Local Government has a huge influence on how sustainable our lives can be - with control over the delivery of our most critical services, and operating large civic estates themselves. Over the past six months here at CarbonCulture, we've been working with two UK Local Authorities who are leading the way in openness and energy transparency.
Two leading UK Local Authorities – Cardiff City Council and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in London – had already taken on the challenge of reducing their energy consumption, and now they have chosen to open up their performance data - so they can work together with their communities to drive carbon savings and cut energy bills.
At the launch earlier this year, Cardiff Council's Cabinet Member for Environment, Councillor Ashley Govier, said, ‘Central to the CarbonCulture scheme is the opportunity for staff and members of the public alike to develop ideas to reduce our carbon output and monitor the effect these ideas have. The online platform is easy to understand and provides simple visibility of where we could reduce energy use and costs. All members of the community can contribute with school children already involved in some Cardiff schools, developing ideas and then taking them home to use there too.’
More than 250 buildings across the whole city of Cardiff are now publishing energy use through CarbonCulture, and the data are visible to anyone to look at and comment on. The scale of the openness is impressive in itself (see the full listing to see what I mean), but the most interesting aspect is the impact this information is having.
Through engaging school children with energy visualisations, Cardiff have already identified cost savings (energy savings!), and by enabling Cardiff's communities to compare their performance, we aim to further this saving through inter- and intra-community challenges. Matthew Preece, Energy Manager at Cardiff Council said "CarbonCulture is hugely powerful – as soon as schools could see their actual energy use, they saw how they could use their building controls better to save energy. Savings were made immediately in some schools."
Meanwhile, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea are working to get more and more of their council energy use visible to the public and to their staff. Not only are RBKC reducing their consumption, but they also generate energy using their solar PV array, which they publish through their main CarbonCulture page.
Publishing energy information through these easy-to-use web pages has already proved a very powerful tool for driving savings in local authorities - helping energy managers and building operators, and engaging with schoolchildren. We're working on new tools right now that will enable exciting competitions, engage staff and citizens and make it easier for organisations to learn from successes (and to avoid repeating mistakes!).
We'd love your input on the kind of tools and visualisations you'd like to see of your local authority's sustainability activity - let us know with a comment or by using the feedback link above!