Council plans to use town’s rubbish as power source, government begins zero-carbon consultation

Swindon council is drawing up plans to become the first carbon-negative town in the UK.

The council is working with Brian Mark, director of sustainability at environmental consultancy Fulcrum, and a member of the government’s Renewables Advisory Board, to examine redeveloping power stations into combined heat and power plants fuelled by renewable sources including the town’s rubbish. The scheme would be designed to mimic aspects of Copenhagen’s district heating system, which supplies 97% of the city’s heating.

‘Most of our electricity is made by burning coal or gas and we chuck the heat away,’ said Mark. ‘This wastes energy and causes huge carbon emissions that could be saved.’ A decision on the plans will be taken in April.

A precise definition of what constitutes zero carbon came a step closer this week as the government launched a consultation on the standard.

The government has set out proposals that could make it easier for developers to hit the 2016 zero-carbon deadline for all new homes. These include: counting improvements made to the energy efficiency of existing homes around new schemes; taking into account any renewable power generated by the development and sold on to other developments, plus section 106 payments towards renewable energy infrastructure. The government would also set a financial limit for housebuilders on the cost of making homes carbon neutral.

Announcing the consultation, housing minister Margaret Beckett said: ‘With the consultation process we … are confident we will be able to achieve our ambitions while giving the industry flexibility for how they get there.’