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Sharing ideas on how to become carbon neutral

A North East council hosted an event with international partners to share information on how to improve ways to get more businesses to become carbon neutral.

As part of Durham County Council’s objective for County Durham to become carbon neutral, staff are taking part in SME Power, to learn from other authorities across Europe who are working on similar challenges.

Through the Interreg Europe project, the council hosted partners from Ireland to share experiences on how to work with small and medium enterprises (SMEs) on delivering energy efficiency projects to help decarbonise the sector and contribute towards the county’s net zero targets.

With the easing of coronavirus restrictions, partners were keen to come to County Durham and see in person how the council’s Business Energy Efficiency Project (BEEP) is working to engage and support energy savings through energy efficiency measures and the decarbonisation of small businesses.

BEEP is a European Regional Development Fund-funded project which has seen success through working and engaging with over 450 SMEs in the area.

SME Power’s overall aim is to ensure that public policy for the low carbon economy is better adapted to the needs of non-energy intensive businesses, enabling them to be a key driver in the low carbon shift at European level. The project, which runs until July 2023, involves partners from Italy, Slovenia, Spain, Finland, Ireland and the UK in identifying and exchanging good practice in order to improve policy and ways of working.

The Irish partners on the visit were led by Westbic, an enterprise and business support agency delivering SME energy efficiency in the Republic of Ireland. The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland and Clar ICH, a community housing association, were also represented.

The event included a series of presentations, talks and active discussions by local energy experts involved in BEEP and related projects, and was followed by a site visit to a number of SMEs at Mandale Business Park in Belmont which has benefited from advice and support from BEEP. All partners shared experiences and solutions to common problems and will look to embed the findings in their work with businesses in the future.

Cllr Mark Wilkes, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for neighbourhoods and climate change, said: “We’re pleased to have taken part in this SME Power event and welcomed visitors from the Republic of Ireland to share ideas and strategies from BEEP on the best ways to become carbon neutral.

“Climate change remains one of the biggest challenges we face as a council and we will continue to do all we can to support businesses in County Durham to reduce their carbon emissions and provide a cleaner, greener future for all.”

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