Page last updated at 10:54 GMT, Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Council's oil consumption rising

Solar panels
Solar panels have been fitted to council buildings to help cut costs

Carbon conscious Highland Council has found its use of oil to heat some of its buildings has increased.

A report to Wednesday's resources committee warns that consumption of the fossil fuel has to be addressed to help reduce CO2 emissions.

Cutting power costs has previously been identified as a priority by the local authority.

Two fire stations and about 30 of the region's schools draw some of their energy from renewable sources.

Wind turbines, solar panels, biomass boilers and air and ground source heat pumps were among the devices installed to the buildings.

In the report to committee members, council officers said the local authority's energy use and CO2 emissions had been reduced from a 2004-05 baseline figure.

Fort William fire station has a solar panel and the station at Helmsdale an air source heat pump
Twenty-three Highland Council buildings - including six swimming pools - are having devices installed
A further 16 schools have been earmarked for renewable power schemes

But between April and September 2008, the figures for both use and emissions were higher than for the same time in 2007.

Officers said the reasons for this included estimated billing, changes to when schools closed for the Easter holidays and colder weather than in 2007.

The council's dependency on oil was also flagged up as a concern.

The report's authors said: "There remains an issue with oil supplies as the records are based on quantities of delivery instead of actual use and this gives large variations in consumption dependent on when and by how much tanks are re-filled.

"Meters for oil have been piloted at several sites and alternative methods of measuring building heat demand are being trialled.

"In addition, if increased consumption of oil continues to counter any decrease in electricity or gas use, the council needs to consider alternatives to switching heating systems from oil to more renewable options in order to reduce costs and carbon emissions."

'Weetabix school'

Last week, Highland Council announced that plans to generate energy for a community heating system from waste wood in Wick had been abandoned and households were temporarily being supplied by an oil-fired boiler.

Meanwhile, the local authority has been drawing attention for its green initiatives.

They include a new primary on the west coast of Scotland dubbed the "Weetabix school" which has attracted nationwide interest.

The council said the construction project in Ardnamurchan had drawn visits from other local authorities, engineers and architects.

It is claimed the school is so well insulated that the pupils' bodies will provide the heat once they have had their breakfast.

Once completed, it will replace Acharacle Primary School.

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