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City Leap launch delayed again

Bristol and the Climate Crisis

A £1billion venture to speed up Bristol’s decarbonisation has been delayed by a few more months, pushing the total cost of the project to council taxpayers to £7.4million so far.

City Leap is a public-private venture between Bristol City Council and a commercial organisation to accelerate green energy investments in the city and help it reach its target of being carbon neutral by 2030.

The commercial partner will invest up to £1billion in the city’s energy systems, and hold 50% of the shares in the joint venture company, with the other half held by the council.

The local authority shortlisted three bidders to become its partner in November 2020, after a tendering process that had to be repeated on the advice of lawyers.

“Once this procurement is done and our preferred partner is selected we want to get on with the job”

Now, nearly four years after the initiative was first launched, council chiefs say they expect to announce the winning bidder in April.

Speaking at a meeting of the ruling Labour administration this week, cabinet member for climate and energy Nicola Beech admitted the council had planned to announce the winner earlier and needed an additional £800,000 to finish the procurement process.

“We can be honest that was not originally part of the plan, but we did take that choice to defer the procurement by a few months to make sure we were absolutely confident it was right,” she said.

The council chose to prolong the process by four months last year, and two final tenders were submitted in December, she said.

Cllr Beech said it was the “right thing” to prolong the procurement to make sure the city got the scale of decarbonisation and social value the council wanted.

“Once this procurement is done and our preferred partner is selected we want to get on with the job,” she said.

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“We expect to see change on the ground from 2023 onwards in terms of the City Leap partners actually getting on and delivering.”

The additional £800,000 approved by cabinet on January 18 takes the total amount the council has sunk into the project so far to £7.4million.

The extra money includes £1.8million more to pay for additional legal and financial services needed to finish the procurement.

Further money will be needed to pay for setting up the joint venture company, according to the cabinet report.

“The extent of this funding will be confirmed once the winning bidder’s proposed corporate structure for the City Leap Energy Partnership, which must include a joint venture company that is 50% owned by the council, is known,” the report says.

Cllr Beech said the council would get its investment back once the joint venture was up and running.

The deputy mayor for finance, Cllr Craig Cheney, said: “We need to be mindful of the risk, so a lot of this effort to date has been around the financial and legal aspects of it.

“We’re just making sure that the council doesn’t land itself in any trouble through the process of what is a huge and long-standing commitment between us and our partner.

“Making sure that our values are embedded and agreed from the outset and that we have the correct levers to enforce them.

“That’s been a very long and complicated process and has involved hundreds of conversations and a lot of negotiations.”

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