HomeBristol's energy use and emissions: How far have we come?

This section describes the energy system in Bristol, the current emissions monitoring framework, and the Council and City’s energy use and carbon emissions.

The City of Bristol

Bristol is one of ten core cities in the UK and the largest city in the South West region. The City Council’s administrative area covers approximately 110km² with a population of over 440,000[1] people.

Population growth is forecast to continue within Bristol, increasing by approximately 5% by 2020, and approximately 20% by 2036 on 2015 levels[2]. On the basis of recent demographic trends the number of households is also predicted to rise by approximately 10,000 (5%) by 2020 and by approximately 40,000 by 2036 (c.20%). The demographic changes associated with Bristol being one of the most livable cities in Europe will increase the overall demand for energy, and could impact upon our ability to meet targets.

The latest data available shows that approximately 13% of all households in the City of Bristol were in fuel poverty in 2012[3]. Levels of fuel poverty vary greatly across the city and in the worst affected ward 27% of households were considered as being fuel poor.

There is no direct code for the low carbon sector in the Standard Industry Classification (SIC) system, however data available on the Low Carbon Environmental Goods and Services (LCEGS) sector[4] has been collated to measure growth in the ‘green economy’. This data indicates that between 2007 -13, the LCEGS sector accounted for an average of 4.7% of all jobs in Bristol, with an additional 3.6% of jobs made up from the environmental technology category.

The Bristol energy system

At present, the majority of Bristol’s energy is supplied from the national grid and the ability to meet carbon reduction targets depends heavily on the decarbonisation of the national energy network. The overall energy mix and uptake of energy efficiency, low carbon and renewable measures is heavily impacted by policy, regulation and incentives set at the national level.

There are many stakeholders with different roles within the energy system including users, generators, suppliers, distributors, transportation and storage providers, traders, service providers, financial investors and advisers, land owners and third sector organisations. These have been mapped as part of the STEEP project.

This section describes the Bristol energy system in terms of the type and quantity of fuels and energy consumed. It looks at how energy is used within Bristol, and presents the current understanding of local energy generation.

What do we measure

Bristol has been monitoring its energy use and carbon dioxide emissions at the City and Council level since 2005. The scope of Bristol’s monitoring program has changed, and will continue to change as our understanding of the Bristol energy system evolves, and in response to BCC’s international commitments under initiatives such as the ‘Covenant of Mayors’ and the ‘Compact of Mayors’.

BCC currently monitors and reports on the energy use and CO2 emissions (tonnes CO2) within the Local Authority area[5] for:

  • Domestic buildings;
  • Non-domestic buildings, equipment/facilities including commercial, industrial, education, public administration but excluding some major industrial operations;
  • Road Transport within the local authority area (excluding traffic on motorways); and,
  • Residual fuel consumption.

This data is collected by the UK Government Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC).

BCC also collects energy consumption and CO2 emissions data for Council activity including for buildings, street lighting, vehicle fleet and business travel.

In recognition that full and up to date data will better inform action to reduce emissions, BCC will keep the scope of its monitoring framework under review.

In response to commitments to international initiatives including the Compact of Mayors, future data reporting will include:

  • Emissions data in metric tonnes of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalents)
  • Emissions from additional sectors (i.e. waste, industrial processes and product use (IPPU) & agriculture, forestry and other land use)
  • More Greenhouse gases (methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O))
  • Scope 3 Emissions - All other GHG emissions that occur outside the city boundary as a result of activities taking place within the city boundary

The City of Bristol’s carbon emissions and energy consumption

CO2 Emissions

Based on emissions data available from DECC[6] for the year 2013:

  • A total of 1968 kt CO2 was emitted through activity within the local authority area.
  • Of Bristol’s CO2 emissions, 22% are from the transport sector, 38% from non-domestic, and 40% from the domestic sector. This compares to the national breakdown of 24%, 41% and 35% respectively.
CO2 Emissions for the Bristol City Area - 2013 (Source: DECC)

Energy Consumption

Based on most comprehensive and current data available[7] a total of 6,790 GWh of energy was consumed in the city of Bristol in 2012. 27% of all energy was consumed in the transport sector, 32% in non-domestic, and 41% in the domestic sector.

As a City, Bristol uses more gas than electricity, with gas accounting for approximately 40%, and electricity for approximately 28% of all fuel consumed. Gas was the dominant fuel source for the domestic sector accounting for 72% of the all gas consumed, whilst electricity was the dominant fuel source for the non-domestic sector accounting for 63% of all electricity consumed.


For transport, approximately 130 thousand tonnes of fuel were consumed in 2013 of which 40% was petrol and 60% diesel[8].

DECC statistics indicate that total energy consumption for transport declined by 9% over 2005-2013. Within this, personal transport declined by 13%, while freight transport increased by 2%.

Percentage of fuel consumed in the Bristol City Area by vehicle type – 2013

Energy Generation

Research shows a total installed generation capacity of renewable electricity of 60.5MW, and an installed renewable heat capacity of 20MW. In terms of non-renewable sources, there is 4.92MWe of gas CHP and 1,145MW of conventional power generation (at one site, Seabank, which feeds directly into the national transmission network).

Bristol is a dense urban area and the options for the deployment of large scale renewable installations is limited. This said, in recent years there has been rapid growth in the amount of renewable energy generated, albeit from a very low base, and this growth has seen renewable energy contribute ~ 3% of Bristol’s current energy demand[9].

Technology Installations Capacity (MW) Estimated annual output (GWh)
Anaerobic digestion 2 5.750 Not known
Biomass 1 12.936 Not known
Energy from waste 3 13.110 Not known
Sewage gas 1 5.75 Not known
Solar photovoltaic 3,128 12.769 7.7
Wind 3 23 49.9
Total electricity 3,318 60.546
Technology Installations Capacity (MW)
Anaerobic digestion 2 4.25
Biomass 27 7.64
Heat pumps 54 0.572
Sewage gas 1 7
Solar thermal 140 0.61
Total heat 224 20.072

Research conducted as part of the STEEP project has highlighted that there are significant opportunities for further deployment of renewable energy technologies in the City of Bristol :

  • Whilst there is limited scope for significant additional generation of wind energy within Bristol, up to 30 15kW turbines could be constructed in Avonmouth giving an additional capacity of 450kW.
  • Roughly 640 odt per year of biomass could be expected from woodlands, with woodchip from tree surgery activities in Bristol’s parks and streets, and in a survey undertaken for the Bristol Biomass Study (CSE, 2003) around 270 odt per year of untreated wood residues were identified from 10 joinery/sawmill firms in Bristol, generating 0.4 MW (heat-only).
  • A report produced in 2011 as part of the Bristol Solar Rooftop Mapping Project identifies potential additional solar PV capacity of at least 322MW.

Trends and performance against current targets

Businesses, public bodies, NGOs and citizens have undertaken a range of interventions within Bristol in recent years. This combined with grid decarbonisation and other external factors, such as the 2008 recession, has significantly reduced energy demand and carbon dioxide emissions in the City. This reduction has been achieved in the context of a growing population. DECC data shows that for the years 2005-2013:

  • Absolute emissions fell 17.4%, from 2,383 to 1,968kt CO2.
  • Per Capita Emissions decreased 23.5%, from 5.9 to 4.5 t CO2.
  • The industrial and commercial sector, followed by domestic and then transport, saw the biggest reduction in CO2 emissions.
  • The City of Bristol has achieved an average reduction in emissions of 2.3% a year. It had previously been identified that a 3% year on year reduction was required to meet the 2020 target.
  • At its current average rate the City of Bristol would achieve a 40% reduction from 2005 levels in around 2022, two years later than planned (See below).
  • In order to achieve the 40% target by 2020, a further 22.6% reduction is required, equating to a year on year reduction of approximately 4.5% (See below).
  • Energy consumption for the City of Bristol fell from 8,300 Gigawatt Hours (GWh) in 2005 to 6789 GWh in 2012. This amounted to a reduction of approximately 18%, achieved at an average rate of 2.8% per year. A further 12% reduction is required in order to attain the 30% target by 2030.

Council Energy Consumption and Carbon Emissions

Whilst responsible for only a small fraction of overall city emissions the City Council is a key player in delivering emissions reductions and has scope to influence action and engage partners beyond its immediate responsibilities. It is therefore important that the Council demonstrates leadership and is transparent and supportive in its approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and addressing climate risk.

Bristol City Council collects information annually on its energy consumption and carbon emissions for the purposes of its Annual Performance Statement.

Data indicates that electricity accounts for 55% of energy consumed, with 41% and 14% being consumed by Councils buildings and street lighting respectively. Gas use within buildings accounts for 44% of energy consumed.

With regards to transport, Bristol City Council consumed approximately 67,444 litres of petrol, 656,229 litres of bio-blend diesel, and 2,440 litres of LPG.

Bristol City Council’s CO2 emissions for the 2014/15 financial year were 35,614 tonnes. Of the total emissions, 72% are attributed to the operation of Local Authority buildings (e.g. offices, museums and libraries), 21% from the operation of street lighting and 7% from business travel.

Bristol City Council’s Emission Profile

Bristol City Council has successfully reduced its emissions by 38% from a 2005 baseline, thus almost achieving its 2020 emission reduction target 5 years early.

Council CO2 Emissions 2005-2015

Action taken to date

In February 2010, Cabinet adopted the Climate Change and Energy Security Framework incorporating actions aimed at meeting the adopted targets for emissions reduction.

Subsequently, in March 2012 Cabinet updated the Framework for the period 2012-15. This set out a range of actions across eight sectors to be undertaken by BCC alongside delivery partners.

Significant progress has been made against a number of the key actions identified within the 2012-15 framework and by other action taken by citizens and organisations across the city. The diagram below illustrates some of the key actions taken to date which have assisted in reducing Bristol’s emissions.

Summary of progress so far

Cities have a major role to play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The City of Bristol is committed to playing it’s part in achieving wider UK targets for reducing emissions, and has set city-wide targets for reducing emissions by 40% by 2020, and 80% by 2050.

Reviewing our status leads to some key factors to consider in planning for the next phase of action:

  • The City Council is on course to achieve a reduction from its own activities in line with the city-wide target for 2020 and is providing leadership in this field.
  • The City of Bristol has achieved an average reduction in emissions of 2.3% a year. This is marginally faster than the UK average but not sufficient to achieve the targets on time.
  • Some of the reductions in CO2 emissions are likely to be a result of the recession, however Bristol has succeeded in significantly reducing the carbon emissions from business per pound of GVA.
  • Bristol’s economy and population are growing and this is driving an increased demand for energy, and CO2 emissions.
  • In the last few years there is has been significant action by BCC and others which is creating a pipeline of projects and interventions which are not yet reflected in the data.
  • Many of the savings have been achieved by relatively easy “quick wins”.
  • Progress so far has been achieved thanks to action from all sectors and many businesses, public bodies and citizens. Achieving our future targets will require an even greater substantial contribution from all sectors, and a scale of action, investment and collaboration significantly beyond what we have seen to date.


  1. Population Estimates for UK, England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, Mid-2014 http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/publications/re-reference-tables.html?edition=tcm%3A77-368259
  2. Source: - Table 2: 2012-based Subnational Population Projections for Local Authorities in England - http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/taxonomy/index.html?nscl=Sub-national+Population+Projections#tab-data-tables
  3. A fuel poor household is one in which a household has required fuel costs that are above the median level; and were the household to spend that amount, they would be left with a residual income below the official poverty line (https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/fuel-poverty-sub-regional-statistics)
  4. The definition is broad and includes activities that may appear under the overlapping headings of Enviromental, Eco, Renewables, Sustainable, Clean Tech, Low Carbon or No Carbon. The threshold for including a company in the analysis is if at least 20% of estimated sales activity can be attributed to the LCEGS Sector.
  5. Scope 1 sources:  the emissions that arise directly from sources located within the city boundary; and Scope 2 sources: GHG emissions occurring as a consequence of the use of grid-supplied electricity, heat, steam and/or cooling within the city
  6. NOTE: Current data available is from DECC. It incorporates LA emissions for transport, domestic and industrial and commercial activity. It excludes waste and waste water, and excludes shipping, aviation and military transport. BCC is in the process of updating its emissions inventory and in doing so is reviewing the scope. Ideally we would be using local data to refine these figures. These are decisions we need to make on the scope of the inventory.
  7. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/total-final-energy-consumption-at-regional-and-local-authority-level-2005-to-2010
  8. Source: DECC Sub-national road transport fuel consumption statistics - https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/road-transport-consumption-at-regional-and-local-level
  9. Source: STEEP website and The Bristol Solar Rooftop Mapping Project (http://www.bristol.gov.uk/sites/default/files/documents/environment/climate_change/5%20Bristol%20Sunshine%20-%20An%20Analysis%20of%20Rooftop%20Solar%20Mapping.pdf)
This page was last modified on 7 October 2015, at 10:29.