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London 2050: The Carbon-Free City

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Climate change is one of the most pressing issues facing people across the planet. Cities are often seen as part of the solution, by encouraging greater densities of occupation and increasing opportunities for diverse use. However, they also contribute significantly to the problem, due to the amount of energy required to meet the demands of the inhabitants and workers. Current projections for the supply and demand of energy would see London run out of energy by 2070, causing the nation’s capital to come to a grinding halt.

The idea of London coming to a stop is what, during the 2015 mayoral elections, drove the electorate to say they wanted London to be carbon-free by 2050. But with an ever-increasing population and pressures on infrastructure, how will London cope when it’s not windy enough and land is too sparse and expensive for solar farms?

“If we turn the power stations off tomorrow, we wouldn’t have enough energy to run the country, we need to phase carbon energies out slowly,” said Dave Farebrother, Environment and Sustainability Manager at Bouygues Energies & Services. “The technology we need to move to is not there yet.”

What are the financial benefits?

“Politics won’t drive the change, economics will” said Dave Farebrother.

Given today’s climate, with unpredictable financial cuts within local authorities and educational institutions, local governments are always looking for new income streams. BYES has recently found a solution to this with a new project with Cambridgeshire County Council, a solar carport that is one of the largest of its kind in the UK.

Operating as a park and ride system, the car park is being prepared for the local area’s shift toward electric cars. Mark Andrew, Energy Contracts Manager at Bouygues Energies & Services, said

“The design is to charge cars whilst owners are in the city centre. Rather than just being an energy efficiency solution where the council can save funds, they’re now looking at an additional revenue stream.”

The excess energy generated could be sold to local businesses or the national grid, earning the council money. A new revenue will speak volumes to other councils, and will perhaps encourage them to emulate the project in areas such as London.

Carport link in Cambridgeshire
Carport link developed in partnership with Cambridgeshire County Council

How are current trends creating pressure?

Taking electric cars as an example, Mark Andrew made a case for cultural trends providing another solution. He said:

“It’ll become a fashionable thing, people will buy electric cars because their neighbour has one. I haven’t come across something as fashionable in technology since mobile phones.”

People’s social conscience, from drivers to homeowners, will start taking more responsibility for their carbon footprint. Electric cars will become the norm, when infrastructure, technology, and a viable price reach the right levels.

Bouygues Energies & Services is already introducing electric vehicles into its commercial fleet and installing charge points on its premises.

How can we manage energy consumption?

In a project that is the first of its kind, the city of Dijon is using cutting-edge technology to connect 24 municipalities in the city’s metropolitan area. The systems will allow BYES to manage the facilities in one place. For the first time, all public facilities are connected allowing the Facilities Management consortium, including BYES, to manage its energy usage in one place.

From a business perspective, one approach with instant results would be an efficient energy management solution. Through using the internet of things, the system connects machines to a central hub via WIFI, where the output from the devices can be read and acted upon. This will give businesses a greater understanding of where their energy is being used, and more importantly, overused.

“Energy management still has a huge part to play. The beauty of energy efficiency is that it can be relatively cheap to introduce, and the savings begin immediately. We can, with relative ease, reduce energy demand by 10-20% through better efficiency.” said Dave Farebrother.

To find out more about our energy efficiency solutions, head here.

London’s future

London will look very different to the wishful thinking of 2015. Trends in electric vehicles and the internet of things could see a city with, for example, a markedly different transport infrastructure. This would free up space now used for parking. But how will that be utilised? The picture painted of a clean city with no fossil fuels being used to provide the city’s energy is unlikely, given the scale of the challenge.

“The Government may begin to penalise those using fossil-based fuels within a number of years. This could be a good idea, but the infrastructure and technology for renewable energy aren’t quite there yet for businesses and households to fully utilise” said Mark Andrew.

So, where does that leave London’s effort of making the city carbon-free by 2050? One idea that Dave Farebrother put forward is that the local government of London will have to slightly re-think their 2050 goal. Rather than a city run entirely on renewable energy, as they have outlined, the goal should become a city that generates more renewable energy than it consumes, including carbon-based fuels. This will offset the city’s carbon footprint by exporting surplus clean energy, aligning with the strategy adopted for developing ‘zero-carbon’ buildings.

Dave Farebrother said “I have been an energy manager for 30 years, and have seen those conversations come and go with little progress made. There will have to be some drastic changes for us to get there by 2050.”


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London City Skyline

London 2050: The Carbon-Free City

Climate change is one of the most pressing issues facing people across the planet. Cities are often seen as part of the solution, by encouraging greater densities of occupation and increasing opportunities for diverse use....