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Let’s stop being dumb when it comes to planning Smart Cities

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.

 

Clean Air Asks & Priorities

  • 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.

Leeds PIPES: the most ambitious new DH scheme under construction in the country.

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.
Financing the transition report Harnessing UK cities’ ambition for clean energy

Financing the transition report Harnessing UK cities’ ambition for clean energy

The ambition of local leaders to facilitate the transition to clean energy is high. But that ambition is stymied by a lack of capacity and capability when it comes to turning that ambition into reality. UK100 teamed up with policy experts, local leaders, developers and financiers to explore ways to solve this problem. Our answer – develop Clean Energy Action Partnerships, so that national government can build an industrial strategy with local leaders, focussed on place.

 

You can read the full report here:

#LoveCleanAir

#LoveCleanAir

This Valentines, UK100 is calling on politicians to put a stop to dirty air by signing up to new powers and funding for local leaders.

 

Our major 14th February Clean Air Summit will be attended by London Mayor Sadiq Khan as well as mayors and council leaders from across England. They are due to be joined by Environment Secretary Michael Gove MP, Health Secretary Matt Hancock MP, and the Chief Executive of the NHS, Simon Stevens.

We’re calling for new legislation and funding to provide powers to elected mayors and local councils to tackle air pollution in a new Clean Air Act, planned for later in the year. Recommendations could include the creation of local clean air zones where the most polluting vehicles will be fined for entering which are being planned in London and Manchester.

Read more about clean air through the below stories:

Clean Air Ambitions

Diesel Scrappage Fund

Air Pollution Surrounding GP Surgeries

National Summit Clean Air Asks and Priorities

Outcomes and achievements from the National Clean Air Summit can be reviewed further through the slides below.

Local leadership on Clean Air

Local leadership on Clean Air

On National Clean Air Day 2018, UK100 gathered local leaders together with metro mayors to deliver a call to the Government to do more to help them tackle dirty air in towns and cities across the country. We also took the time to celebrate the innovative work the UK100 network is doing locally to reduce emissions, bring communities together and get more people out of their cars and onto their bikes or their feet.”

Mapping the UK’s journey to 100% clean energy by 2050 Local Power Map

Mapping the UK’s journey to 100% clean energy by 2050 Local Power Map

All around us people are making smarter, cleaner decisions about how they use and generate energy. From installing electric vehicle charging points to solar arrays on the top of shopping centres, our country is gradually weaning itself of fossil fuels.

But some of this is invisible and many small efforts can be hidden. So UK100 is supporting local leaders in our network to map their progress to 100% clean energy across all their functions, from recycling to planning policy. Their role is also to enable bold action from residents and businesses, and essential if we are to meet the challenge of the science. The local council, the community and businesses – we can all show our actions and demonstrate how we are working to achieve the same goal, a country no longer dependent on dirty energy.

The Local Power Map is an online tool that can show the impact of clean energy actions in your local authority area. From EV car clubs, cleaner buses and taxis, to district heating, hydro projects and energy efficiency measures in cold homes, our efforts all add up.

Clean energy is not just good for the planet; it can save us money, generate income, create jobs and growth and promote health and wellbeing.

Mapping progress will help leaders make the right decisions and all of us to reach our goal.

See a pilot of the map here

Apply to be part of it here