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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 April, 2004, 16:28 GMT 17:28 UK
Local reaction to a global issue
Power station and electricity pylon
Woking is doing its bit to help UK meet emission targets
Not everyone is waiting for the world's powerful nations to get their environmental act together on behalf of the planet.

As businesses, governments and green groups join together this week to try to speed up the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, local responses to the threat of global warming can be found all over the UK.

One borough that is helping to set the pace is Woking, in Surrey.

The main aim of the council's own "climate change strategy" is to reduce harmful emissions and help its residents and habitats adapt to climate change.

It believes its strategy makes it more likely than most areas to meet the government's target of a 60% reduction in carbon dioxide equivalent emissions by 2050.

The council says it reduced its own energy consumption and pollutants by 44% and carbon dioxide emissions by 72% between 1990 and 2002.

But how exactly is it doing it?

The environment is second only to decent and affordable homes for residents
Ray Morgan, Woking BC

Its strategy covers the obvious areas such as sustainable planning, better waste management, greener transport and education.

But it has taken its green policies one step further.

One innovative approach was becoming the proud owner of the country's first sustainable energy 200kWh fuel cell.

The cell is a combined heat and power system that operates in a similar way to a battery.

Powered by hydrogen it heats, lights and air conditions the local leisure centre and pool, and illuminates the surrounding park.

There is even scope to export any surplus electricity to the council's sheltered housing schemes, says the local authority.

As it generates electricity and heat by an electro-chemical process and emits water instead of greenhouse gases, it does not contribute to global warming.

Business barrier

Council chief executive Ray Morgan said carbon dioxide was among the council's main concerns.

In the eyes of their voters "the environment is second only to decent and affordable homes for residents", he said.

Cross-party co-operation in the borough has helped move their projects along, and other politicians ought to be following suit, Mr Morgan added.

"If they don't see it as important it won't happen in other councils."

But he said the biggest barrier to green progress was business.

"Whether they are new developers or financiers, they simply do not see that getting combined heat and power and embedded generation is an efficient way to go."

From its position in the middle of Woking, the town's natural gas-powered sustainable energy station powers most council offices, a conference centre, leisure complex, car park and two hotels.

Converts daylight

It is the first commercially-operating station of its kind in the country.

The station - which, like the fuel cell, is a combined heat and power unit - distributes electricity via private wires to its customers.

Heat and chilled water services are provided by private pipe networks.

One customer, the Holiday Inn - which takes nothing from the National Grid - said it hoped other companies will come on board to bring the cost down.

In another first, a Woking sheltered housing scheme is home to the first large scale domestic photovoltaic installation.

It is also the first to combine solar and combined heat and power (CHP) energy in the UK.

The photovoltaic system means its roof can convert daylight into electricity, rather than relying on the heat generated by the sun on which traditional solar panels run.

In the winter the complex is powered by the CHP plant.

In 2000 the borough became the only local authority to be granted the Queen's Award for Enterprise in recognition of its groundbreaking approach to sustainability.




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