Troy Fielder is currently undertaking an industrial placement in the Sizewell C Financing and Economic Regulation team. He is a student at the University of East Anglia, studying for a degree in Natural Sciences (with a Year in Industry) and has a specific interest in environmental science and policy.
As you travel eastward down Saxmundham Road, you are surrounded by open blue skies and expansive green fields. Eventually, in front of you, you will see a long line of trees – behind this the small town of Leiston unfolds.
Situated on the Suffolk heritage coast, nestled comfortably between Saxmundham and Aldeburgh, this rural town is unsurprisingly defined by both place and history.
As you enter Leiston, you move from the large expanse of the Suffolk countryside to the familiar comfort of a rural community. Twisting through the close streets, you’ll go past a range of independent shops and be struck by the quiet charm of the town.
Leiston, with around 2,500 households, is a town with a long industrial and agricultural past – a past shaped by its people and its environment.
Home to the remains of Leiston Abbey, the history of the town stretches all the way back to the 12th Century and beyond. More recently, Leiston was home to Leiston works: a factory, owned by Richard Garretts & Sons, that produced world-famous automobiles – including one of the world’s first electric cars. Both these heritages, and more, shape and define the town today.
But what does the future hold for the town?
Nationwide efforts are ramping up to support the UK’s transition to a low carbon economy, in line with the government’s commitment to reach net zero by 2050. In fact, the 2020s have been touted by some as the ‘decade of action’ – crucially, people are beginning to see the importance of acting sooner rather than later.
In line with this ambition, the decarbonisation of towns and cities will become increasingly important.
Unfortunately, for towns like Leiston, lacking the infrastructure of a big city, there has been no clear path to decarbonisation. With a high dependence on fossil fuels, it is difficult for rural towns to take control of their emissions and to decarbonise the industries that they currently rely on.
A recent initiative may offer a solution. The local community and industry-leading experts, are developing a roadmap to take the community of Leiston to Net Zero.
Of the pledges seen by authorities across the UK, few have been as well thought out as the current proposal for Leiston.
The project, seeded by Sizewell C and Leiston Together, with support from East Suffolk and Suffolk County council, constitutes leading engineers Atkins, local energy consultancy Opergy, consumer insight experts Energy System Catapult, low-carbon consultancy Carbone4, and EDF. These parties will work with the local community to design the roadmap for the future. This unique combination of support means that Leiston is well positioned to meet net zero, as well as seeing an increasing quality of life for its people along the way.
The ‘Net Zero Leiston’ project aims to be a national showcase for getting a town to net zero through the adoption of low carbon technologies and solutions. This will, once again, put Leiston on the map as a hub for innovation – with Leiston demonstrating the potential to create a bankable solution that can be replicated in all four corners of our country.
The ultimate ambition is to create a model which is replicable to the point where private finance is interested in a whole system approach, through long term investment across multiple locations.
About the Project, the Clerk of Leiston-cum-Sizewell Town Council, John Rayner, has said:
“Leiston-cum-Sizewell is very pleased to be able to work with EDF and the other partners in this project to make Leiston a Net Zero contributor to climate change by 2030. The ambition, resources and potential of the group is very exciting and Leiston will undoubtedly benefit from this investment”.
Through the unique combination of the cultural heritage of the town, the knowledge of the local community, and the technical capabilities of industry-leading experts, the Net Zero Leiston project can create a vision for a greener and more prosperous future for other communities across Britain.