we need to invest in them further.

“Our targets won’t be met ultimately by cleaning up and transforming, as important as that is, the energy system – it will also come from achieving significant energy efficiencies.

“Not only is that very necessary, it’s also possible.”

Hackney residents can expect a raft of other green initiatives over the coming years, from the council’s recently announced publicly-owned energy company to plans to cover 50 per cent of residential Hackney roofspace owned by the Town Hall in solar panels.

The panels are to be installed in line with already existing maintenance schedules for buildings, in order to minimise any disruption for residents.

Cllr Burke’s wider goal, however, is to spark collective action London-wide on the part of other councils, with plans in motion to formulate energy policy designed to make markets take notice.

“If you include schools across London, local authorities are procuring something over half a billion pounds every year, which is the kind of sum of money that can move markets,” Burke said.

“If we want to work with the sum of money that can really put rocket boosters under investment in renewable energy in this country against the grain of a lot of retrograde government action, we need to start thinking about how we corral that wholesale energy procurement across councils.

“Everyone understands the magnitude of energy that we’re procuring, and how we might be able to use that to drive down the cost of renewable energy, as well as sending some very strong signals to the market.”

An October report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that there are only twelve years left before global warming could be kept below 1.5 degrees Celsius, after which the risks of catastrophic effects of climate change dramatically increase.

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