Measuring my Lewes neighbourhood’s carbon footprint
The Place-Based Carbon Calculator is an online tool that lets you explore the carbon footprint of your local neighbourhood. Ann Link of the Nevill 2030 group in Lewes has been giving it a go.
On the Nevill Estate in Lewes, many residents are working towards an ambitious goal to get our neighbourhood to ‘net zero’ greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, and increase biodiversity and wellbeing – a group we call ‘Nevill 2030’.
A big part of Nevill 2030 involves helping residents to reduce their home energy use. This autumn, we will launch a guide to how different home types on the Nevill might be ‘retrofitted’ to be more energy-efficient. We will also offer householders personalised ‘whole house retrofit’ plans at a subsidised cost.
Given all these plans, the Place-Based Carbon Calculator was well worth investigating – and I’d love to make it more accessible to people in Lewes beyond nerds like me!
Here’s what I found.
What is it?
The Place-Based Carbon Calculator (PBCC) is a free online calculator that’s been developed by the Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions, with support from the Universities of Leeds and Manchester, among others.
The main part of the tool is an interactive map of England. This divides the country into small areas of between 400-1,200 households (typically 1,000-3,000 residents) known as Lower Layer Super Output Areas (LSOAs). You can pan and zoom around the country and change the data shown on the map using the menu bar on the right of the screen. Clicking on any of the LSOAs shown on the map will bring up a local report card.
On the website the first thing you can see is information about the carbon footprint of neighbourhoods, which leads to a colour-coded map where you can see the relative footprints of different areas. This is based on national data about (for example) how much people with different incomes tend to fly, rather than on actual individual behaviour. This mainly shows (unsurprisingly) that more affluent neighbourhoods tend to use more energy and buy more things.
More interesting for me is the energy use data which is localised and updated – although, to safeguard confidentiality, it shows data at the postcode level rather than for individual dwelling.
On the right-hand side of the map is a toolbar headed Select map layers. Above this is a search button where you can enter your postcode. You can then click on Postcode gas and electricity consumption, and tick Show layer below. Zoom in on the map to where you live, click on it, and there will be a little table for your postcode.
Mine looks like this:
Postcode BN7 1QH
Number of meters
Annual gas consumption:
Median: 14804 kWh
Mean: 14009 kWh
Total: 154104 kWh
Annual electricity consumption
Median: 2259 kWh
Mean: 2084 kWh
Total: 22918 kWH
Typical annual bills
Before/After October 2022
I don’t know why there are only 11 gas and electricity meters, given there are 12 houses for my postcode (maybe it’s because a house has been unoccupied?). These numbers indicate that the mean total annual energy consumption for a house in my street is 16,093 kWh, including gas and electricity.
This immediately made me look to see if all the changes we have made to our house – such as having thick insulation and solar panels – have been making any difference! I checked my latest energy bill, and (after a bit of hunting) found the estimated annual consumption on the second page. I added the gas and electricity together and compared this with the PBCC mean energy figures for our street, given above.
This showed that our usage does appear to be lower than the PBCC average for our street. But I hope it could come down even further – for example if we address the draughts in our roof or replace our older, less-insulated windows.
Comparing EPCs in your neighbourhood
Another useful element of the PBCC is energy performance certificate (EPC) comparisons. When they are sold or let, houses and flats have to have an EPC to show to future potential occupants. Carbon.place shows EPCs for individual houses (where homes have one). These are often not up to date, and not very reliable because the EPC assessment is rather simple.
Nonetheless, the EPCs listed on the PBCC tool indicate that a lot of houses on the Nevill (and elsewhere) could have obvious improvements in the amount of energy they use.
I’d love to know what others in Lewes think of the Place-Based Carbon Calculator and what results you get from it.
Hopefully being able to make comparisons with properties around us might compel all of us to consider how our homes might be more energy efficient – and what action we can take not only as individuals to reduce carbon but collectively as neighbourhoods.
Download the Carbon.place app at https://www.carbon.place. We’d love to hear your experience of using it – either in the comments below or email firstname.lastname@example.org.