Alternative fuels to reduce carbon emissions across the environmental services fleet
Report of the Cabinet Member Waste, Recycling and Street Services and the Cabinet Member Climate Emergency
The Cabinet Member Waste, Recycling and Street Services presented the report, describing it as a good news story for the council and summarising the key background details. The council had declared a climate emergency in 2019 and was serious about achieving net zero by 2030. This required tangible action as soon as possible, and the recent COP26 summit had reinforced the need for global action.
The council was responsible for the procurement of vehicles used by Ubico in delivering waste and recycling services. These vehicles emitted a total of 1,394 tons of CO2, the largest individual contribution at the council, despite the majority of them using the latest Euro 6 engine technology delivering the most stringent limits on harmful emissions when burning traditional mineral B7 diesel.
The council had already installed electric charging points at the Swindon Road depot, and ordered two electric vehicles, which would be operational as replacements for two diesel vehicles in early 2022. He noted that not all the fleet could move across to electric immediately, due to the high cost of installing the electric charging infrastructure and the available supply of electricity locally, particularly for the heavy goods vehicles.
He added that they were moving to certified palm oil-free hydrotreated vegetable oil, enabling a rapid move away from burning traditional mineral B7 diesel for many vehicles. This would deliver up to a net 91% reduction on well-to-wheel greenhouse gas emissions, and up to a 48% reduction in particulate emissions. It would function as an interim solution to help reach net zero by 2030, while more environmentally friendly technology was further developed. He stressed that the report aligned with the council’s commitments to deliver rapid reductions in CO2, improve air quality and deliver net zero by 2030.
The Cabinet Member Climate Emergency echoed these points, noting that the declaration of a climate emergency in 2019 had set off a chain of actions at all levels of the council. It was important to get our own house in order first, and the Ubico fleet was a big part of this. Reducing emissions was an obvious and urgent step that formed just one step of a wider movement towards electric vehicles and other environmentally beneficial technologies. He was excited to see the effect it had on the town’s carbon footprint going forward, and stressed the need for actions rather than words.
The Cabinet Member Housing thanked both Cabinet Members and the officers involved for producing a fascinating report with detailed information on a challenging topic. Moving towards net zero would certainly require investment but it was hugely important work.
The Cabinet Member Customer and Regulatory Services added that there would likely have been some scepticism when the council declared a climate emergency that it was just empty words, but this was clear action towards that goal. The flexible approach would allow them to exercise due diligence regarding things like biofuels as more information became available about their impact, and more technologies became available.
The Leader moved to the vote, where it was unanimously:
1. The introduction of hydro treated vegetable oil (HVO) fuel be approved, procured from sustainable sources that is certified palm oil free, for use in the Cheltenham Borough Council fleet operated by Ubico, where appropriate to replace diesel as set out in the report, as soon as possible to reduce carbon emissions and improve air quality;
2. The purchase and installation of a new fuel tank installed at the Swindon Road depot to facilitate the change to HVO be approved, at an estimated cost of £55,000, to be funded from the climate change capital budget;
3. The increase in revenue costs associated with the move to HVO from diesel be recommended to be approved by Council as part of the budget setting process;
4. The continued procurement of internal combustion engine vehicles and plant where no suitable alternative fuel vehicle or plant (electric or otherwise) is available on the market or within available resources with a view to such vehicles operating on HVO fuel where appropriate and as set out in the report (see list of vehicles required within this financial year 2.17) be approved;
5. The council’s management of the capital replacement plan for both Ubico operated fleet and plant, and the Council’s own fleet, directly support our climate change ambitions of net zero by 2030 by moving to alternative fuels or away from internal combustion engines for all our fleet and plant as quickly as practicable where alternatives are available and within available resources.