Electric cars, light sensors and improvements to park changing rooms could help Watford Borough Council to reduce its carbon emissions.

Last year the council signed up to the Carbon Trust Local Authority Carbon Management programme and its five year plan to reduce emissions by 30 per cent has now been published.

From a baseline of 3,972 tonnes of CO2 in 2009/10, the council is predicted to have a “business as usual” emissions rate of 4,113 tonnes by 2015.

A 30 per cent saving would represent 1.191.6 tonnes by that time, reducing emissions to 2,780 tonnes.

The council has already identified ways to reach 16 per cent of their reduction target, through existing schemes such as the redevelopment of the council depot in Wiggenhall Road and the closure of the Church Street toilets.

Investment of £242,643 has also been secured to run projects that will save a further 63 per cent of the target, with 21 per cent outstanding.

In 2009/10, emissions cost the council £565,000 and taking no action could cost the council £220,500 by 2015.

However, the 30 per cent reduction, if achieved, would save almost £700,000.

Ways identified to reduce emissions include a staff awareness campaign, turning off lights and shutting windows, “smarter driving”, buying electric vehicles and upgrading lights with sensors.

Meanwhile, projects to be investigated in the future include putting solar panels on the Town Hall roof.

Councillor Derek Scudder, portfolio holder for the environment, told Cabinet last night (Monday): “Over the course of the five year programme, our aim is to reduce carbon emissions by 30 per cent. There will be some up-front investment, with savings of £673,000 over that time.

“It's pulling together everything we do as a council that contributes to that reduction in carbon, from the cemetery chapel north Watford heater timer through to hot desking and getting staff to turn off computers.

“It's an ongoing project so projects will emerge during that five years [about how to make up the shortfall] but obviously engagement with staff is important.

“It's really important for us, apart from being the right thing to do, as it will save the council a lot of money.”

Alan Gough, head of environmental services, added: “It's very exciting and the first time we have pulled all this together under a single umbrella.

“I think it's very good how the council will be setting a good local example. A little thing we do adds up so nothing is too small and nothing is too big.”