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The latest on City Leap – a new energy model for Bristol


James Sterling is the Communications, Engagement and Partnership Manager for Bristol City Council’s Energy Service. Partnership member and key supporter, the Council is leading by example in action against climate change, and has an ambition for Bristol to become a carbon neutral city by 2030. Their award-winning Energy Service is delivering projects with partners across the city and region that aim to promote social, economic and environmental sustainability. In this blog post, James gives us an update on the council’s City Leap initiative. 

Bristol’s Mayor, Marvin Rees, has committed Bristol to carbon neutrality and City Leap will play a massive role in this ambition, by creating a decarbonised, decentralised and democratic energy system that enhances the lives of our fellow Bristolians. In Bristol, we were the first Core City to declare a climate emergency and it has been heartening to see five of the other 10 Core Cities following suit, with nearly 50 more councils declaring since.

Bristol has a strong track record of delivery and an ever-growing reputation as a leader in energy. As a council we’ve invested over £50m in renewable and low-carbon energy projects in recent years, becoming the first English council to build and own our own wind turbines, investing in our own solar farm, as well as solar installations across our museums, libraries, leisure centres, schools and council offices. We are also responsible for a number of major infrastructure projects like our low carbon heat network which now serves over 1,000 social housing properties, and the delivery of energy efficiency upgrades to 10,000 social housing and private domestic properties.

Statistically, we know that two thirds of Bristolians are concerned about the impacts of climate change and although we’re making good progress towards carbon neutrality, we must dramatically increase the scale and pace of our efforts in order to meet our own targets as a city and play our part in tackling the global climate crisis. This sense of urgency coupled with the challenges of shrinking public budgets mean we need to find innovative and inclusive ways of delivering and funding our ambition. This is why we’ve launched City Leap, and the search for a strategic Joint Venture partner that can work with us to deliver the next wave of Bristol’s low-carbon projects.

A year ago, we ran an exercise to gauge interest from organisations of all types, from all over the world, and were overwhelmed by a response from nearly 200 of them, wanting to form partnerships with the council to deliver energy projects.

In April, our Mayor and Cabinet approved the next phase of City Leap and we’re now in preparation for a procurement exercise to find a strategic Joint Venture partner (or partners) with whom to work on the city’s future energy projects, and to deliver up to £1bn of investment into our energy system.

The council has made incredible progress, cutting its own carbon emissions by 71% since 2005 and we’re now in a strong position to support the rest of the city to take action. City Leap is a council first and we’re very proud of the innovative approach towards public, community and business partnership that we’ve developed, which is something that central government and other local authorities are watching with keen interest.

Social justice and environmental justice are intrinsically linked -the effects of an unfair energy system will always hit people in deprivation harder. With this in mind, we aim to build inclusion and engagement into our energy projects to take the whole city on our journey to carbon neutrality. This can be achieved by building a decentralised, decarbonised and truly democratic energy system where Bristolians can have a meaningful say in our future strategy as well as opportunity to play a part in delivering community projects.

More information about the council’s energy projects and the City Leap Prospectus can be found on the  energy service site. We look forward to the launch of our procurement exercise later this year and we thank Bristol Green Capital Partnership and our other City Partners for their support on the project so far.

Join James along with David White, Head of Energy Services for the Green Mingle on 4 July for drinks, networking and more information about potential partnerships.


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