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The government has announced the next wave of prisons it builds will be built to net zero specifications, using heat pumps, efficient lighting systems, and thousands of solar panels to significantly reduce energy demand and carbon emissions on site.

The Lord Chancellor announced on Friday that green technologies and modern methods of construction would ensure four new prisons scheduled to be built over the next six years would help tackle the UK’s carbon emissions, as well as crime.

“Our ambitious approach offers a unique opportunity to build back a safer and greener prison system,” said Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland. “New jails will use new green technologies and modern methods of construction to ensure our prisons cut carbon emissions as well as reoffending.”

The prisons will have half the energy demand and cut emissions by “at least 85 per cent” compared to facilities already under construction, the government said, delivering £100m in energy cost savings over the next 60 years as a result.

The four new prisons will use an “all-electric” design that eliminates the need for gas boilers, it added, meaning that they will deliver zero emission heating when the national electricity grid is fully decarbonised. And it estimates a further 40,000 tonnes of carbon emissions will be prevented during the construction phase by using recycled concrete and steel.

The first of the four new prisons will be built next to HMP Full Sutton in East Yorkshire and work is underway to investigate locations for a further prison in the North-West of England and two in the South-East, the government said.

The new designs will be informed by the ongoing construction of HMP Five Wells in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, and the new jail in Glen Parva, Leicestershire, which are being constructed more sustainably than existing prisons using recycled materials and incorporating green energy, the government said.

Plans for the new ‘all-electric’ prisons comes as existing prisons are benefitting from a major solar energy drive, the government said, highlighting that solar panels are currently being installed at 16 different Ministry of Justice sites across the UK. Once the £15m clean energy investment programme is completed, 20 per cent of energy at the sites will be powered by solar, it added.

The government is also in the process of adding electric vehicle charging points to its prison sites that will enable the decarbonisation of the Ministry of Justice’s vehicle fleet.

An update last week from the government revealed that 25 charging sockets have now been installed across seven prison sites, as part of an ongoing drive to add charging infrastructure at 45 facilities nationwide.

EV charging infrastructure specialists Connected Kerb and VolkerSmart Technologies have installed the 22kW chargers across the initial sites, it confirmed.

Connected Kurb CEO Chris Pateman-Jones commended the government for its fleet electrification programme. “It is great to see environmental stewardship coming from central government and it’s our hope that projects like these will pave the way for British organisations to join in electrifying their vehicle fleets, in turn cutting emissions and improving air quality for people across the UK,” he said.

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