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Highland's Transition To Net Zero Emissions Progressing Well

2nd September 2021

Highland Council's £480K investment in the Recovery, Improvement and Transformation Fund to support the local authority's transition to net zero emissions is progressing well.

Members of Highland Council’s Economy and Infrastructure Committee were yesterday (1 September 2021) provided with an update on the progress being made by the Climate Change and Energy Team.

The funding was geared to supporting three key areas: the development of corporately agreed hydrogen and low carbon heat strategies; the identification and development of energy and fleet projects with partners that can secure external funding, with a specific focus on decarbonisation of the Council’s fleet; and development of a net zero action plan for the Council, identifying key areas of focus across services with a view to developing outline project plans and funding bids.

Today’s report provided members with an update on the progress to date and set out some opportunities about how the remaining budget could be allocated.

The RIT funding approval enabled the Climate Change and Energy Team to appoint a dedicated Project Manager, who leads on the development of both hydrogen and low carbon heat strategies which will put the Council at the forefront of the national energy transition.

Work already undertaken includes:

An assessment of the current policy landscape from both hydrogen and low carbon heat perspectives from a local and national level.
Meetings with internal key stakeholders with a direct interest and involvement in shaping hydrogen and low carbon heat strategies.
Internal discussions about the opportunities and challenges in respect of decarbonisation of the Council’s estate and fleet. It is recognised that a cohesive, long-term strategy is vital and that focus needs to be on rationalisation of assets and building fabric improvement.
Meetings with the Scottish Government which recognised Highland as a major contributor to the national hydrogen strategy. Highland Council has been invited to prepare a proposal, co-funded by the Scottish Government, to fully understand the scale of opportunity and early wins that could be realised through the development of the hydrogen economy across the region.
Following a funding call in late July Highland Council has applied for £50K to enable the local authority to advance work carried out under the region’s, Scottish Government commissioned, Local Heat & Energy Efficiency Strategy.
Highland Council has been working with Aberdeen City Council who has provided a hands-on introduction to their hydrogen heavy goods fleet as well as the operation of a generation and refuelling site. Funding has been offered to the Council to assist with the conversion of some of Highland’s own heavy goods vehicles.
Agreement has been reached with The Procurement Partnership Ltd, to co-create a new Dynamic Purchasing System (DPS) for hydrogen and EV infrastructure to assist in making the transition to low carbon transport.
The Council’s fleet accounts for 17% of its total corporate carbon footprint and the Scottish Government has set an ambition for all local authorities to decarbonise their light commercial fleet vehicles (under 3.5 tonnes) by 2025 and their heavy fleet vehicles no later than 2030.

Today’s report recognises the importance of the strategic deployment of EV charging infrastructure across the region and the Council is drawing up a plan to support this transition.

The EV Infrastructure team will now manage the Council’s funding award from Switched-on Towns and Cities going forward (expected to be £126K for 2021/22) directing much of this towards installing EV infrastructure across the Council’s estate.

Chair of the Economy and Infrastructure Committee, Cllr Trish Robertson, said: "The funding awarded through RIT to Climate Change is for two separate purposes; to cover staff costs for specific project related work, and to enable the identification of key financial and non-financial opportunities around the net zero agenda for Highland.

"A significant opportunity to put Highland at the forefront of the national transition to net zero relates to the proposed development of a hydrogen hub as part of the Opportunity Cromarty Firth freeport proposal.

“Following Members’ endorsement of this project at a meeting of Highland Council on 25 March 2021, an allocation of £20K has been made from the available funding to co-fund the bid writing process which is being undertaken by KPMG."