‘Very important step’ taken in Bristol net zero pursuit as council signs off £400million investment deal
The two-decade deal involves projects which will transform how Bristol generates, distributes, stores and uses energy
A major deal has been approved paving the way for investment worth hundreds of millions into renewable energy in Bristol. City Hall chiefs signed off the City Leap deal between Bristol City Council and Ameresco, marking a “very important step” in the route to net zero emissions.
The two-decade deal involves projects which will transform how Bristol generates, distributes, stores and uses energy. Projects include new district heat networks, installing wind turbines and solar panels, retrofitting homes with insulation, and rolling out heat pumps.
The City Leap deal was signed off by the council’s cabinet on Tuesday, December 6, and was welcomed by Green councillors. At least £424 million will be invested into energy projects in the first five years of the deal, which will see a new joint venture firm created.
Councillor Kye Dudd, cabinet member for climate, said: “The historic pace of delivery that we’ve been doing over the past five years has been pretty good, probably the best in the country. We’ve invested about £100 million in decarbonisation and energy efficiency of our energy system in the city. But we need a change in scale to match the problem we face.
“We don’t have the money as a council and the government isn’t stepping up to the scale of the challenge, so we thought four years ago, why don’t we get some alternative investment from the private sector. This is a groundbreaking approach to scale up investment into energy decarbonisation. This is possibly a blueprint for other cities in the UK and Europe.”
The idea for City Leap began four years ago when the council declared a “climate emergency”, pledging to cut Bristol’s carbon emissions in a bid to tackle climate change. The problem is the council does not have the necessary funding to get the city to net zero emissions, and the current government is not providing the cash to local councils either.
Council chiefs sent out a prospectus in 2018 searching for potential companies to stump up the money needed to decarbonise Bristol’s energy network. More than 100 firms showed interest, and in April this year the council announced the winning bidders — American firm Ameresco will lead the majority of the work, and Swedish firm Vattenfall will build heat networks.
Cllr Carla Denyer, co-leader of the Green party, said: “This is a very important step in Bristol’s decarbonisation journey and I’m really pleased to see it happen. This will lead to hundreds of millions of pounds investment with a potential to that increasing to £1 billion in the longer term, which is great, however estimates show we’ll need 10 times that to meet carbon neutrality.
“I have a healthy scepticism about public-private partnerships. I think history has shown that putting essential public infrastructure into private or semi-private hands can often have undesirable outcomes. So in an ideal world I would have liked to have seen more local and national government investment directly.
“However, I recognise the extremely difficult situation the Conservative government has created for us here. So I welcome this. It’s not the whole story. It’s necessary, but not sufficient — but it’s a great step.”
Over the next five years, Ameresco has promised to save 140,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide, install 180 megawatts of renewable energy generation, and invest £22 million in energy efficiency. The company is also promising to subcontract some projects to local firms and create 410 new jobs in Bristol.