Hinksey Outdoor Pool, Source: Fusion Lifestyle
Current Affairs Environment News

Oxford City Council awarded funding to decarbonise public buildings

Oxford City Council (OCC) has been awarded £10.9m in funding to reduce carbon emissions in key sites across the city owned by the Council, including the Hinksey Outdoor Swimming Pool.

The funding, awarded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s (BEIS) Public Sector Decarbonisation Fund, will enable the Council to explore the usage of heat pumps, thermal storage, and battery storage powered by renewable energies at Council sites across the city.

OCC announced that £1.6 million of this total will be used to decarbonise the outdoor swimming pool at Hinksey by using a local heat network consisting of water source heat pumps and battery/thermal storage, powered by renewable energy.

Hinksey Outdoor Pool is one of the largest outdoor swimming pools in the south of England, with capacity for 1300 people and a pool bather level of 250 swimmers.

The rest of the BEIS funding, over £9 million, will go towards installing heat pumps at up to five of the Council’s other big carbon emitting sites. These include Leys Pools and Leisure Centre, Oxford Ice Rink, Oxford Town Hall, Barton Leisure Centre, and Rose Hill Community Centre.

A heat pump is a renewable heating system which extracts low-temperature energy stored in the ground, water or air and concentrates this energy to produce higher temperature. It is one of the most energy-efficient heating technologies available, and results in lower carbon heat than burning fossil fuels like gas.

Earlier this year saw the Council install a 100kWp (kilowatts peak) solar canopy at Leys Pools and Leisure Centre car park. Consisting of over 350 solar panels, the installation generates over 80,000 kilo-watt hours (kWh) of green electricity to help power the leisure centre.

The programme will also see the installation of thermal and battery energy storage at each site to maximise the effectiveness of the heat pump and solar approach.

In addition, the Council will explore how it can invest in a large portion of a local solar farm, which will meet a significant part of the increased electrical demand arising from the shift away from burning gas in the heating of buildings and homes. Through this arrangement, green electricity could be provided to sites from remote solar energy.

The project is to be presented at Cabinet in February 2021, and the projects are to be completed by September 2021. OCC’s bids are to be developed in further detail over the coming months, in partnership with the Government and Salix Finance.

Commenting on the funding, Councillor Tom Hayes, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Green Transport and Zero Carbon Oxford, said: “This £10.9m boost will enable the City Council to make big savings in carbon and energy. It provides one-third of the funding needed to end our contribution to global warming by 2030. Hinksey Pools is on track to become an even better place to enjoy a dip, cutting its carbon footprint in half and doubling the enjoyment of visitors. Other sites will benefit from heat pumps replacing gas boilers, so that our citizens can directly enjoy the upgrades in the knowledge that they are meeting the climate crisis.”

Although it is responsible for just 1% of Oxford’s emissions, the City Council has already set out a plan to become zero carbon across its own operations by 2030.

The Council’s 4th Carbon Management Plan for 2021/22 to 2029/30 Plan outlines the intensification of the Council’s decarbonisation ambition, with the Council aiming to achieve an average annual (absolute) emission cut of 10% (approximately 530 tons of CO2 equivalent) every year until 2030 – doubling its current business as usual rate of reduction of a 5% year on year reduction target.

Image Credits: Fusion Lifestyle

Max Spokes

Max (he/him) was formerly Environment News Editor at The Oxford Blue, and now writes a weekly Climate Column. He is in his second year studying History and Politics at Balliol.