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Schools, leisure centres and other Highland Council venues to benefit from energy efficiency upgrades

By John Davidson

Heating equipment at Raigmore Primary in Inverness will be upgraded.
Heating equipment at Raigmore Primary in Inverness will be upgraded.

Schools and other council venues are due to get LED lighting upgrades and other energy saving measures as part of a bid to reduce the authority's carbon emissions.

Highland Council has invested £7 million in energy efficiency projects with a focus on schools and leisure facilities.

Half of that funding has come from the Scottish Government through Salix Finance – an independent, government-funded organisation that provides interest-free loans to the public sector for energy efficiency projects.

The council expects to save hundreds of thousands of pounds a year and significantly reduce its carbon emissions through the investment.

It says schools will benefit from large-scale upgrade to LED lighting, which will also create a more comfortable working and learning environment for pupils and staff.

Some of the fund will be diverted towards the replacement of old and poor performing oil boilers, which will see a significant carbon reduction and help the council to meet its target of being carbon neutral by 2025.

Martin MacDonald, project manager and Salix fund manager at Highland Council, said St Joseph's and Raigmore primaries in Inverness would be among the first schools to receive improved heating equipment.

He said: “We have a lot of pressures contributing to our high energy consumption and spend; a vast estate; huge geographical spread; older, energy hungry buildings; grid restrictions; lack of mains gas supply; higher than national average energy unit costs. A lot of those are out of our control, so we must do things smarter and more efficiently. The fund gives us that opportunity.

“We have started from scratch and used data to identify and progress viable sites to maximise the benefits realised. This is about long-term, sustainable change for the council. A lot of time and effort has gone into securing the fund and we are hugely appreciative of the ongoing support from Salix.”

The Salix fund aims to increase long-term investment in energy-efficient technologies across the public sector, by enabling clients to reinvest savings from previous projects to finance further energy reduction schemes.

Rose Street multi-storey car park in Inverness will benefit from improved lighting.
Rose Street multi-storey car park in Inverness will benefit from improved lighting.

Highland Council used Salix’s recycling fund, a ring-fenced pot of money held by the local authority, which is created with capital provided by the Scottish Government through Salix and equally matched by the local authority.

Councillor Gordon Adam, chair of the commercial board, said: “Martin and the team have put a huge amount of time and effort into securing the fund and progressing the work. This is the largest fund in operation throughout Scotland and will be essential in reducing our spend and meeting our carbon targets.”

The project will see targeted improvements on more than 50 sites, which will be broken down into lots based on geographical spread, involving both primary and secondary schools, leisure centres, depots, car parks and offices.

These include Averon Leisure Centre in Alness, the car park at Inverness Leisure, Rose Street multi-storey in Inverness and the Highland Council headquarters' car park, and schools from Caithness to Badenoch and Ullapool to the Black Isle.

Buildings will benefit from investment in a variety of technologies including LED lighting and controls, boiler replacements and over 2.5MW of solar PV and private wire supply.

Hayley Veenhoven, senior programme manager at Salix Finance, said: “Funded by the Scottish Government, Salix’s investment in the Highland Council estate will support the invaluable work being undertaken to reach carbon targets which will see lasting benefits for the largest local government area in the UK.

“The funding will not only provide significant financial and energy savings for the council but will enable the development of their estate for years to come through both holistic reinvestment and the reduction of maintenance costs.”

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