UK’s smart city transition ‘essential’ to combating rising energy demand

A surge in urban expansion, economic growth and the integration of new technology will lead to UK cities embracing renewable energy sources as part of a transition to smart cities, in order to cope with growing energy demand.

That is the view of the independent body in charge of the smart meter rollout Smart Energy GB, which has revealed that cities are already making “great strides” to create resilient energy systems. The company has published Powering Future Cities report, highlighting that these transformations will be necessary as electricity demand in London alone surges by almost 40%.

Smart Energy GB’s chief executive Sacha Deshmukh said: “This report looks at the challenges and opportunities ahead for our cities as energy demands change. It provides, for the first time, a detailed, city-level picture of future energy needs.

“Smart meters are an essential step to a smarter future. Many cities have already started to use smart technology to create cleaner, greener environments. With smart meters installed across the country there are great opportunities for further innovation.”

The report revealed that domestic electricity demand will increase by at least 30% in London, Cardiff, Birmingham and Bristol by 2035. The remaining seven cities analysed in the report will also electricity demand increase by 20%.

In order to meet these new demands, the report notes that smart meters – which will be installed in every home in Great Britain by 2020 – will send data to suppliers to help with the management process.

Once these smart meters are combined with other initiatives, such as solar battery storage projects in Nottingham, energy efficient building programmes across London and Bristol’s plan to support people in fuel poverty, then cities can help in meeting 2050 carbon targets.

Global movement

The Smart Energy report arrives during the same week that the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) announced a new partnership with the World Resources Institute-led Building Efficiency Accelerator (BEA), to fast-track improvements to energy efficiency within buildings.

Countries including Colombia, Poland, South Africa and the UAE will work with city Mayors to double energy efficiency rates by 2030. Funding will be provided by the BEA, as well as from the United Nations’ led initiative Sustainable Energy for All.

The WorldGBC hopes that the movement will transform promised climate finance funds into “concrete, timely and measurable action” in cities in the wake of the Paris Accord. To accelerate the initiative, the organisations involved will share best-practice resources and build capacity around green building certification.

Announcing the partnership, the WorldGBC’s chief executive Terri Wills said: “Whilst they are a major consumer of energy, cities also have huge potential to dramatically reduce energy use, with buildings offering one of the most effective ways to do so. Through collaboration with cities, our Green Building Councils will provide on-the-ground expertise to help realise this opportunity.”

The two biggest coalitions of cities in the world – the EU-based Covenant of Mayors and the UN-backed Compact of Mayors – recently formed an alliance to link more than 600 million city dwellers in the fight against climate change.

But while there is a global movement to create resilient urban infrastructure, the UK has been warned that its quantity over quality approach to green buildings could threaten London’s position as a world leading smart city.

Matt Mace

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