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Launching UK100’s Countryside Climate Network

Climate change affects everyone, everywhere, and rural towns and villages can be more vulnerable to its impacts, such as extreme weather. UK100 has always been an inclusive organisation, but it is no secret that most of our 96 members have represented metropolitan places. This edition of our newsletter is focused on the launch of our Countryside Climate Network, spotlighting the role that more rural councils play in creating climate solutions. With the launch of the Countryside Climate Network we are making an activel decision to ensure that the rural voices are part of discussion about climate action.

Countryside councils are well placed to tackle climate change and meet the needs and ambitions of their communities for economic recovery and better health and wellbeing. They have to innovate, since many climate solutions have so far been designed for more urban settings, and they are elected, giving them democratic legitimacy to deliver lasting change. The network is here to enable our members to share their experiences of what works and to provide a platform from which they can highlight their successes, as well as the challenges they face.

This isn’t about a competition between rural areas and urban areas. The whole country needs to move swiftly towards a net zero future and so all our members, rural and urban, will want to collaborate and support each other in meeting that national priority.

I am delighted that we have 21 founding members of the Countryside Climate Network, brought together under the leadership of Cllr Steve Count, Leader of Cambridgeshire County Council. I am incredibly grateful to him for the energy he has injected into this new network. Fifteen of the members are entirely new to UK100, which brings our total membership well over 100, a long-standing goal of mine. Given the horrendous impact of Covid-19 and the amount of focus councils have rightly devoted to it, the fact that we have achieved this milestone in the middle of a global pandemic highlights how seriously climate change is being taken by councils across the whole country.

There is a myth that the countryside is somehow peripheral to the economy and to climate change, but that is not the case. Devastating floods and droughts cause acute hardship for rural communities and threaten our food supply chain. Per capita carbon emissions are actually higher in rural areas compared to urban areas because of inefficient insulation and high-carbon fuel sources in the housing stock, a lack of options for lower carbon travel and land-use emissions. But the countryside is also home to a huge amount of innovation.

With COP26 being postponed to November next year, the network has time to build its profile and impact. But that doesn’t mean our members aren’t taking action right now. In this newsletter you will read about some wonderful examples of climate action in rural areas. In Swaffham Prior in Cambridgeshire, the whole village is undergoing a transition from oil-fired heating to ground-source heat pumps. Just outside Canterbury, planning permission has been granted for a green hydrogen plant, powered by offshore wind, the hydrogen will be used to power the next generation bus fleet. In Cornwall, every council decision is considered in relation to its impact on climate change as well as other so called ‘planetary boundaries’.
I hope you enjoy learning about these examples. If you want to find out more about the Countryside Climate Network, please visit our website or get in touch with David, our Countryside Climate Network Coordinator david.cope@uk100.org. You can see more information about the launch on our Twitter and LinkedIn.

WANDSWORTH CHARGES UP THE BOROUGH, by Cllr Jonathan Cook

WANDSWORTH CHARGES UP THE BOROUGH, by Cllr Jonathan Cook

In 2018, I took charge of the electric vehicle (EV) charging points strategy to promote EV ownership in a bid to reduce our carbon emissions in the borough and prepare for the approaching future of an electrically charged Wandsworth. Fast forward to 2020 and Wandsworth Council has not only announced a climate emergency, but it has a Climate Change Action Plan to back it up with plenty more EV charging points in tow.

Improving air quality was a major theme of the action plan. A key action from the council to meet this challenge is to build on our extensive EV charging network and increase our charging points to nearly 700.

The commitment is a huge step forward in our roadmap to becoming carbon neutral by 2030 and zero carbon by 2050 and EV ownership is one of the most effective ways to reduce carbon emissions from traffic and as a bonus, its effect is immediate.

Already, many of our residents have embraced this new technology.  Up to December 2019 we received more than 1,000 requests from residents for more EV charging points. This level of requests proves that there is a high demand for EVs. According to TFL, EV ownership in London is set to increase seven-fold over the next ten years and Wandsworth is keen to get behind this transition and support the community going green.

Electric cars will be critical to the future of our nation if we want to reach our carbon emissions goals committed to in the Paris agreement. One of the major challenges of switching to an EV is the up-front costs of purchasing. While the costs of EVs are falling as the market responds to consumer demands, governments at all levels still need to find ways to make EVs accessible to residents. One of the ways we can do this is car clubs.

Car clubs are an initiative that the council has invested in heavily, to the tune of £3 million, and as a result Wandsworth has a thriving car club membership of nearly 30,000 – the largest in the country. Car clubs allow owners to hire an EV by the hour, day or week and reduces 13 private cars per club. The popularity of the car clubs is largely because they help people avoid the heavy costs around car ownership and the prevalent issue of space for parking in London. The response from the car clubs has been immensely positive and we’re looking at ways to build on the initiative.

Our Climate Change Action Plan emphasised the need for community engagement and involvement. While the council is dedicated to making changes and future-proofing our borough we acknowledge there needs to be significant collaboration and buy-in from the community to see a real impact.

Among the noteworthy actions from the plan was a pledge to spend £5 million on climate change initiatives that support the council environment and sustainability strategy, significantly increasing our tree planting program, supporting cycling infrastructure and availability of e-bikes as well, of course, increasing the borough’s EV charging network. I’m also delighted to say that council recently announced that it will be committing £20 million overall to the climate change agenda. This will continue to remain a top priority for us.

Guest Blog: The Big Clean Switch Switching with Salford

Guest Blog: The Big Clean Switch Switching with Salford

A simple way to help residents take action on climate – and save money

Has your local authority declared a climate emergency and you’re wondering what to do next? Helping your residents make decisions to decarbonise their own lives can be a big challenge. Where do you start?

Here’s where we can help you.

What’s the big idea?

We’ve developed a simple piece of code that allows residents to switch to verified green electricity tariffs directly through your council website. With average household savings of over £230 a year, it’s a great way to cut energy bills and help the environment (switching to a green energy tariff is the carbon equivalent of taking a car off the road for 8 months of the year!)

Better still, every switch will generate around £25 to help fund local environmental projects in your area.

See it action

Try the platform out for yourself on Salford City Council’s website, here: https://www.salford.gov.uk/switchandsave. You can embed the switch service anywhere on your site, but it’s particularly well suited to pages linked to utility payments – from council tax to parking vouchers – where residents may be particularly open to ways to save money.

Why Salford is doing it

Salford’s Mayor Paul Dennett says it is an important way to show leadership and help residents:  “In Salford we are absolutely committed to providing clean energy. We have more than 100 photo-voltaic solar panels on the town hall roof to help cut our bills and carbon footprint. Over 20 years the panels will save £286,000 and avoid CO2 emissions of 296 tonnes.

“We want to make it easy for residents to switch to green energy and save money so we have teamed up with the Big Clean Switch. By incorporating switching into things residents are doing anyway on the council website, we can maximise the number of people we support.”

Who is Big Clean Switch?

We’re a B Corp that works with a range of organisations, including businesses, local authorities and NGOs, to take the worry out of switching to low-cost, low-carbon energy.

We vet all the suppliers on our site to ensure that they uphold strict environmental credentials and good customer service. We also offer support over the phone and through our live chat function to help people with any questions that they have during the switching process.

Why it works

Most people think switching supplier is a hassle. Our platform allows you to take switching to them, incorporating it into interactions that are happening anyway on your website. What better time to save £230 on your energy bills than when you’ve just paid your council tax?

So if you’re looking for a quick and easy way to help your residents start to tack action on your climate emergency pledge (as well as saving them a bit of money too), contact Jon Fletcher at jon@bigcleanswitch.org.

10.5 million hospital patients at risk from toxic fumes

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.

 

Regional Breakdowns

 

Region

Total Hospitals

Hospitals exceeding PM2.5 WHO guidelines

Hospitals exceeding PM2.5 WHO guidelines (%)

London

132

95

72.0%

East of England

129

47

36.4%

East Midlands

83

27

32.5%

South East

182

32

17.6%

West Midlands

99

15

15.2%

Yorkshire & Humber

106

11

10.4%

South West

166

11

6.6%

North West

127

5

3.9%

Wales

110

4

3.6%

Scotland

266

1

0.4%

North East

57

0

0.0%

Grand Total

1457

248

17.0%

 

Top 10 hospitals located in areas with the highest levels of PM2.5 pollution:

 

Hospital Name

Address

Postcode

PM2.5 Level (annual)

Lowestoft Hospital

Tennyson Road, Lowestoft, Suffolk

NR32 1PT

16.18

The Heart Hospital

The Heart Hospital, 16-18 Westmoreland Street, London

W1G 8PH

13.67

Western Eye Hospital

153-173 Marylebone Road, London, Greater London

NW1 5QH

13.18

The Royal London Hospital For Integrated Medicine

60 Great Ormond Street, London

WC1N 3HR

13.08

Northgate Hospital

Northgate Street, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk

NR30 1BU

13.05

The Princess Grace Hospital

42-52 Nottingham Place, London

W1U 5NY

13.02

Bmi Southend Private Hospital

15-17 Fairfax Drive, Westcliff On Sea, Essex

SS0 9AG

12.97

Mount Gould Local Care Centre

200 Mount Gould Road, Mount Gould, Plymouth, Devon

PL4 7PY

12.97

Great Ormond Street Hospital

Great Ormond Street, London, Greater London

WC1N 3JH

12.93

National Hospital For Neurology And Neurosurgery

Queen Square, London

WC1N 3BG

12.93

What to Expect – Clean air and the Environment Bill

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 support for local energy projects

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.

 

Author:

Ross Taylor, Barclays Industry Director – Manufacturing, Transport and Logistics

 

Camden’s Clean Air Action Plan

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.

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.

 

“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.