Energy Talk

Marco Cereste Leader of Peterborough City Council and owner of Peterborough Renewable Energy Limited sets out his plans to make Peterborough the environment capital of the world, and totally self-sufficient in within five years.

PS: Now the city’s environment capital bid could make the city look silly. That’s what a Liberal Democrat councillor said on the show earlier. He’s urged the Council to standard the city’s green credentials before awarding itself titles. (TAPE)
NC: We really need to decide what the criteria are, strive to meet the criteria, and then have this criteria independently assessed, before we go making these claims. Because if you make claims that then turn out to not to be justified, you don’t enhance the reputation of Peterborough, you’re just going to make us look rather silly. (LIVE)
PS: Well that’s Councillor Nick Sandford. Listening to that, the Leader of Peterborough City Council, Marco Cereste. Morning Marco.
MC: Hello Paul. How are you?
PS: I’m good this morning my friend. Are we just playing gimmicks here, awarding ourselves titles without any credentials?
MC: No. That’s stuff. That’s Nick for you. I love him to bits. Councillor Sandford is a very special individual. If there were standards or criteria, then perhaps we could even have some sort of sympathy with what he’s got to say, but actually he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Because who’s going to decide? Who’s going to decide what is the environment capital? Who’s going to decide what the criteria are? Who’s going to decide who’s going to assess it? There’s no such thing. It’s about what the city feels it can do, and can achieve. And it’s about time people stopped criticising this city and got behind what we’re trying to do. This is about creating jobs, Paul. This is about creating jobs for people who very shortly might not have a job. And what we need is local councillors to get behind the Conservative administration to deliver this, and not use it as an opportunity to have a kick at this city every time we try and do something. The environment capital is probably one of the most important single issues we have in the city. We’ve got four hundred, I repeat, four hundred environmental organisations in our city. Our schools are winning top awards, the very best awards, five of them. We are working with IBM, and with Royal Haskoning, and with Green Ventures, and we’ve produced the Peterborough Platform, which is a way of seeing the energy uses, and the environmental use, in Peterborough, over the Internet. No-one has ever done this. This was conceived, developed and created in Peterborough. It’s now been launched throughout the world, and it will be called the Peterborough Platform. If they use it in Manchester, it’ll be the Peterborough Platform. If they use it in Edinburgh, it’ll be the Peterborough Platform. It’ll begin to really roll out Peterborough, not just round the city, or round the county, or round the region. This is an international worldwide thing. We are working with Resource Efficiency East to offer every small and medium enterprise in the city free, free, onsite inspections, to check what their energy uses are, and solutions to what their energy uses are, so that they can prove .. improve .. or minimise what they use in energy, and save money, and save the environment.
PS: I don’t think anybody’s against that though Marco. I think we’re all for it. We’re all working towards it. We all applaud all those things. In fact we’ve applauded the schools this morning already. It’s great. I think what people are picking at is the fact that we’re awarding ourselves titles, and nobody’s quite sure who’s sorting out the criteria for those titles.
MC: They’re talking about awarding themselves titles. What we’re talking about is saying we want to put the theory, and we want to put the idea of environment capital at the centre of everything we do. So actually we can develop this and really become the environment capital. What the paper that’s going to Cabinet says is that at the heart of everything we do in the city, we must put the principles of the environment capital. And that means, if it’s approved by Cabinet, and I’m sure it will be, if it’s approved by Cabinet, everything that we then do in this city as an organisation will take into consideration our aspiration to become the environment capital of the UK, and if we can, the world. Why shouldn’t we? And this will mean a huge .. this will mean a huge difference in the number of businesses that come into the city, the type of businesses that we can attract .. remember we’ve got five thousand six hundred people unemployed in our city today. To me, that’s five thousand six hundred people that I really really care about, and I want to get back into employment. And quite frankly I would do anything I have to do, and so will my team, and so will the Council. We will do whatever we need, to find employment for these people who need it.
MC: What’s the timescale for being crowned environment capital?
PC: Well I don’t know that anybody will ever crown us. Who is there to crown us? This is something that we’ve achieved, you know, and I think I think for somebody to say well actually, if and when, when we stand up and say we are the environment capital, then somebody will have to say to us well you’re not, and we’ll have to prove that we are.
PS: It’s like having a beauty competition without any judges, though, isn’t it?
MC: Well it is but it’s an aspiration. It’s a vision. You know, you and I Paul have spoken so many times. We’ve got to lift the aspiration of this city. And it’s clear, if you look at all the .. if you look at all the economic indicators, if you look at everything that’s happening in the world today, the environment sector is the one sector where it’s in huge growth, there’s lots and lots of things happening, employment is being created all the time. And that’s got to be an aspiration for our city. It’s about creating employment. Not just high-quality employment for people who have skills and can earn lots and lots of money. We’ve also got to create the sort of employment that fits the profile that we have today. We have to consider everybody that lives in our city. And this is just part of what we’re trying to do as an administration.
MC: When will you be happy to crown us environment capital?
MC: Well I’ll tell you what we’re doing. I’ll tell you what w’re doing, then I’ll come on to the radio and make you a promise. I’ll come on to the radio and tell you … as I can actually tell you some of the things that we’re doing. Because some of them are still very commercially sensitive. I can’t tell you that. But, you know, we’re going to start now with the photo-voltaics in the local .. on every roof that the Council owns. And contrary to what you’ve been told on the radio, or people said, photo-voltaics under the new Feed-In Tariff, actually make money for the city.
PS: Well we determined that last week. we spoke to a supplier who .. I mean if I had ten grand I’d be putting them on my roof tomorrow.
MC: Exactly. So you agree that’s the best thing we could do, as a start. we could get every building in the city. Not only do we make money for the city, we’re going to make money .. we’re going to save money, because every building we’ve got photo-voltaics on, it’s going not have to pay for its energy. So number one. Number two, we are working .. we will be working with all our social landlords to see what can happen on rented accomodation, and see if we can introduce all these kind of things on rented accomodation. So the man in the street can begin to enjoy the savings that they could have by using this new systems. We¬†want to try and encourage everybody in Peterborough to take them on, and see if we can even find funding to help them do that as a sort of stop-gap, so that they can fund it whilst the things are paying for themselves. Number one, that’s photo-voltaics. Number two, we’ve got to look at renewable energy. Our ambition would be to make this city completely self-sufficient on renewable energy within the next five years. That’s a huge ask.
PS: That is a huge statement.
MC: That is a huge ask. But that would be my ambition. And I think that we can do it.
PS: How?
MC: Let’s not pitch .. let’s not pitch for the sky.
PS: How would we do that Marco?
MC: We need to encourage more about bio-plants. We need to encourage wind. And we need to have photo-voltaic actual farms. Now photo-voltaic farms might be a really good answer, because actually they’re only a few feet high. They don’t disturb anybody. They don’t ruin the environment. They produce energy that we need. And they pay .. they will pay the city for doing it.
PS: Where are we going to put them Marco?
MC: Well we’ve got lots of land we can’t put anything on, because they’re flood. You know, to the east of the city for example, we are virtually stuffed, because we can’t expand very much to the east because there’s lots of land that’s now considered part of the flood system, so you can’t build anything on it. So where you’ve got land that’s not very good quality, that’s not very useful, that’s the perfect place to start putting this sort of thing. You build a hedge. You put plants all the way round it, and no-one’s going to see anything either. So it’s a real opportunity for us. We’re working with PECT, the Peterborough Environment Trust, to make sure that everybody in the city, everybody that wants to, can access information to make their lives more environmentally friendly.
PS: Marco, thank you for coming on this morning. Some really interesting stuff. Aspirations to become totally self-sufficient on energy sometime in the future. Putting solar panels in, fields of solar panels to create energy and money for the city. Totally self-sufficient in our energy, it’s a great aspiration.