The UK was the first major economy in the world to pass laws to end its contribution to global warming by 2050. In order to achieve this target, the UK needs to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2050. This is more ambitious than the previous target which required at least an 80% reduction from 1990 levels.
With this aim in mind, the government is working towards tackling climate change by adopting many different strategies. In May this year, the Ministry of Justice announced plans for 4 new prisons to be built in England that would be all-electric. The prisons will use heat pumps instead of gas for heating and a range of energy efficiency measures such as smart lighting systems and solar technology in order to reduce energy demand by half. The aim is to cut energy costs by £100 million over the next 60 years and to reduce CO2 emissions by at least 85% the equivalent of 280,000 tonnes, in comparison to other prisons already under construction.
The prison buildings will use new technology and modern methods of construction that produce as much or more energy than they consume.
An all-electric design will remove the need for gas boilers which means that once the National Grid decarbonises, they will produce net-zero emissions.
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Once the grid is fully decarbonised, the prisons’ use of both the self-generated electricity and the grid for heating and electricity will mean they can run net-zero.
The Ministry of Justice said that it was looking to achieve the gold standard ‘outstanding’ rating in Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method for its four new prisons. Future prison expansions will also be built to similar standards.
The first of the four new prisons are being built adjacent to HMP Full Sutton in East Yorkshire. In the meantime, work is underway to identify locations for another site in the north-west of England and two more in the south-east of England.
Lessons are being learnt from the construction of other prisons in the UK, such as HMP Five Wells in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire and HMP Glen Parva in Leicestershire to help cut carbon in both construction and operation. Everyone is benefiting from the reduction in CO2 emissions as both are being constructed more sustainably than existing prisons by using recycled concrete and steel as well as incorporating green energy.
Lord Chancellor, Robert Buckland, said:
“Our ambitious approach offers a unique opportunity to build back a safer and greener prison system. New jails will use new green technologies and modern methods of construction to ensure our prisons cut carbon emissions as well as reoffending.”
Existing prisons are also benefiting from a £15 million investment to cut their emissions. Solar modules are being installed at a further 16 locations in the UK in order to meet 20% of their power demand bringing the total number of solar panels across the government’s estate to over 20,000. Further to this, more than 200 electric vehicle charging points are also being installed across 40 prisons.
Even as far back as February this year, Gov Facility Services announced that it was planning to install solar on 2 prisons in Southern England. One of these was a rooftop installation at HMP Bure near Norwich in Norfolk and the other a ground-mounted installation at Whitemoor prison in Cambridgeshire.
This move by the Ministry of Justice to rollout solar followed the quiet end to the government solar initiative in 2018 after only 100MW of a promised 1GW was installed across HMG property.
The latest developments are part of the government’s £4 billion programme to create 18,000 additional modern prison places that could boost rehabilitation and cut re-offending.