Addressing Environmental Sustainability Locally

By Gesche Schmid
Head in Geographic Information Policy, Local Government Association, U.K.
Gesche.Schmid@local.gov.uk or gschmid@virginmedia.com

1. Introduction

The world is facing a range of environmental challenges, including a global population of 7 billion, resource shortages, climate change and financial crises. While world leaders try to address problems globally, responsibility for action starts at the local level with more efficient public service delivery and engagement with local citizens and businesses to reduce waste, emissions and damage to the environment. Local authorities in England and Wales have signed the Nottingham Declaration 1 and committed to provide more sustainable services, reduce emissions, congestion and waste, address fuel poverty and improve the local environment.

Geographic information plays an important role in addressing these challenges as it identifies “where” something is happening. Geographic Information Systems bring together different factors relating to a given place. Spatial analysis and visualisation aid in the monitoring of change, identification of impacts, modelling of solutions and development of policies. Many local authorities in England use geographic information extensively to tackle environmental issues. A Local Government Association survey in 2009 revealed that more than 90% of local authorities use GIS in planning and building control, 88% to address environmental protection and 85% in waste management.

This article will give examples of how geographic information is used in environmental services delivery by English local authorities to reduce costs and contribute to a sustainable environment through the reduction of emissions and waste.

Solar Panels on a housing estate in Nottingham City, Image Source: Nottingham City.

Solar Panels on a housing estate in Nottingham City, Image Source: Nottingham City.



2. Emission Reduction

The Climate Change Act of 2008 commits the U.K. to cutting emissions by at least 34% by 2020 and 80% by 2050, compared to 1990 levels. Transport, industry and inefficient practices of energy use in homes and workplaces are large contributors to carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. In the 2010 Energy Act, the U.K. government set legally-binding carbon budgets across all sectors of the economy, including homes, workplaces and communities. To help meet the carbon budgets, the U.K. needs to cut emissions in homes and communities by 29%, and by 13% in workplaces by 2022, compared to 2008 levels.

Local authorities have an important role to play in achieving these targets by:
• Promoting energy efficiencies of homes and workplaces;

• Lowering fuel costs through route optimisation and reducing road congestion.

2.1 Improving energy efficiencies

The U.K. government is promoting energy efficiency and use of low carbon sources for heating and power in homes and workplaces through the Green Deal <sup2. Local authorities are well placed to help government meet legally binding targets on CO2 reduction, renewable energy and fuel poverty through:
• Improving energy efficiencies of social and private sector rented housing and of public buildings;

• Reviewing opportunities for renewable energy through the planning process;

• Identifying households that face fuel poverty and work with energy providers to address needs.

A web search of bin collection days by property powered by land and property information. Image Source: Harrow.gov.uk

A web search of bin collection days by property powered by land and property information. Image Source: Harrow.gov.uk



Geographic information is used to locate and identify those houses that are energy inefficient and those that may be suitable for use of a low carbon energy source such as solar or wind energy. Local authorities have used a detailed land and property gazetteer which forms the address database in each local authority to link properties to the government’s energy ratings for houses and to information about energy use provided by energy providers. This is possible as data can be more easily shared across the public sector due to a common Public Sector Mapping Agreement and the use of a common address infrastructure. Thermal imagery also has been used to identify houses with heat loss by overlying thermal imagery with the address gazetteers 3.

The property information also was combined with demographic information and linked to a database of benefit claimants to identify those households that may suffer from fuel poverty (largely elderly and people on disability benefits). Those were particularly targeted to improve energy efficiencies through better insulation, etc., leading to a reduction in energy costs 4.

Most recently, government has introduced financial incentives to make use of low carbon sources to heat and power homes to further reduce carbon emissions. Homes are assessed to determine whether they are suitable for wind, solar, central heating system, or combined heat and power. Tools are available that model the suitability for low carbon energy sources based on detailed building information against meteorological data related to solar or wind characteristics at the location of the property 5.

Nottingham, one of the most forward-looking cities in the U.K. in its efforts to create a sustainable economy 6, has used its land and property gazetteer linked to detailed property information to identify homes that are suitable for low carbon energy sources using a low carbon assessment tool. The wealth of data linked to a location provides the opportunity to predict future energy consumption, the potential reduction in energy use and the impact of energy policies on improving the overall energy efficiencies.

Waste collection in Harrow, London. Photo Credit Dermot Carlin.

Waste collection in Harrow, London. Photo Credit Dermot Carlin.



2.2 Reducing fuel costs

Route optimisation, used in waste collection, school transport and social care delivery provides another example for reducing carbon emissions and fuel costs.

Detailed addressing data linked to the needs of citizens for waste collection, school transport or other social services are used to calculate the most optimal route of service delivery. Route optimisation saves local authorities up to £150,000 per year ($240,000 U.S.) through lower fuel consumption and through vehicle sharing and reduction. For example, the East Riding of Yorkshire Council has analysed and rationalised its home-to-school transport to make an initial saving of £315,000 per year, which will rise as the remaining schools undergo the re-routing and re-tendering process 7.

Online publishing of roadwork locations by local authorities provides another example for reducing congestion and CO2 emission. Notifying drivers about roadworks allows them to make alternative arrangements and reduce time wasted on congested roads, which the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) estimates costs industry £15 billion nationally every year.

Example of residential address location and waste collection routes in Harrow Council. Image Source: Harrow Council.

Example of residential address location and waste collection routes in Harrow Council. Image Source: Harrow Council.



3. Waste Reduction

The European Landfill directive 8 set an ambitious target for 2020 to reduce biodegradable municipal waste sent to landfill sites by 35% of that produced in 1995. Government figures indicate that 40% of waste from households is being recycled in 2011 in comparison to 11% in 2000-01 9, exceeding the legal expectations.

Local authorities’ waste management improvement has largely contributed to this achievement by proactively promoting recycling and more efficient bin collections. Geographic information played a role in identifying households that may be eligible for organic waste collection, show low recycling rates and are encouraged through campaigns to improve recycling.

This has been made possible through the use of the local land and property gazetteer. Each address has a land-use identifier for residential, commercial or other use. The residential identifier was used to determine the location of households for waste collection. Each household could therefore be assigned to a collection day. The data are made available to a customer services center and published on a website. By entering the address, the citizen can query the waste collection day for their specific property without having to contact the authority. Customer service agents can quickly determine if a bin collection is missed. New housing developments are added to the bin rounds the moment they are occupied.

Furthermore, the property information from the gazetteer is overlaid with Ordnance Survey detailed topographic maps that show gardens and other areas of vegetation around buildings. Households that are located within gardens are more likely to generate green waste and have therefore been invited to take up a garden recycling scheme.

4. Cost Savings

Overall, the use of geographic information in waste management and better targeting of customers have resulted in substantial green savings and cost reduction best exemplified by the London Borough of Harrow 10, which will save up to £3.2 million over 10 years through:
• A 15% reduction in fuel use through route optimisation;

• An 18.8% reduction in waste sent to landfills through targeted recycling campaigns to households;

• A lowering of CO2 emissions and a 40 kg reduction per annum of waste paper recycling from Council offices;

• A channel shift to self service on the web. Nearly 60% of Harrow residents choose to self-serve when it comes to waste and recycling queries.

Coote, Smith and Schmid (2010), estimate that the productivity increases in England through the use of geographic information in delivering local public services to be £230 million over 5 years. The use of geographic information in environmental services and the use of the national address gazetteer provide a substantial proportion of the savings. However, equally important are the environmental benefits gained from the use of geographic information.

5. Use of spatial data infrastructure

The National Addressing Gazetteer provides a prime example for exemplifying the benefits of a spatial data infrastructure 11. The local land and property gazetteers is created by local authorities to given standards, compiled into a national address gazetteer and enhanced with a location reference by Great Britain’s National Mapping Agency, Ordnance Survey. The address gazetteer provides a key reference source for linking property information to a location and through cross referencing relates to other services and customer information 12.

With the advent of INSPIRE, there is potential for more datasets to become linked and usable based on common standards across Europe. The European INSPIRE directive 13 provides a common technical standards framework to bring together and compare data from different sources. The aim of INSPIRE is to help implement environmental policies based on a common reference standards framework across Europe.

There is other legislation that affects the environment, where local authorities play a role in mapping areas of environmental risk and factors and where the INSPIRE regulation can help to create and make better use of the data. For example:
• To address the extent and severity of flooding experienced in recent years in England and Wales, the government made local authorities responsible for mapping local drainage channels not recorded as part of the rivers network. This includes, in particular, covered culverts which have contributed to extended surface flooding;

• Local authorities also have the statutory power to establish air quality management areas where emission exceeds certain levels. Local authorities regularly monitor air quality levels in those areas and have the power to take measures to reduce emission if it exceeds certain limits unhealthy to humans.

Bringing these datasets together across Europe based on a common infrastructure will help to easily access, share and compare the data, reduce the environmental impact and the cost to the public administration and the public at large to tackle them. One of the key challenges is to incorporate these standards for collecting and using environmental data into common policies. The benefits derived from using geographic information in local public service may serve as an example to show the value of spatial data and its infrastructure in environmental policies.

Gesche Schmid is leading the implementation of geospatial information (GI) policy in local government in England. She has more than 20 years experience in geospatial information, technology and service delivery and information management across the academic, public and private sector. She contributes to various government data initiatives and policies including data transparency, access and reuse of public sector information, and INSPIRE. In her role, she is working with local authorities, government departments and other partners to promote the role of local government as a data provider and data user and to represent local government interests. See Schmid’s Linkedin profile for more.

Footnotes

1 Nottingham Declaration http://www.nottinghamcity.gov.uk/CHttpHandler.ashx?id=27628&p=0

2 The Department for Energy and climate change 2010: The Green Deal http://www.decc.gov.uk/assets/decc/legislation/energybill/1010-green-deal-summary-proposals.pdf

3 GeoInformation Group 2010: Case Study Braintree District Council: Targeting Property Heat Loss http://geoinformationgroup.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/thermal_braintree.pdf

4 Local Government Information House and Intelligent Addressing 2009: Targeting energy efficiency: Dartford Borough Council: NLPG Exemplar Award 2009: http://www.iahub.net/docs/1233229154600.pdf

5 ESRI UK, 2011: Delivering the low carbon economy: Low Carbon Suite. https://download.esriuk.com/capture.aspx?name=Low_Carbon_Suite.pdf

6 Nottingham City: Green initiative http://www.nottinghaminsight.org.uk/insight/scs/green/scs-introduction.aspx

7 Ordnance Survey 2010 : East Riding of Yorkshire. Savings of over £1 million since 2006. http://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/oswebsite/docs/case-studies/east-riding-case-study.pdf

8 Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (October 2011): Waste legislation: http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/waste/legislation/

9 Defra waste statistics: http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/waste/

10 Andy Coote, Matt Pennell, Luke Studden 2011: Where there’s muck. . . there’s happy residents! Andy Coote, GI professional April 2011 http://www.iahub.net/docs/1305284391430.pdf

11 LIGH, Intelligent Addressing 2011: Everything happens somewhere. Case studies from the 2010 NLPG and NSG Exemplar Awards: http://www.iahub.net/docs/1305105838586.pdf

12 GeoPlace (October 2011) The importance of Addressing. http://www.geoplace.co.uk/geoplace/link.htm?nwid=214

13 European Commission: INSPIRE Directive: http://inspire.jrc.ec.europa.eu/

References:

Coote, A., Schmid G and A. Smart (2010), “Location Economics: Valuing GI. GIS professional October 2010.

Coote, A, A. Smart, (2010): The Value of Geospatial Information to Local Public Service Delivery in England and Wales”, Local Government Association, available at: www.lga.gov.uk/GIresearch

Andy Coote, Matt Pennell, Luke Studden 2011: Where there’s muck. . . there’s happy residents! Andy Coote, GI professional April 2011 http://www.iahub.net/docs/1305284391430.pdf

Department for Energy and climate change 2010: The Green Deal http://www.decc.gov.uk/assets/decc/legislation/energybill/1010-green-deal-summary-proposals.pdf

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (October 2011): Waste legislation: http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/waste/legislation/

ESRI UK, 2011: Delivering the low carbon economy: Low Carbon Suite. https://download.esriuk.com/capture.aspx?name=Low_Carbon_Suite.pdf

GeoInformation Group 2010: Case Study Braintree District Council: Targeting Property Heat Loss http://geoinformationgroup.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/thermal_braintree.pdf

Local Government Information House and Intelligent Addressing 2009: Targeting energy efficiency: Dartford Borough Council: NLPG Exemplar Award 2009: http://www.iahub.net/docs/1233229154600.pdf

LIGH, Intelligent Addressing 2011: Everything happens somewhere. Case studies from the 2010 NLPG and NSG Exemplar Awards: http://www.iahub.net/docs/1305105838586.pdf

Local Government Association 2009: Geographic information service 2009. http://www.lga.gov.uk/lga/core/page.do?pageId=6597688

GeoPlace (October 2011) The importance of Addressing. http://www.geoplace.co.uk/geoplace/link.htm?nwid=214

Nottingham City Council 2010: Nottingham Declaration http://www.nottinghamcity.gov.uk/CHttpHandler.ashx?id=27628&p=0

Nottingham City: Green initiative http://www.nottinghaminsight.org.uk/insight/scs/green/scs-introduction.aspx

Ordnance Survey 2010: East Riding of Yorkshire. Savings of over £1 million since 2006. http://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/oswebsite/docs/case-studies/east-riding-case-study.pdf

Schmid, G. (2010), “The value of geospatial information in local public service delivery”, available at: http://www.lga.gov.uk/lga/core/page.do?pageId=12079357