Communicating the South Downs


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Low Carbon and Renewable Energy Study

In January, 2012 the SDNPA commissioned a Low Carbon and Renewal Energy Study to support policy development for both the Management Plan and the Local Plan. This was a two part study: a Phase 1 Scoping Study that reviewed existing policy; the available data and any key gaps in that data; characterised the key energy issues and identified topics for more detailed investigation in Phase 2.

Phase 1 – Scoping Study

Phase 1, was completed in Aug 2012. A key output from the report was identification of four lines of investigations for the main phase 2 study:

  • What is the energy profile for the South Downs National Park, i.e. how much energy is used throughout the park and what quantity of carbon dioxide is emitted in the process?
  • How can the energy performance of existing houses and other buildings be improved?
  • What renewable and low carbon technologies are feasible within the South Downs National Park and what criteria can be used to begin to decide where renewable / low carbon generation may be appropriate?
  • How can the progression be made from theoretical potential to delivery of low carbon and renewable technology schemes?

SDNP Low Carbon and Renewable Energy Study – Scoping Study

Phase 2 – Main Report

The baseline energy use for residences and non-domestic buildings has been estimated together with the associated carbon emissions.

Energy Use [MWh] (%) Carbon Emission [tCO2/yr]
Total Domestic Energy Use 1,667,816 (73) 476,184
Total Non-Domestic Energy Use 619,454 (27) 199,254
Total Energy Use 2,287,271 675,438

Aecom, 2013.

Under the Climate Change Act 2008, a national statutory target has been set to reduce carbon emissions by 80% (based upon 1990 emissions values) by 2050. Using the data in Table 1, the Phase 2 study has explored what carbon emissions savings could be achieved through different measures.

The graph below shows the predicted potential SDNP carbon savings of several energy efficiency measures against a 2034 target (based upon 80% reduction in 1990 levels by 2050). Despite the significant potential carbon reduction associated with energy efficiency measures for existing buildings, the saving still falls significantly short of the 2050 target. In any event, 100% take-up of these measures by businesses and members of the public cannot be guaranteed.

Predicted potential SDNP carbon savings from energy measures set against targets
Figure 1: Predicted potential SDNP carbon savings from energy measures set against targets.

Even if all opportunities were exploited, the scale of potential carbon saving through energy efficiency measures and onsite microgeneration alone would not proportionally meet the Climate Change Act 2008 target of an 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050. To achieve the Climate Change Act target within the National Park, the remaining shortfall carbon reduction would need to be met through strategic renewable and low carbon infrastructure. The latter could be provided by one or more of the following technologies:

  • Biomass (e.g. wood fuel heating schemes or anaerobic digestion plants);
  • Wind turbines;
  • Solar pv arrays.

At present a minimal 5.6MWh of energy is generated from renewable sources. However, any development in respect of renewables cannot be allowed to compromise the nationally important landscape character which National Park status is designated to conserve and enhance. The challenge for the SDNPA is to determine the right technology in the right place.

There is considerable opportunity for increasing the number of homes heated through woodfuel. The Forestry Commission suggest that there is around 328km2 of woodland cover across the South Downs. They estimate that this woodfuel would be capable of delivering 179,690MWh; heating for over 9,000 homes and saving over £8m if use instead of oil to heat homes. Additionally increasing the market for woodfuel allows more woodland to be effectively managed which can bring other benefits such as improved biodiversity.

SDNP Low Carbon and Renewable Energy Study – Main Report

An important part of the Phase 2 study was to test the appetite for different policy options via an Energy Workshop attended by stakeholders and SDNPA Members.

Ongoing Work

One output from the Renewable and Low Carbon Energy Study has been the inclusion of the following statement and proposed energy policy within the Partnership Management Plan.

The UK Government has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050. The two main ways in which communities and businesses can contribute are through reducing energy needs and increasing the amount of energy created from renewable sources. The policies in this plan encourage renewable energy generation provided that it does not harm the special qualities of the area. Improving the energy efficiency of existing buildings also has great potential to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Policy 55. Support appropriate renewable energy schemes, sustainable resource management and energy efficiency in communities and businesses in the National Park, with the aim of meeting Government climate change targets.

This is now being used as a basis for development of energy policy with in the Local Plan for which preferred options are currently being prepared.

For further details about energy policy development please email: Rob Thain, Minerals & Waste Lead,