Carbon footprint assessment

In July 2019, we declared a climate emergency and pledged to become a net zero organisation by 2030. As part of this pledge, a robust carbon footprint assessment was undertaken to better understand our current footprint and the measures needed to reach this target. 

The assessment was undertaken in 2022 by consultancy firm Anthesis. This new analysis builds on our annual Greenhouse Gas Emissions report which details the carbon production across key operational buildings and business car mileage. Anthesis’s full report provides a number of outputs, including:

  • A robust carbon footprint assessment, highlighting key areas of action.
  • A reporting tool and methodology that can be used again to measure our progress.
  • Trajectories for future emissions and interim targets for carbon reduction between now and 2030.
  • Advice on the most effective measures both in carbon reduction and value for money.
  • Financial modelling of the actions needed to reach net zero by 2030.

The report recommends a ‘high ambition’ approach to reducing our carbon emissions in order to minimise any residual emissions in 2030 and receive the best value for money for our investment. 

Read our carbon footprint report

Emissions by scope

The full report offers a comprehensive view of the climate impact of assets owned by us. The analysis comprises not just our own activities, but also that of our subsidiaries including ThamesWey and its energy centres. 

In the report, emissions have been divided into three categories:

  • Scope 1 - direct (emissions from our activities such as combustion from boilers).
  • Scope 2 - energy indirect (emissions from the consumption of purchased electricity, heat, steam and cooling from an external source).
  • Scope 3 - other indirect (emissions from sources we do not control such as waste disposal). 

Anthesis has analysed Woking Borough Council only emissions, ThamesWey Poole Road emissions, and ThamesWey Milton Keynes emissions so that our main corporate output can be more easily compared to other councils.

The assessment estimated the total scope 1 and 2 emissions to be 18,218 tCO2e. This figure includes ThamesWey’s energy centres at Poole Road, Victoria Way and Milton Keynes. 

Looking solely at Woking Borough Council emissions, our footprint consists of 63% emissions from electricity used at council buildings, and 34% gas emissions. In total, scope 3 emissions were estimated at 657 tCO2e, which includes factors such as staff commuting and waste disposal. Further work will be undertaken to determine the full climate impact of our procurement of goods and services to strengthen our knowledge of scope 3 emissions. 

Pathways to net zero and cost estimates

As well as providing an understanding of our current emissions, the report outlines potential pathways for reaching our net zero target by 2030. Anthesis has outlined three possible approaches:

  • Business as usual. Very little activity is undertaken to reduce our output. Any reduction in emissions relies on grid decarbonisation. 
  • Medium ambition. Lighting and appliances are upgraded at WBC sites and building controls improved. The ThamesWey energy centres switch to biomass or heat pump energy.
  • High ambition. As above, as well as fabric upgrades and heating system replacements at Woking Borough Council sites.

Chapter 3 of the report describes the types of measures that would be required to decarbonise Council buildings under the high ambition pathway. Delivery of an ambitious package of interventions, designed to reduce energy demand and electrify heating at key sites in our portfolio, could achieve a 65% reduction in emissions compared to the baseline year. 

Switching the energy centres’ supply to renewable fuels could further boost emissions reductions by up to 95%. The cost of switching the combined heat and power networks onto low-carbon source fuel is more challenging to estimate and is influenced by factors such as fuel source, supply and infrastructure. Emissions pathways for decarbonising our transport fleet are also considered with indicative costs for moving to electric vehicles.

It is important to note that the estimated costs within the report are indicative only and would need to be assessed on a project by project basis. For instance, energy demand reduction measures are estimated at £1.4 million. However, the estimates do assist in identifying priority actions in terms of carbon reduction and value for money. Funding for these measures would have to be sourced externally. 

Residual emissions

Reaching carbon neutrality will require a range of ambitious emissions reduction measures and investment. Where possible, emissions should be prevented in the first instance following an emissions removal hierarchy where offsetting is a last resort measure. However, financial or technical limitations may mean it is not possible to achieve complete carbon neutrality before the 2030 target. 

Unfortunately, none of the three pathways identified by Anthesis will result in a complete reduction of our carbon emissions by 2030. There will still be a small amount of residual emissions remaining. The amount of residual emissions hinges largely on the success of decarbonising the energy centres. Anthesis has estimated that by following the high ambition pathway, the residual amount of carbon in 2030 will be 1,854 tCO2e annually, or 7,406 tCO2e annually through the medium ambition pathway. 

There are a few options for treating this remaining output. Options include market based offsets estimated at a cost of between £70,000 and £195,000 annually. Alternatively, residual emissions could be offset through local nature-based solutions, or through Authority Based Insetting projects, where we support projects to reduce or avoid carbon production in the borough, for example through retrofitting.

Climate Emergency Action Plan (CEAP) overview

The report also includes a commentary on our Climate Emergency Action Plan (CEAP), including whether it is fit to address the scale of our net zero target. Anthesis has made suggestions as to how our existing carbon reduction actions could be strengthened, for example by focussing on reducing demand and decarbonising at our highest-impact sites first. Additional recommendations include the development of progress indicators for each action, increasing corporate electric vehicle infrastructure, and working with tenants and stakeholders to understand their energy consumption. These ideas have been incorporated into the review of our Climate Change Strategy.

The final recommendation made by Anthesis in the report is to build on the strategy outlined in the CEAP by adopting the high ambition pathway, which would see the decarbonisation and demand reduction of the energy centres and council buildings, as well as the treatment of any residual emissions through offsetting or insetting.

Next steps

The report sets out a roadmap to carbon neutrality by 2030 for Woking Borough Council, outlining the measures that need to be achieved, and when they should be implemented, in order for us to achieve our target. 

The analysis highlights the importance of the continued application of all carbon reduction measures currently planned by the Council in its CEAP and what is needed to go further. 

The recommendations will be reflected in the forthcoming review of our Climate Change Strategy. 

This is set within the context of our integrated service and financial planning process which informs a priority-based approach to agreeing funding and investment decisions. 

The Woking for All Strategy establishes our priority outcomes and our Medium Term Financial Strategy determines the funding strategies to support these. 

Greener Place Leadership is a key priority of the Woking for All strategy. Within this is a commitment to deliver a net zero council by 2030 and give greater visibility leadership, pace and actions to our Climate Change Strategy.

The funding to support the delivery of this strategy will be determined through our Medium Term Financial Strategy which balances the priorities of the council with the resources available for delivery.