Low carbon economy begins in the municipality

On August 25, 2015, the City Council of Bielsko-Biała unanimously approved a document entitled "The Low Carbon Economy Plan and the Sustainable Energy Action Plan (SEAP) for the City of Bielsko-Biała."

Bielsko-Biała thus confirmed the direction of consistent development - energy-conscious urban society, from companies to residents.

What is the low carbon economy plan?

The obligation to develop a low carbon economy plan (LCE plan) is not enforced by the law. It is a decision of the local government and the local community, aware of the benefits of having such document. It is crucial when applying for funding in the years 2014-2020. Activities that the municipality will take into account in their LCE plan will be financed. The aim of the projects is to improve the quality of life of the residents.

The idea of creating low carbon economy plans for Polish municipalities was born in 2013 in the National Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management without any legislative pressure. The basis of this idea was a similar document called "Sustainable Energy Action Plan until 2020" (SEAP), mandatorily required for cities-signatories to the European "Covenant of Mayors". Bielsko-Biała has developed and adopted its SEAP in 2010, a year after accession to the Covenant of Mayors and  presented it twice before 2013 on conferences organized by  the National Fund in Warsaw.

The municipality with LCE plan is aware of the energy situation in its area and has planned activities for the coming years to increase energy efficiency, using renewable energy and reducing CO2 emissions.

Based on the collected database of energy consumption and CO2 emissions for the entire municipality (public and private sector) in the base year (selected year between 1990-2014) and in the inventory year, the local government should draw conclusions regarding the trends in energy consumption in the municipality as well as factors influencing this consumption, and assess the results of previous activities in the field of energy efficiency. In the case of Bielsko-Biała, where the Energy Management Office has been operating as part of the Municipal Office since the 1990s, the base year is 1990, and the inventory year 2012. The database of energy consumption, carbon dioxide emissions and renewable energy sources in the municipality is the basis for planning the municipality's actions at least until 2020.

Activities planned in the LCE plan

Including activities in the LCE plan requires a fixed vision of the development of the municipality, covering investment and non-investment activities, i.e. spatial planning, procurement, education and information.

In the case of Bielsko-Biała, the priority measures to reduce CO2 emissions include:

  1. Implementation of low carbon solutions in municipal companies
  2. Providing continuous support for residents to manage the transition to a low carbon economy
  3. Low carbon transportation

Many of these measures have already been implemented, such as the decommissioning of coal-fired boilers in the city's resources, the modernisation of public lighting owned by the municipality or the construction of a modern, high-efficiency power plant EC1. Some actions are still in progress, such as the modernisation of the district heating network or renewal of the rolling stock of city buses. Still in progress are also thermal upgrades of educational facilities, equipping of municipal buildings in renewable energy sources, and finally subsidising by the municipality of the decommissioning of old coal-fired heat sources, being replaced by the residents. Estimated emission reductions achieved this way will amount to 204 849 Mg of CO2, while reduction of energy consumption will amount to 233 155 MWh and energy production from renewable energy to 10 744 MWh. This will help meet the objectives set for the city under the Covenant of Mayors - implementation of measures will also reduce emissions by 20.71% compared to the base year (1990).

The estimated cost of planned tasks is about 117 260 thousand €of which about 60% will come from external resources.

The low carbon economy plan can't be considered as a closed document. It must be monitored and updated. This requires the involvement of qualified staff, modelled on "chief power engineer" departments in companies. In Bielsko-Biała, the Energy Management Office is actively working as a department of the Municipal Office.

Projects included in the LCE plan cover the public and private sectors. The support of stakeholders, i.e. all those whom the municipal energy plans regard, is very important in the low carbon economy plan. These include local administration, residents, students, researchers, municipal companies (e.g. water supply and sewage, heating and transport companies), energy companies, energy suppliers, energy agencies, non-governmental organisations, entities operating in the sphere of transport, financial partners - banks, funds, industrial and service companies. The LCE plan is a great opportunity for public involvement in activities benefiting the community, especially in view of rising energy prices and uncertainty about energy security.

A very important role in the dissemination of low carbon economy plans was played by the National Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management, which in the summer of 2013 announced a competition within the Operational Programme Infrastructure and Environment 2007-2013, Priority IX Environment-friendly energy infrastructure and energy efficiency, Measure 9.3. Thermomodernization upgrading of public utility buildings - low carbon economy plans. The aim of this competition was to support local measures for energy efficiency and climate protection through financial assistance in creating local LCE plans. 873 municipalities took part in the competition, i.e. approx. 35% of all municipalities in Poland. The National Fund subsidises 85% of eligible expenditures related to the elaboration of LCE plan. Bielsko-Biała is among those municipalities, and the effect of the project supported by the National Fund is the LCE plan just adopted by the City Council.

The basis for a successful LCE plan are sources of funding for the planned projects. They may include the state budget and the National Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management, as well as funds from the European Union budget. The activities included in the low carbon economy plans must be consistent with local air protection programmes.

What are the benefits of the LCE plan?

Improving air quality, the condition of the environment, energy security, standard of living, and competitiveness of the municipality are the most important benefits which the implementation of the Plan should bring. Creation and implementation of the LCE plan with the participation of local stakeholders and residents will make it possible not only to achieve the desired objectives and bring about social, environmental and economic benefits. It will also increase public awareness and participation in saving energy and protecting the environment. The plan will also integrate the community around the idea which serves all residents.

By definition, the LCE plan is a document guiding the municipality towards sustainable development.

 

Katarzyna Kordas - Energy Management Office, The City Hall of Bielsko-Biała