10.5 million hospital patients at risk from toxic fumes
UK100, a network of local leaders that campaigns on clean air and climate change are today releasing new analysis that shows the major risk to public health from air pollution.
It shows that 1 in 4 hospitals in England and nearly 1 in 5 across the UK are located in areas that exceed safe levels of PM2.5 air pollution as determined by the World Health Organisation. Across the UK, 248 hospitals (17%) exceed safe levels.
UK100 has estimated that around 10.5 million patients could be visiting a hospital with dangerous pollution levels. The pollution, which is known as particulates or PM2.5 – is based on tiny particles which can be absorbed not just by people’s lungs but also get embedded in their bloodstream and organs, contributing to diseases such as lung cancer, strokes, diabetes and dementia.
London is the worst affected with 72% of hospitals in the capital affected, with 95 hospitals breaching guidelines, while 36% of hospitals in the East Midlands are above limits, and nearly a third (32.5%) in the East of England. The data was originally commissioned by the British Lung Foundation.
Polly Billington, Director of the UK100 network, said: “We urgently need to reduce emissions caused by transport and industrial fumes. Local authorities, the NHS and businesses can work together to reduce non-emergency car journeys and the emissions caused by deliveries to hospitals. But we urgently need new laws and funding from government to tackle this health crisis including Clean Air Zones around city hospitals.”
The data shows that each of the 484 NHS trusts in England treat on average 42,438 patients a year. Although hospital-level patient data is not published by the NHS, which extrapolated means an estimated 10,524,708 patients could be at risk when visiting the 248 hospitals across the UK which exceed pollution levels.
Large cities such as Birmingham, Leeds, Leicester, London, Nottingham, Hull, Chelmsford and Southampton have at least one large NHS trust that is located in an area with unsafe levels of pollution. In addition, smaller towns such as Ipswich, Westcliff-on-Sea, Gillingham, Worthing, Kettering, Basingstoke and Colchester, are also exceeding limits.
Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England, said: “Air pollution causes thousands of avoidable hospital admissions and early deaths every year, and affects more than 2,000 GP surgeries and hospitals. That is why the NHS is committed to playing our part – cutting emissions from the NHS fleet by 20% by 2024, cutting our reliance on fossil fuels for power, and reforming services to reduce the number of visits that people need to make to hospital. But although the NHS can take practical steps to reduce our impact on the environment, as well as treating those suffering the consequences of poor air, we can’t win this fight alone, so the growing consensus on the need for wider action across society is welcome.”
Two of the biggest children’s hospitals in the country, Great Ormond Street Hospital and Birmingham’s Children Hospital, are located in areas with unsafe levels of pollution. Great Ormond Street Hospital have created a Clean Air Hospital Framework and worked with Global Action Plan and Camden Council as part of the Camden Clean Air Partnership. UK100 want to see other local authorities and hospital trusts to replicate these partnership action plans.
Air pollution is the cause and aggravating factor of many respiratory and coronary conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, heart attacks, strokes and lung cancer, as well as being linked to a number of conditions from depression to diabetes, contributing to around 36,000 deaths a year.
Current NHS figures show that 2 million people in the UK have diagnosed COPD, and over 1 million bed days per year are taken up by COPD patients. While smoking is also a contributory factor for COPD, according to the NHS, “non-smoking causes of COPD are becoming more evident. The epidemiological evidence suggests that future emergency admissions to hospital will rise”.
Dr Penny Woods, Chief Executive of the British Lung Foundation, said: “Air pollution may be invisible, but the potentially deadly consequences are very real: it can cause lung cancer, stunt children’s lung growth and makes it even harder to breathe for people with existing lung disease. It’s unacceptable that vulnerable people with NHS appointments are being exposed to toxic air that could make their health worse, and health care professionals have no choice but to breathe air pollution at work. The government must act now, for the sake of all our health.”
Earlier in the year, UK100 brought together political leaders representing 20 million people to agree new ambitions for cleaning up our air. Leaders included the Chief Executive of the NHS, Simon Stevens and the Health and Environment Secretaries Matt Hancock and Michael Gove along with the mayors of London and Manchester Sadiq Khan and Andy Burnham.
The summit agreed to prioritise:
adopting World Health Organisation recommended air pollution limits as legally binding targets
creating an independent clean air watchdog to hold the Government to account,
granting Local Authorities the powers and resources, to deliver zero emission transport networks
enabling the setting and enforcement of ambitious standards for local air quality,
establishing adequately resourced local powers to set and enforce emission zones for Non-Road Mobile Machinery
co-ordinated action from private and public bodies to improve air quality including the NHS and Highways England
The original research, which is based on predicted 2018 levels, measures patients that attend hospitals located in areas with levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) above the World Health Organisation’s limit (10μg/m3 for the annual average)).
Current legal limits for PM2.5 are twice as high as what the WHO recommends, and it is urgent to adopt and meet WHO’s limit as soon as possible to protect and promote the public’s health.
Hospitals exceeding PM2.5 WHO guidelines
Hospitals exceeding PM2.5 WHO guidelines (%)
East of England
Yorkshire & Humber
Top 10 hospitals located in areas with the highest levels of PM2.5 pollution:
PM2.5 Level (annual)
Tennyson Road, Lowestoft, Suffolk
The Heart Hospital
The Heart Hospital, 16-18 Westmoreland Street, London
Western Eye Hospital
153-173 Marylebone Road, London, Greater London
The Royal London Hospital For Integrated Medicine
60 Great Ormond Street, London
Northgate Street, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk
The Princess Grace Hospital
42-52 Nottingham Place, London
Bmi Southend Private Hospital
15-17 Fairfax Drive, Westcliff On Sea, Essex
Mount Gould Local Care Centre
200 Mount Gould Road, Mount Gould, Plymouth, Devon
Great Ormond Street Hospital
Great Ormond Street, London, Greater London
National Hospital For Neurology And Neurosurgery
Queen Square, London
What to Expect – Clean air and the Environment Bill
Author: Jason Torrance, Clean Air Cities Director, UK100
On 18 July 2018, Prime Minister Theresa May, announced that the Government would introduce a wide-ranging Environment Bill that will cover sectoral environmental regulation and standard setting in areas such as air quality, wildlife and habitats, better management of resources, water and waste. As the first dedicated environment bill for over twenty years this is a momentous commitment by Government and one that has the potential to transform environmental legislation and the policy that supports it.
Although the timing of the introduction of the proposed legislation into UK Parliament is not certain, the need for strong and ambitious environmental legislation is critical. There is a consensus that existing legislation needs to be updated and wider, more ambitious legislation is required to maintain protection for our environment after leaving the European Union.
At present the full draft legislation has not been published – and will enter the public domain upon entering Parliament. So far, we have seen publication of the ‘Draft Environment (Governance and Principles) Bill 2018’, an ‘Environment Bill: policy paper’ and various other documents.
Current understanding is that air quality will feature prominently within the proposed legislation with many of the measures proposed already outlined out in the Government’s Clean Air Strategy 2019. Commitments are set out in the strategy to introduce an up to date legislative framework for tackling air pollution at national and local level, and to strengthen local authority powers with respect to air quality.
For clean air – the Bill will seek to build upon The Environment Act 1995 which established The Environment Agency as well as the designation of Air Quality Management Areas. It will also integrate and update the Clean Air Act 1993, introduced to address air pollution from smog caused by the widespread burning of coal for residential heating and by industry. These two current pieces of legislation will provide a key base from which the Bill will be able to expand upon.
Formal scrutiny of the draft Environment (Governance and Principles) Bill has been carried out in the UK Parliament by both by The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee and also The Environmental Audit Committee – both raising significant concerns. Local leaders have also advocated for the strongest environmental protections and necessary resources for their delivery – together with environment groups, and many in business and industry.
At the second National Clean Air Summit, February 2019, local leaders agreed a series of priorities that need to be included in the upcoming Environment Bill in order to improve air quality across the U.K. If taken forward, the priorities have the potential to transform environmental legislation and the policy that supports it, and put in place measures that will deliver clean air for generations to come.
For further information take a look at our more detailed Clean Air Legislation briefing.
Barclays has a keen interest in Renewable Energy and Green Finance and we are working today to engage both our client base as a whole, and the local authority sector, to support the transition to the low carbon economy. Barclays is a great supporter of financing local projects and continues to be the largest UK banking provider to the local authority sector with some form of relationship with 70% of all local authorities. We have 8 Relationship Directors with a local authority sector specialism and these bankers provide day to day transactional banking to 108 local authorities. Barclays’ commitment to the sector is further demonstrated clearly through £4 billion of lending facilities that we extend to local authorities.
In this context we have insight into the challenges we see in the sector through our discussion with our local authority client base. One such example is central government funding with estimates suggesting there could be an overall funding gap of £5bn in local authority finances. At the same time LAs are under significant pressure to increase their investment in housing, with homelessness an increasing problem across the U.K. Add to this significant social and funding challenges and it’s not altogether surprising that there are challenges allocating cash to the development of potential renewable energy projects.
Nonetheless, the need to do so is pressing. We are seeing a response and although individual local authorities may differ, their environmental strategy generally centers around 5 pillars of sustainability – Air Quality; Transport; Waste Management; Energy Efficiency; Planning and Development.
Some of the recent, innovations actions we have seen local authorities putting into place include:
- Barking and Dagenham Council, launched its own greener energy provider on 21st Beam Energy, which is a not-for-profit company and will help residents save money whilst using 100% green electricity from certified UK based solar and wind generators
Why are Barclays interested?
Banks and financing partners have a role to play in mobilising the capital to meet this generational challenge. But the financial incentive alone does not tell the full story of our interest – regulation, reputation and commercial drivers all impact our client base.
When we view the broader issues through this lens having a clear, coherent and comprehensive strategy around sustainability is not optional for successful organisations.
What are the issues Barclays faces in rolling out Green Finance?
One issue facing Barclays is a lack of information. Not knowing where to go in a fragmented market if you want to do something delays and prohibits investment reaching the desired recipients. A second issue is a lack of demand and awareness of Green Finance. There are lots of projects and concepts that are not getting to the stage that they require confirmed financing and a lack of projects to finance leads to fewer projects being funded.
Other issues include:
- We don’t know what we don’t see – we know that lots of projects are out there but don’t get through the development phase so never reach us to request debt financing
- Not a priority for businesses or other investment programmes
- Project development costs and understanding of technology are a key inhibitor.
- Insufficient incentivisation in the banking products – presently there is no capital benefit, no incentive to dilute our returns in a highly competitive and regulated market.
What are Barclays doing?
In order to best ensure that these projects are funded Barclays is taking a number of steps. We are speaking to our clients and providing thought leadership through events e.g. our Green Frontiers Conference. We are changing our own operations and setting science-based targets, while we now also employ sustainability coordinators on new-to-market sustainable or green banking facilities. These actions, amongst many others, are helping to ensure Barclays is able to fund local energy projects as effectively and responsibly as possible.
What does the future hold?
There are several expectations that Barclays currently has for the future. We anticipate successful and well established IPF business – supporting the financing of the renewable energy sector for many years. We also anticipate an exciting period with billions spent in offshore wind in 2018, 2019.
We expect new waste-to-energy plants to open in 2019 and it may also be the year that we see subsidy free schemes in onshore wind and solar that are genuinely commercially viable and replicable.
Energy storage will remain a key topic for the industry as will unsubsidised solar and of course we await the emergence of new and disruptive technologies as we see the mass roll out of EVs and associated infrastructure in the coming years.
Therefore, we feel that there is a lot for us to do. And we are developing the tools to help us meet these needs.
Ross Taylor, Barclays Industry Director – Manufacturing, Transport and Logistics
Author: Adam Harrison, Cabinet Member for Improving Camden’s Environment, London Borough of Camden
Last week I was pleased to launch Camden’s new Clean Air Action Plan, which will run from 2019 to 2022 and is our most ambitious to date.
When I took on the environment role two years ago and began to grapple with the issue of air quality, it became clear that we should turn the longstanding advice about Particulate Matter — that there is no ‘safe’ level of it for our air — into policy. This would require pledging to aim for the more stringent World Health Organization levels, which mandate lower levels of PM than current standards do.
This is no easy goal anywhere, least not in Camden’s highly urban London setting in north-central London. As if to underscore the challenge, our choice of location for launching our new Plan was Friends House on the Euston Road — effectively a six-law motorway cutting right through the city. But the public deserve nothing less. How to get to these tougher levels though? It made simple sense to do the following: identify the sources of pollution, what impact current and future actions would make on them, and find out if these actions are enough to get us there.
It also made sense to make a special call out to the community in Camden — if we were to sit on our own devising actions as a council alone, no doubt we would make some impact. But air pollution is by nature a shared problem. For that reason, we set up the Camden Clean Air Partnership, drawing on the citizens’ assembly model to ensure Camden residents have their say, alongside a combination of those who produce air pollution and those who have to put up with it: and, really, we all fall into both categories. Chaired by Professor Muki Haklay, residents were joined by businesses such as logistics firm UPS, institutions like UCL and Great Ormond Street Hospital, and community groups like the Older People’s Advisory Group and dedicated environment groups like Camden Air Action. Together they devised and agreed the actions that now form part of the new Camden Clean Air Action Plan.
Meanwhile, King’s College London analysed the ‘input actions’ and found that we could get close to WHO levels by our target date of 2030 — but not quite. While the study is likely fairly conservative in its assessment — we could well end up doing better, especially once the effect of measures like Sadiq Khan’s ULEZ are fully known — we now know what we always suspected: that we need a partnership approach like in Camden but extended nationally and internationally.
As a first step, we need stronger action from the government. Defra’s recently published Air Quality Strategy has committed to halving the population living in areas with concentrations of fine PM above the WHO guideline levels, but fails to formally adopt the WHO values. This is something that it should commit to within the new environment bill where stricter pollutant levels can be set. (Camden asked government to do this within our response to Defra on their Air Quality Strategy.) And should the government do this, it ought to follow a similar approach by analysing pollution sources and creating a plan that identifies what needs to be done to meet the WHO values. This is especially important at government level, as the Camden-King’s analysis identified that a large source of particulates were coming from outside of London and some even from continental Europe. This approach would also help to create targeted measures which would achieve the greatest reductions — rather than just having a spread-bet approach that fails to guarantee results.
Meanwhile, the actions the Camden Clean Air Partners have committed to are wide-ranging and exciting. UPS is electrifying its fleet operating out of Kentish Town. Great Ormond Street has released its Clean Air Hospital Framework and is looking into consolidating patient transport. John Lewis Partnership has pledged to run Waitrose lorries entirely on biomethane gas generated from food waste. And Camden Council itself is taking new steps to reduce air pollution from building sites, including construction vehicles. Our new Transport Strategy also aims to cut motor traffic on the borough’s roads up by to 25 percent and to help people transition to walking and cycling for short journeys.
Our new plan runs for the next three years — but we have a 2030 goal for WHO limits. How can we check up on our own progress, and how can others see what we’re doing? To ensure we have a standard to work to throughout the coming decade, Camden has set specific pollutant interim targets between 2022, 2026, and 2030. These targets have been set to align with our future action plans so that if we are short of meeting a target, there will be justification for implementing more stringent actions. We are also looking forward to continuing to work with our Camden Clean Air Partnership members to support the delivery of the actions they have committed to, and to agreeing additional actions and welcoming new members to the Partnership.
Public opinion has lately — rightly — begun to refocus on climate change. That too is a colossal challenge, and in Camden we will be drawing on the lessons of our partnership approach to instate a citizens’ assembly on the climate emergency this summer to advise us on a new carbon plan for the 2020s. Averting climate catastrophe is even harder than bringing the air we breathe up to acceptable levels. The latter is hard and also relies greatly on the actions of others. But it is achievable, if we all set out our roadmaps to get there.
If the term ‘Smart Cities’ feels like it’s been around for ages that’s probably because it has. Although local authorities are starting to understand what smart cities are, confusion still abounds – they are not one size fits all as a smart city is essentially a set of building blocks brought together to deliver additional value. The challenge is knowing which blocks to bring together, when, why, and how.
It is clear that many are still struggling with the “Why”. Key building blocks like smart parking are well understood, we now have smart city standards, and we will soon have a CCS procurement framework; but many are still failing to look at Smart City solutions and services holistically and are therefore not full grasping the additional value attainable through joined up thinking.
The elevator pitch for Smart Cities rejoices in how silos are broken down through connectivity and service integration. Yet despite this, procurement for full fibre rollout continues in parallel to procurement for EV charging, heat networks, and so forth. All of which are potential components of a Smart City, all have the capability to be smart in their own right, but crucially all of which could be integrated.
So why bother to join up the various strands of a Smart City? Well, consider the underlying infrastructure: fibre, power and heat all need to go in the ground so if deployment is co-ordinated, through shared trenching, disruption can be significantly reduced.
Furthermore, fibre rollout requires street cabinets, a number of which will be powered; this combination of trenching and power is ideal for EV rollout. Hence benefits can be achieved, for example, by designing the fibre route and powered cabinet positioning via taxi ranks and parking to support rapid charger deployment. Or consider heat networks, these require power, as do fast chargers. Can benefits be gleamed from co-locating e.g. around bus depots or charging hubs?
Due to increasing densification in city centres it is getting ever more difficult to reinforce the underlying power grid to meet demand. This can lead to situations where development potential is subdued by the prohibitive cost of providing power. However, operating heat, power and EV charging as part of an integrated energy system has the potential to alleviate some of these issues.
The above measures, coupled with adoption of new technologies, may well see power bottlenecks eradicated completely. SSE is currently trialling Graphene-based solar generation that can be panel, glass or building cladding. It has an efficiency of circa 54%. This is around three times the world best output from standard PV panels. Using this technology, buildings will become net generators, supporting neighbouring load, enabling rollout of Rapid EV charging and providing the power needed for heat pumps to warm the buildings. However, this can only be achieved by joining up silos through the introduction of smart systems that control assets, smooth peaks and troughs and manage customer behaviours.
Moving away from energy, more or less all cities have aspirations to rollout ultra-fast broadband yet the cost of reaching every home is challenging. To address this SSE Enterprise Telecoms has taken the innovative step of running fibre through the sewers, thus providing significant discount on trenching costs and improving viability. By breaking out of the sewer at key points and connecting to street lights the signal can be propagated using microwave technology daisy chaining down the street and subsequently beaming out into the home. Although not fibre to the home, the bandwidth deployable will be substantial.
Giving fibre investors the rights to commercialise the lamp posts improves the business case further by introducing wider smart city revenue potential such as 4G infill and 5G. Depending on how the deal is structured, this could also develop a further revenue stream for the authority. Where authorities have significant funding challenges, the fibre initiative could be integrated with a Lighting as a Service model (which sees the LED street light conversion taken off balance sheet). Both are safe asset investments and as a combined offer the potential is substantial.
Linking such fibre initiatives with smart lighting platforms presents further opportunities. Smart lighting providers, such as SSE’s Mayflower, are extending their offering into additional services such as smart parking, assisted living and air quality monitoring in order to exploit their underlying narrow band communications networks. For example, narrow band for sensors and monitors to support assisted living and fibre to support video GP appointments, diagnostics and counselling. Such communications into the home can alleviate loneliness by enabling social prescribing and befriending volunteer networks.
To answer the “Why” and fully grasp smart city benefits takes vision. The final challenge is then the “How” and most notably from a political and not technical viewpoint. Smart city building blocks span silos. To bring them together requires these silos to be broken down, which in turn requires strong leadership from the top.
“Cities making the difference—Giant batteries and power for the people after Oxford wins £81m in green funding
Author: Tom Hayes, Cabinet Member for Safer and Greener Environment, Oxford City Council
We have 11 years to limit climate change catastrophe. Urgent and unprecedented changes are needed to dent the mood of complacency that still stalks the corridors of national governments. Climate change may be a global challenge, but here in Oxford we have never left it to governments to fix and today my council can share news about £81 million of funding to accelerate our journey to a Zero Carbon Oxford and make our Zero Emission Zone a practical reality.
A £41 million project—which will include giant batteries with a total capacity of 50MW to balance more intermitted renewable energy on the grid—is a game changer for the city and a win-win for everyone. Whether you cycle, walk, drive, hop on the bus, or ride in taxis, everyone living, visiting, and working in Oxford will benefit from cleaner air and a faster journey to Zero Carbon.
A new Energy SuperHub consisting of the world’s largest commercial hybrid energy storage facility, electric vehicle (EV) charging points and ground source heat pumps is set to be built in Oxford, making it a model for cities around the world to cut carbon and improve air quality. My city council will invest some of the £41 million secured on new electric bin collection trucks, sweepers, tippers and vans. We are taking a hand-on-heart approach to how we deliver public services and electrifying more of our fleet is key.
The funding will support the Council to offer a ‘Try before you Buy’ scheme for the city’s Black Cab drivers. Our Black Cab drivers are a credit to the city, moving people around safely and working closely with the Council to make the Zero Emission Zone a success. Together we want to create a green and clean Black Cab fleet with the iconic London look, but drivers are eager for support to clean our air and earn a living. When taxi drivers aren’t on the road, they aren’t earning, so the City Council has begun servicing electric taxis to ensure drivers need not take long trips away from Oxford to get their cars repaired. By giving this practical ‘Try before you buy’ support, we can speed up our Black Cab fleet’s journey from 0% zero-emission capable to 100% by 2025, as provided for by our Zero Emission Zone.
Money-saving ground source heat pumps will subsequently be installed in around 300 buildings and homes to halve their carbon footprint from heating and reduce operating costs by 25% with innovative heat pumps that can be controlled via smart phones. Approximately 100 ultra-rapid and fast chargers will be installed initially at a public charging station on the A34 and at the council’s main vehicle depots. The network will also run past the city’s two main bus depots, providing the opportunity for their fleets to go electric.
This £41m once-in-a-generation downpayment on Oxford moves the Council closer to achieving this vision. Leading businesses are investing in Oxford because they recognise that we’re trialling new technologies exactly like Energy Superhub Oxford. Today’s announcement allows us as a city to embrace our technological future by working with partners in a consortium led by Pivot Power which consists of Habitat Energy, Kensa, redT Energy and the University of Oxford.
In other good news shared today, Oxfordshire will receive £40 million of funding to take back control of energy. Project LEO will return power to the people, so that we can generate clean energy for our own neighbourhoods. By creating opportunities for communities to trade the energy they generate, use, and store at a local level, Project LEO will empower people, companies, and local areas to build an energy system that works for people and planet.
The project will trial a smart local energy system – or ‘smart grid’ – which explores how the growth in local renewables, electric vehicles, battery storage, and demand side response can be supported and help in reducing charges to consumers. The system will balance local demand with local supply help test markets, assess the benefits of flexibility to the energy system, and, crucially, show the potential for people and communities to become active energy citizens in the future.
Critically, Project LEO will enable Oxfordshire based social enterprise, the Low Carbon Hub (which my council belongs to), to grow its existing portfolio of 40+ energy projects bringing another £16 million of community energy projects to the County.
Oxford City Council has been awarded £1.6m for its role in the project from the Government’s innovation agency, Innovate UK, as part of the successful £10.26m bid for the Oxford element of the overall £41m project. On top of this funding, Project LEO has been awarded £13.8m from the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), and will be supported by £26m of private funding from the project partners. Carefully targeted government money can make a real difference to local clean energy projects. Our hope is that other councils will seek to follow Oxford’s example and learn from our projects. We all need to have smart clean energy as soon as possible.
By building partnerships to achieve more together than we can alone, my council is innovating to tackle our climate and public health crises. Two of the most radical steps that a council can take are embracing new technologies and welcoming them into our communities, and also driving wider debate about our energy future by testing new models that empower citizens. Our councils are not prepared to kick the can down a shortening road—every year that substantial action on air pollution and carbon neutrality is delayed is another year when hundreds of people will die preventable deaths and our planet suffers. That’s why these investments announced today aren’t just a game-changer—they’re also a life- and planet-saver.
Author: Carl Ennis – Managing Director, Siemens Energy Management
At the end of January, I spoke at a UK100 conference which brought together the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Leeds Climate Commission and UK100 to discuss how local authorities can be empowered to create a local energy system which is fit for purpose for its residents and meets climate change objectives.
The power to make this change is now well and truly with local authorities and with the right funding, from either private investment or central government, there are many ways they can position themselves as a leader in this shift.
It is well documented that the energy system in the UK has moved from centralised to decentralised power, and now more than a quarter of the electricity consumed across the UK comes from renewable sources.
This is one way we can shift to a cleaner, and greener economy, but more still needs to be done to meet climate objectives as well as the future increase in demand for electricity from the electrification of transport.
Siemens has the products, engineering know how and skills to be able to do this. From transmitting the electricity produced from a windfarm, to making sure it comes out of a plug socket we can help.
But we also know that a one size fits all approach isn’t the right way to go. Each local authority will have its own set of challenges and the options for generating their own electricity will depend on this.
What we do know is that risk is not something any local authority has the appetite, or finances to take on. De-risking a project and providing a clear business case, which may attract private financial backing will give local authorities the confidence to invest. Using clear examples of where there have been cost savings, emissions reduction and the time it would take to pay back the project is vital.
We’re currently working on an EU funded, Horizon 2020 project called Triangulum in Manchester. The energy strand is looking to create innovation to make the city’s Oxford Road corridor a ‘Smart Quarter’, with three key partners Manchester City Council, University of Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan University.
The aims of these innovations are to reduce energy bills and carbon emissions, flatten peak demand on the power network and increase the use of renewable and low carbon energy within the city.
Projects such as Triangulum will not change the world alone though. They need to be scaled up across a whole city to have an impact. Our conservative estimates show that if one part of the project, the Central Controller, were to be scaled across Manchester, upwards of 42,000tCO2 could be saved each year – the equivalent of taking 18,0001 cars off the road.
But success isn’t just about selling technology, although that is helpful for my business. It’s about an attitude shift and how people interact and adapt these technologies and systems. Just think about how you consume energy in the home – you know that you should turn the lights off when you leave a room as it will cost you money, that servicing your boiler will make it more efficient. Doing this also means emissions aren’t being created. But, when you do this on a much larger scale – across a hospital, or even a city, the benefits are much greater.
But we need to bridge the gap between small scale projects, such as Triangulum, and larger city and even county wide projects. We know that 85% of the kit we will need for a smart system is in the ground today – we’re just not using it efficiently. That could be because there isn’t the confidence to invest – but we need to change that if we’re going to decarbonise at the pace needed to meet the goals set.
The latest initiative from BEIS, which builds on its funding of Local Energy Strategies developed by LEPs and local authorities over the last couple of years, is the allocation of £4.8M to create five Local Energy Hubs across England. These Energy Hubs will provide additional capacity for LEPs to take a more active role in the area’s energy ecosystem, addressing the challenges and commercialising the opportunities related to energy generation, storage, distribution and supply (including heat networks). This is implicitly underpinned by the Industrial Strategy Grand Challenge of achieving clean growth.
Local government is in a great place to enable this transition and we can together work with these Energy Hubs to create an energy action plan which would provide the business case to de-risk investment, as well as giving them a bespoke plan for their communities.
Forward thinking local authorities who understand that working together across public and private sector boundaries are the only way to address the grand challenges set in the Industrial Strategy. The provision of energy doesn’t stop at county borders and making sure all parts of the country are looking at what they can do to enable their communities to play a part in the energy transition will be the way forward.
- Adopt World Health Organization recommended air pollution limits as legally binding targets to be achieved by 2030 to guarantee the highest health standards that are supported by improved monitoring that assesses air quality and the powers to enforce.
- Create an independent watchdog that is adequately funded and empowered to hold the Government to account, including through legal action and the levelling of fines, and review and be able to require action needed to reduce air pollution from Government and other public bodies such as Highways England.
- Grant Local Authorities the powers they need, with necessary resources, to deliver zero emission transport networks.
- Enable the setting and enforcement of ambitious standards for local air quality, including for solid fuel stoves. Including powers for regional authorities to control emissions from other fixed sources, such as boilers and combined heat and power sources as well as set energy efficiency standards including for existing buildings.
- Establish adequately resourced local powers to set and enforce emission zones for Non-Road Mobile Machinery.
- Require co-ordinated action from private and public bodies to improve air quality, such as: ports, Highways England, Network Rail, Homes England, Environment Agency and Directors of Public Health, and provide necessary resource to enable activity.
George Munson, Senior Project Manager – Sustainable Energy and Air Quality & Resources and Housing, Leeds City Council
I’ve been working on plans for District Heating in Leeds for around 10 years. Aside from small local schemes the first tangible result was the Leeds Recycling and Energy Recovery Facility (RERF). The primary purpose was to deal with municipal waste, but we took the opportunity through procurement to ensure it was able to provide the heating for a District Heating scheme, by including a grid control valve on the steam turbine, so we could bleed heat off in future.
It took around 3 years with support from DECC (The Department of Energy and Climate Change – as was), HNDU (the Heat Network Development Unit), consultants, local stakeholders and a huge amount of internal work to identify a potentially investable project. It then took a further 2 years to procure, contract and secure investment, and a further 18 months of construction of Leeds PIPES by Vital Energi.
- Now Leeds PIPES is a £35m investment in 2 energy centres, over 16.5km pipework, 1440 flats and 2 commercial connections.
- It has an initial heat load of 15GWh, with the potential to grow to over 100GWh.
- It is financed by ERDF (European Regional Development Fund), LGF (Local Growth Fund) with a £10m investment from the council’s HRA (Housing Revenue Account) and a further investment of £17m in the network by Leeds City Council itself.
This leads to the question – why would the council invest £17m during austerity?
It can be convincingly argued that it saves CO2, improves air quality, tackles fuel poverty and supports clean new developments. It also completes a commitment to use our waste to keep vulnerable people warm. However, despite all of these clear benefits, £17m can still be considered a relatively risky investment for a cash-strapped council. The simple answer to the question of why the council would fund this project is that no-one else will. The risk profile and low returns mean that private finance will not be willing to make this kind of investment.
We believe strongly that cities must go low carbon and a critical part of this is to decarbonise heat. This was a once in a generation opportunity, without local authority investment, this would have been missed. It is local authorities who are able to take a longer view and invest in projects with long-term benefits. It is the City Council which has a responsibility for the people of Leeds, valuing the reduction in fuel poverty and the improved quality of life. And it is local authorities who have the levers: we run highways, local planning, housing, economic development – and we are trusted and long term. In short, local authorities have advantages that no private company can match.
The issue is that in order to achieve the huge potential for benefits from heat networks private investment is required. Our strategy is to grow the network in two more main phases, city centre this year, Southbank within 3 years, and then when we have a trading history and a pipeline of future customers seek private finance. Only at this point will the network be de-risked sufficiently to attract low cost finance. We are taking risks and do not want to cash-in too early. Government seems to be at a heat crossroads: they are still technology agnostic, not wanting to pick winners, but we know that we can’t hit future carbon commitments with gas. The electric vehicle revolution has started, placing more demand on the grid and so action must be taken now. New nuclear is beset with problems and so my advice to government would be to control the controllable: learn from Scandinavia and choose district heating for cities using the below criteria:
- Use planning powers to create DH zones
- Encourage private/public municipal energy companies
- Invest capital to make these grow
- View the Heat Network Implementation Programme as the start, not the end – it’s welcome but the potential is far bigger than HNIP can possibly deliver.