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Devon Climate Emergency Response Group Meeting, 4th April 2023

Attendees

Meg Booth
Doug Eltham
Emily Reed
Keir Duffin
Sally Basker
Matt O’Dowd
Alex Gandy
Sara Gibbs
Mark Clapham
David Edmondson
James Cooper
Polly Frost
Lewis Garvey
Adam Williams
Rebecca Miller
Chris Clarke
Claire Gibson
Jason Ball
Victoria Hatfield
David Rose
Als Parker
Devon County Council (Chair)
Devon County Council (Environment Group)
Devon Climate Emergency
Devon County Council (Economy and Enterprise)
Exeter Science Park
National Grid ESO
Dartmoor National Park Authority
Public Health Devon
Devon Association of Local Councils
Torbay Council
Environment Agency
Devon County Council (Economy and Enterprise)
Wales and West Utilities
South Hams and West Devon Councils
Plymouth City Council
Wales and West Utilities
Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership
Mid Devon District Council
Exeter City Council
South West Water
Devon Energy Collective

Apologies

John Amosford
Andrew Butler
Charlotte Brown
David Eaton
Harry Barton
Emmanuelle Marshall
Mark Kentell
Penny Tranter
Neil Hamlyn
Drew Powell
David Bartram
Stephen Walford
Donna Sibley
Angus Berry
Public Health Devon
National Farmers’ Union
Devon Climate Emergency
Teignbridge District Council
Devon Wildlife Trust
Plymouth City Council
North Devon Council
Met Office
Local Resilience Forum
South Hams and West Devon District Councils
Exeter City Council
Mid Devon District Council
Torridge and North Devon District Councils
South West Water

1. Minutes of the Previous Meeting

The minutes were accepted to be a true record.

One action carried over:

Claire noted that the Great South West Partnership has commissioned a report to look at issues for energy decarbonisation.

ACTION: Claire to circulate the Terms of Reference for the Great South West energy study.

2. Grid Constraints

Matt O’Dowd from National Grid ESO presented the current regulatory environment for unlocking electricity grid constraints.

  • The network is now being used in a different way due to more distributed generation.
  • Distribution Network Operators (DNOs) have not been permitted to reinforce the network ahead of need due to regulation by Ofgem.
  • This has led to constraints – there are maps on the National Grid ESO website showing where spare capacity currently exists.
  • The southwest needs more reinforcement than other parts of the National Grid ESO region due to the prominence of distributed generation.
  • New regulations from 1st April 2023 allow reinforcement ahead of need. These will ultimately be funded from electricity consumers’ bills.
  • National Grid ESO has used energy scenarios to predict future demand and identify where future growth may occur.
  • The company is recruiting new staff to fulfil the upgrade requirements to the network over the next 30 years towards net-zero.
  • There is a high demand for new connections due to the backlog that the previous regulations caused, plus the need for planning permission can delay reinforcements, so it will take a while to catch-up with demand.

Jason asked how fast the situation will be improved. Matt said that implementing reinforcement is dependent upon National Grid ESO being aware that people want to connect in order to trigger the work. But the top 70 transformers requiring an upgrade have been identified, and these will be updated for the long-term.

Alex asked whether urban areas will have a higher priority than rural areas. Matt said that so long as the customers in rural areas make sure National Grid ESO know that there is demand, then those areas will have the same priority as urban areas. The queue management system is still be designed, but Ofgem require all customers to be treated equally so it will essentially first come, first served.

Matt is happy to provide a further update in October.

ACTION: Doug to schedule Matt for the October meeting.

3. Devon Energy Collective

Als Parker provided an update on the Power Allotments project.

  • The project’s objective was to identify the next generation of community-owned solar and wind schemes that could sell power to anchor institutions in Devon to help reduce corporate greenhouse gas accounts.
  • The project has finished after 12 months.
  • It found a sweet spot for community solar that avoids grid constraints, which is projects that are about 500kWp.
  • It identified 102 parishes with connection potential via a primary substation and land available for a 2 acre solar farm or land for 1 – 3 wind turbines.
  • Through a prioritisation process, seven solar sites and three wind sites have been selected as those with most potential.
  • Next step would be formal grid offers and pre-application planning advice with local authorities.
  • However, there are cost challenges:
    • Increasing component prices due to exchange rates
    • Borrowing rates
    • Lack of development finance
    • Volatility of current power prices
  • Next step would be to get them development ready.

Chris noted that summer electricity price may be pushed lower than the projections indicate due to Hinkley flooding the southwest with power when demand is lower.

David Edmondson asked how likely it is that these schemes will come to fruition. Als said that depends upon the appetite of local anchor institutions to pay the premium for the green power and the associated local benefits.

David Rose said he is keen to understand where Penon could purchase power from the projects and will arrange a follow up conversation.

4. Devon Energy Planning Group

Doug introduced the need for a Devon Local Area Energy Plan, as identified in the Devon Carbon Plan as a priority action, and proposed setting up a Devon Energy Planning Group to start developing the Energy Plan.

Chris and Lewis said that it will be important for all partners to understand the modelling used to build the plan – much of this is already available from the power and gas network operators.

Chris recommended that Devon County Council chair the Group and said that Cornwall and Somerset should be consultees due to imports and exports of energy.

Claire said it will be important to focus on the principles of what we want the Plan to achieve and work back from that point to arrive at a specification, rather than being led by price of the various options available. Claire also supported not using the LEP’s Energy Futures Board for this and suggested that Team Devon may need to be involved.

Alex asked what the output would look like. Chris said it would be a bottom-up analysis of energy demand, generation, flexibility and storage projections under different scenarios resulting in a plan for investment to ensure supply meets demand.

ACTION: It was AGREED for Doug to establish a Devon Energy Planning Group as per the paper presented at the meeting.

5. Project Progress Report

Emily highlighted the forthcoming consultation on the draft Devon, Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Climate Adaptation Strategy from May 9th.

The Response Group has been sent the draft Adaptation Strategy, which has already been updated following detailed feedback from the Climate Impacts Group.

ACTION: Response Group to feedback any red-flags ASAP so that these can be addressed ahead of the consultation.

The Response Group will be asked to endorse the draft Strategy for consultation at its next meeting on May 4th.

Appendix 1 – Project Progress Report 

Period: March to April 2023

Status Indicator Key:  

🔴 [RED] = Significant issue that requires Response Group intervention;  

🟠 [AMBER] = Minor issue that will initially be managed by the secretariat, but the Response Group should be aware;  

🟢 [GREEN] = No issue.  

1. Partnership Update 

1.1 General Project Communications [GREEN] 

1.1.1 Following 

We ran a paid social media campaign to raise awareness of the project’s aims on Facebook and Instagram. The campaign received good engagement with roughly 170 comments and over 100 reactions on Facebook. These comments were primarily sceptical of the climate emergency and/or of activity taking place. Common themes were conspiracy theories, climate scepticism, criticism of DCC’s lack of action, placing blame on the USA/China etc. and criticism of the Plymouth tree felling. However, it was positive to see that some supportive individuals did engage in debate to address any misinformation being posted. DCE also responded directly to some comments.

A line graph showing the the online communications following
Figure 1.1. DCE Social Media Following

The campaign boosted followers across all platforms and was particularly effective on Facebook as monthly growth increased by 14.7%. As a result, we have now reached our target of 10,000 followers across all our communications channels. We were previously expected to reach this by the middle of summer.

1.1.2 Campaigns and Projects

Business Engagement 🟢 [GREEN]

Based on feedback from the LEP and South West Business Council representatives, the Devon Carbon Plan slide deck aimed at businesses has been converted into a one sheet flyer version to attract the attention of people who do not have the time to read the slide deck in full. This version has been sent to representatives for further feedback and was printed and trialled at the Low Carbon Devon: Next Steps event in Plymouth.

A survey is running to understand the usefulness and appetite of a business badge scheme to recognise local businesses acting on net-zero.

Net-Zero Visions Curriculum Material 🟢 [GREEN]

The pack is drafted and has been shared with the Response Group. This will be finished by the end of April and made available to all schools.

Devon-Wide Community Engagement 🟢 [GREEN]

The design and scoping work is underway, being led by Devon County Council. This is starting with research during March and April that will meet with a selection of community organisations across the county to understand the gaps in community support that need filling by the project. This will be used to design the support programme for 2023/24, which will be an extension of the Community Action Group initiative.  An additional extension is being planned for delivery from April 2024.

1.2 Partners’ Notable Activity

Activity is recorded centrally on the Taking Action pages of the Devon Climate Emergency website.

  • The Devon Food Partnership have publicly launched the Devon’s Good Food Strategy 2023-2028.
  • The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) have launched their new resilience plans at the NFU Conference 2023.
  • A washing machine-sized data centre, provided by start-up Deep Green, is being used to heat a public pool in Exmouth Leisure Centre.
  • The NFU (SW) and the Woodland Trust have partnered to deliver a second annual free tree giveaway for NFU members in Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire.
  • Torbay Council has submitted a bid for national funding from Active Travel England to make it easier for people to walk, wheel, cycle and improve accessibility in the area.
  • The “Option 6” Beach Management Scheme has been agreed to by the Advisory Group for the Sidmouth and East Beach Management Plan, which will improve local coastal protection.
  • A million pounds of funding is available through the Advancing Capacity for Climate and Environment Social Science (ACCESS) project for environmental social science work.
  • Experts from the University of Exeter are part of a pan-European project, called ICARIA, which aims to improve the resilience of critical infrastructures to extreme weather events.
  • University of Plymouth researchers are contributing to the £7 million Stronger Shores initiative, which aims to make coastlines and communities stronger in the face of flooding, erosion and the impacts of climate change.
  • 70 new large trees have been planted in Tavistock.

1.3 New Governance Structure 🟢 [GREEN]

Current activity of the Secretariat is determining how the online reporting platform will work, and continuing conversations with existing groups and networks that will have a role in the oversight of actions.

The Net-Zero Task Force membership is advising us who will stay on as it transitions into a Climate Task Force (incorporating adaptation issues) so that the process of receiving nominations for people covering specific experience and knowledge gaps can be started. Professor Patrick Devine-Wright has stepped-down as chair, but will remain a member of the new Climate Task Force.

2. Devon Carbon Plan 🟢 [GREEN]

Partners, as well as organisations beyond the partnership, are now encouraged to endorse the Plan through their governance arrangements. Organisations that have endorsed so far are:

  • Dartmoor National Park Authority
  • Devon County Council
  • East Devon District Council
  • Devon Association of Local Councils
  • Plymouth City Council
  • Mid Devon District Council
  • Devon Wildlife Trust
  • Torridge District Council
  • Torbay Council
  • Exeter City Council
  • North Devon District Council
  • South Hams District Council
  • Teignbridge District Council
  • Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership

West Devon Borough Council has noted the ambition and objectives of the Devon Carbon Plan.

Whilst the new governance is being setup, the Taking Action pages on the website are being upgraded so that progress on specific Goals within the Plan will be displayed more clearly.

3. Devon, Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Climate Adaptation Plan 🟢 [GREEN]

The Climate Impacts Group endorsed the consultation draft of the Adaptation Strategy at its meeting on the 29th March.  This has been circulated to the partnership to identify any remaining fundamental issues that need addressing before the consultation scheduled for May 8th. The Response Group will be invited to endorse the Strategy for consultation at its meeting on May 4th. Partners in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly have done the same.

The consultation will provide an Executive Summary and ‘Quick Read’ versions for people who don’t need the detail. Online advertising, a webinar and physical drop-in events are being planned.

4. Devolution Update

Government provided a response to the devolution application submitted last year. Team Devon has responded with a further submission on the 19th April. The DCE secretariat were asked to input to the Net-Zero ask about energy planning (incorporating retrofit and unlocking grid issues) and natural environment enhancement. Plymouth and Torbay were invited to input.

5. Summary Comments

  • Partners continue to implement the Devon Carbon Plan, and support available to communities to act will increase from May 2023.
  • The consultation draft of the Adaptation Plan has been prepared following feedback from the Climate Impacts Group. Final feedback on fundamental issues is being sought from the wider partnership.  
  • New governance arrangements continue to be setup.

         

                                             

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