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Corporate Plan 2022-2026

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7. 2d - Net zero carbon city

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"Limiting global warming will require major transitions in the energy sector. This will involve a substantial reduction in fossil fuel use, widespread electrification, improved energy efficiency and use of alternative fuels (such as hydrogen).

Cities and other urban areas also offer significant opportunities for emissions reductions. These can be achieved through lower energy consumption (such as by creating compact walkable cities)electrification of transport in combination with low-emission energy sources and enhanced carbon uptake and storage using nature. There are options for established, rapidly growing and new cities."

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change the Working Group III contribution (April 2022)



In 2019, Exeter City Council declared a climate emergency, with the aim of becoming a carbon neutral city by 2030. In response to this bold ambition, Exeter City Futures (ECF), a community interest company led by key organisations in the city including the City Council, launched “Towards a Carbon-Neutral Exeter” a Net Zero Exeter 2030 Plan.

In 2022 Exeter University’s Centre for Energy and the Environment published a baseline greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory for the city, which shows the scale of the changes needed in Exeter to meet Net Zero targets for 2030. The GHG inventory reports emissions and identifies specific metrics for monitoring progress towards carbon neutrality in each of the eight emissions sectors: power, buildings, industry, transport, agriculture, land use, waste and fluorinated (F) gasses across the city.

The challenges faced by the city to achieve its ambitions are daunting but there is huge potential, through greater collaboration and innovation to make significant in-roads into decarbonisation by concentrating our efforts in areas where we can have the most impact.

It is clear that the council, as an organisation that owns property, vehicles and uses significant amounts of energy and water, has a clear responsibility for reducing its own energy use and carbon emissions and we have a good track record of doing so, for example:

  • St Sidwell’s Point, a new city bus station and new Council owned homes built to Passivhaus standard
  • Solar PV estate of 4.7MW installed on Council owned land and property
  • Over 220 Council owned homes retrofitted, to improve their energy efficiency and reduce their carbon emissions
  • Net Zero team and budget established focusing on reducing council carbon emissions


Key challenges

  • GHG emissions in Exeter are on a downward trajectory with emissions 2008 declining by a third 2019. However, this reduction is the due to the reduction in the carbon intensity of the national electricity grid: there has been a 64% reduction in emission from the power sector (with most generation plant located outside Exeter) between 2007 and 2019
  • Emissions from buildings and transport are exceeding targets set for 2020 and the lack of progress in these sectors is particularly concerning, with growth in the city leading to increases in emissions in recent years. The city needs to make significant progress in reducing emission from buildings and transport to deliver net zero.


How we will address this priority - headline actions

City leadership for Net zero

We have already established a new Net Zero team to co-ordinate work to reduce our own carbon emissions aiming, as an organisation, to achieve net zero by 2030, however we cannot meet the City challenges of climate change alone.

"Towards a Carbon-Neutral Exeter"

Roadmap provides the City with a clear, detailed and compelling roadmap to carbon neutrality.

The GHG inventory provides a robust baseline from which we can plan and monitor actions to achieve Net Zero. Through the Exeter Vision 2040, Liveable Exeter, the Civic University Agreement, Place Board and ECF we have both the strategies and the collaborative delivery vehicles to achieve outstanding solutions for our city.

In recognition of the need for a whole system approach, we have taken the decision to temporarlly second our Chief Executive and Director, City Transformation to head up and lead the ECF delivery team. This enables us to provide strategic leadership to organisations in the city and to dedicate resources to delivery of the Net Zero Exeter 2030 Plan.

The ECF approach will be two-fold: a strategic influencing and collaborating role aiming to draw in significant investment from new partners with an interest in city-wide test beds for innovative solutions to decarbonisation. And a supporting delivery programme of practical demonstrations projects showing how whole system approaches could be scaled up to deliver sustainable city-wide benefits.

The priorities for the ECF delivery plan

The priorities are to:

  • Continue to develop the Exeter Development Fund concept, supported by grant funding from central government, to create a model for funding sustainable carbon neutral communities into the future as part of the Liveable Exeter housing development programme.
  • Map organisations’ current Net Zero plans against the GHG inventory baseline to assess to what extent current plans will contribute to the sector targets, identify gaps and highlight areas for further collaboration and attention.
  • Deliver a Net zero city Dashboard and Monitoring System: once we have assessed current plans across ECF partners: we will need to consider what all our plans add up to in the city context. Are there opportunities to do more together? What are the gaps? Are supply chains for common developments geared up to enable plans?
  • Review Exeter Transport Strategy to understand the potential impacts various proposals will have on Net Zero and consider which proposals could be most effective and could be accelerated or enhanced benchmarking against innovations in other cities.
  • Convene key stakeholders to consider the role hydrogen and district heating networks could play in the decarbonisation of the city.
  • Expand community energy schemes: collaborating with Exeter Community Energy and Wellbeing Exeter design and test hyper local energy efficiency partnerships to understand and overcome the practical barriers to delivering renewable energy and reducing fuel poverty in key areas of the city.
  • Use the data and insights gained to identify external funding and investors to assist in solving key infrastructure and de-carbonisation challenges.

Our role as a council

As a community leader, as an owner of significant land, property and assets and having responsibility for developing and maintaining the public realm we can invest
resources in the delivery of Net Zero and encourage and influence others to do the same.

We will: 

  • Publish a City Council Carbon Reduction Plan.
  • Work with our partners to support and implement the Devon Carbon Plan.
  • Research and launch a new Electric Vehicle Strategy for the City using council-owned land and assets.
  • Continue to roll-out kerb-side food waste collection across the city.
  • Roll out the electrification of the Council’s operational fleet – starting with three new electric refuse collection vehicles. 
  • Launch a new campaign in partnership with Great Western Railways to encourage visits to Exeter by train.
  • Publish a Royal Albert Memorial Museum decarbonisation plan.
  •  Switch on the £3.5million Water Lane and Smart Grid and Storage Project, providing a renewable energy supply to the council’s Operations Depot at Exton Road.
  • Redevelop and relaunch the Green Accord to address carbon emissions in our business and supply chain.
  • Develop a Net Zero plan for the leisure service estate, including installing solar panels at Riverside Leisure Centre.