The plan to install a renewable energy plant at the depot in Waterbeach was submitted to the combined authority by South Cambridgeshire District and Cambridge City councils who together run Greater Cambridge Shared Waste.

The combined authority’s board members agreed to make the funding available on the condition that additional checks such as value for money assurances are passed.

The programme proposed by Cambridge City and South Cambridgeshire District councils includes a solar panel power plant on land adjacent to the Depot, along with a battery storage system, charging islands, cabling and other associated works to form a smart micro-grid.

The total cost of the work is expected to be around £4.2m. South Cambridgeshire District and Cambridge City councils will meet the remaining cost.

Greater Cambridge Shared Waste currently operates Cambridgeshire’s first electric bin lorry; a Dennis Eagle eCollect which entered service in late 2020.

Two more electric bin lorries are due to begin working across South Cambridgeshire and Cambridge City by the end of March this year. The service also runs a number of smaller electric vans and has solar panels installed on the depot buildings.

The councils are concerned, however, that there is not enough charging capacity in the depot’s local electricity network to meet the requirements of the councils’ programme to replace its diesel bin lorries with electric lorries. As a result, there is an urgent need for on-site renewable energy supply to enable electric bin lorries to be charged using clean energy.

‘We have a rolling plan to replace our diesel bin lorries with electric powered vehicles in the years ahead,’ said South Cambridgeshire District Council’s lead cabinet member for environmental services and licensing, Cllr Brian Milnes.

‘To do this, we need to ensure our depot has the facilities to charge them – and we are especially keen that the electricity we use to charge our vehicles is clean and renewable. These plans would help us to create a loop whereby our electric bin lorries are powered by green energy, and I’m delighted that the Combined Authority has decided to progress them.’

Cllr Rosy Moore, executive councillor for climate change, environment and city centre at Cambridge City Council commented: ‘These proposals would allow us to secure a long-term renewable energy supply for a key service that each and every one of us relies upon. It would also help to create local jobs through ongoing maintenance.

‘By switching to electric bin lorries powered by the sun, we would be drastically reducing our own council's carbon emissions whilst also cleaning up the air that we breathe. It's a really exciting and ambitious project.’

The mayor of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, Dr Nik Johnson, added: ‘I couldn’t be more pleased that Cambridgeshire will be leading the way in introducing sustainability focused improvements to our everyday essential services.

‘Reducing our reliance on historical environmentally unfriendly options allows us to create positive change without affecting the excellent standards we already have in place for waste management. This provides another example of how we are supporting the substitution of green practices into the chain of services that we too often take for granted.’