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August 2016: Looking through the 2016 issues of academic journal CITIES, there are a number of interesting papers with an energy/environmental theme posted online which are also Open Access – and hence available to download free of charge. These include:
- City dweller aspirations for cities of the future: How do environmental and personal wellbeing feature?
- Quality of life in cities – Empirical evidence in comparative European perspective
- Streamlining urban housing development: Are there environmental sustainability impacts?
- Where are urban energy transitions governed? Conceptualizing the complex governance arrangements for low-carbon mobility in Europe
- Cities and climate change mitigation: Economic opportunities and governance challenges in Asia
- Governing cities for sustainable energy: The UK case
- Methodologies for city-scale assessment of renewable energy generation potential to inform strategic energy infrastructure investment
- How website users segment a city: The geography of housing search in London
14 July 2016: Osborne Clark – the “smart cities law firm” – released a report last week examining how “how smart built environments leverage data, new technology and innovative and collaborative thinking to deliver services that benefit citizens”.
The report Smart cities in Europe: The future of the built environment includes a profile of the regeneration of Kings Cross: “Why is this redevelopment a good example of a smart built environment? For a start, the building utilises renewable energy. Solar
panels that generate around 10% of the
station’s energy requirements were installed
on the 2,500m² renovated train shed roof. A
combined heat and power (CHP) plant will
also provide locally generated power to new
businesses and homes on the site.”
July 2016: A recent issue of the journal Science published a number of articles around the theme Urban Planet. One of the papers published was entitled: City-integrated renewable energy for urban sustainability (link to full text). The paper takes a high-level overview on a range of key carbon reduction opportunities at the city-level.
“To prepare for an urban influx of 2.5 billion people by 2050, it is critical to create cities that are low-carbon, resilient, and livable. Cities not only contribute to global climate change by emitting the majority of anthropogenic greenhouse gases but also are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change and extreme weather. We explore options for establishing sustainable energy systems by reducing energy consumption, particularly in the buildings and transportation sectors, and providing robust, decentralized, and renewable energy sources. Through technical advancements in power density, city-integrated renewable energy will be better suited to satisfy the high-energy demands of growing urban areas. Several economic, technical, behavioral, and political challenges need to be overcome for innovation to improve urban sustainability.”
12 July 2016: The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) Adaptation Sub Committee (ASC) published a major new study today providing a detailed scientific assessment of climate change risks to UK. Further information is provided in the following press release, a summary synthesis report, which also links to the individual six sector chapters – which includes a chapter on ‘People and the Built Environment‘ (which is examined below)..
Below is a summary of some of the points most relevant to London from the synthesis report:
- Urban water management: climate change is expected to lead to significant increases in heavy rainfall, with sewers in many urban areas already at or over capacity. More action is needed protect individual properties whilst also beginning to redesign urban landscapes (such as through the use of sustainable drainage approaches) to be able to cope with more intense patterns of rainfall. [p32]
- At present, there are no comprehensive policies in place to adapt existing homes and other buildings to high temperatures, manage urban heat islands, nor safeguard new homes. The level of risk from overheating across the UK is unknown for hospitals, care homes, schools, prisons, and places of work. [p33]
- The urban heat island effect. UK planning strategies do not currently make specific recommendations for reducing the heat island effect such as through planning and urban design, beyond promoting urban green space. [p34]
- More action needed to deliver sustainable drainage systems, upgrade sewers where appropriate, and tackle drivers of increasing surface runoff (e.g. impermeable surfacing in urban areas). [p61]
- Climate-related hazards damage historic structures and sites now, but there is a lack of information on the scale of current and future risks, including for historic urban green spaces and gardens as well as structures.[p66]
- The action underway in London to assess and manage risks of overheating on public transport should continue, together with similar action as needed elsewhere in the UK. [p66]
July 2016: A new European Environment Agency (EEA) study “Urban adaptation to climate change in Europe 2016 – Transforming cities in a changing climate” has just been published. The report examines whether action on adaptation has led to more climate-resilient cities and if not, what needs to be changed.
The EEA has a few references to work undertaken in London such as:
- “London is installing white panels on top of its public transport buses to reflect the rays of the summer sun and keep the vehicles cooler” (which refers to a 2014 article here). and that;
- “London held a workshop on adaptation indicators in 2015 but as of November 2015 had not yet decided how it will take the work forward” (it is not immediately clear which workshops this comment refers to).
No mention is made in the study to London’s authoritative Climate Change Adaptation Strategy from 2011 or the London Plan’s climate change adaptation policies. (NB Mayor Boris Johnson had committed in February 2015 to produce an update to the adaptation strategy sometime in 2015. Following the non-publication of this update, responding to a question a year later, he committed to the update being produced before his departure as Mayor (May 2016) – however, as yet, no update has been released).
April 2016: A further contribution of potential actions for an incoming Mayor – this time by Arup – in report just published ‘New Ideas in London‘. In the report Arup identify “five areas that the new Mayor should focus on during their first term in office.” Amongst these are a couple considering energy and climate issues – a summary of which follow below:
Driving down corporate carbon emissions
- The Mayor has the authority to help adjust London’s procurement protocols to include corporate carbon performance.
- The new Mayor could immediately commission a consultation led by the GLA’s Head of Legal and Procurement to investigate legislative options.
Electric bus battery switch scheme
- Could London work with existing suppliers to design buses that allow their batteries to be switched out quickly and smoothly without disrupting operations? This could take place at optimum points on the network and could ensure that operations are not penalised by the time it takes to charge bus batteries.
Other areas of interest include ‘A London Blue Grid’ and ‘Walking in a Green London’.
April 2016: “The case of a district-heated council block in London is presented where the installation of individual heat meters was planned in 2010 but had to be suspended due to concerns about implications for occupant heating costs in light of the thermal performance of the building. It illustrates a technically and socially complex environment where fairness in allocating heating costs is an important concern” Research paper presented in academic journal Building Research and Information. Link here. Paper downloadable here.
April 2016: As highlighted in an earlier post – the GLA have just issued new London Housing Supplementary Planning Guidance (SPG) and Energy Planning Guidance which sets out the carbon targets for new residential developments in the capital following the government’s announcement last year to scrap its zero carbon homes policy.
Full detail follows below – but a helpful summary is provided in the GLAs new Energy Assessment Planning Guidance (page 12) on the key takeaway – new carbon targets:
• Stage 1 schemes received by the Mayor up until 30 September 2016 – 35% below Part L 2013 for both residential and commercial development.
• Stage 1 schemes received by the Mayor on or after the 1st October 2016– Zero carbon (as defined in section 5.3 of this guidance) for residential development and 35% below Part L 2013 for commercial development
Over the past few months, the Mayor has referred to keeping London’s zero carbon homes policy through a number of responses to Mayoral Questions (see references below). This new Housing SPG is however the first official GLA document which confirms the process for how the zero carbon policy is to be implemented. The full text from the SPG on Zero Carbon Homes follows below – with some accompanying analysis:
March 2016: “London’s businesses can play an important role in greening the city, making it a more attractive and healthy place. To help businesses to green the city, we’ve supported 15 ‘green infrastructure audits’. These identify where greening projects, like green roofs, green walls, and planters, could be put in place. We are also supporting businesses to install these greening projects”
The Mayor’s Green Infrastructure Task Force report, published in December 2015, can be read here. Further information on Greening London can be seen here on the GLA website alongside London’s Green Roof Map.
March 2016: A new Arup study ‘Smart City Opportunities for London‘ has just been published by the GLA. This report was commissioned to investigate how “London can make the most of the benefits of digital technology by assessing London’s strengths as a smart city and identifying the opportunities for stakeholders in the smart city market.”
The findings of this report will support the update of the Smart London Plan, the capital’s smart city strategy. It looks at five key industries in detail – energy, water, waste, transport and health. On Smart energy the report states that “London faces energy challenges, including security of supply, ageing infrastructure, fuel poverty, and failure to align retail energy prices with wholesale costs.International and national policies prescribe switching to renewable sources of energy as a way to reduce the use of fossil fuels as well as address climate change and the depletion of resources. The deployment of smart solutions has started to address energy challenges in London, such as trialling smart grid solutions (UK Power Networks) and installing smart meters in homes. There are plenty of opportunities for companies to develop and implement more solutions in renewable energy, smart grid and electric transport. We estimate that the market for smart energy solutions in London could grow to $2.1bn by 2020.”
March 2016: A report has recently been published by President Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology report recommending ways to make the most of technology and innovation opportunities for cities.
The report considers how the “urban ecosystem can benefit from the integration of a wide array of technologies that have been evolving rapidly, including systems to increase energy efficiency, renewable energy technologies, connected and autonomous vehicles, water and wastewater management systems, communications technologies to enhance connectivity, and new ways to do farming and manufacturing.”
Energy systems considered supporting in city environments include: Distributed renewables, Co-generation, District heating and cooling, Low-cost energy storage, Smart-grids, micro-grids, energy-efficient lighting and Advanced HVAC systems.
Four key recommendations are made in the report – the first of which is:
“The Secretary of Commerce, working with the Secretaries of Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, and Energy, should establish an interagency initiative, the Cities Innovation Technology Investment Initiative (CITII), which will encourage, coordinate, and support efforts to pioneer new models for technology-enhanced cities incorporating measurable goals for inclusion and equity.”
Similar recommendations on coordinating UK government policy action across various departments – especially in relation to supporting the roll out of low carbon energy systems – have been made over the past two years in DECC’s D3 report, the IPPR’s City Energy Report and ERP’s cities report. Though no such cross-departmental unit has as yet been established, it is interesting to note that DECC are working with a number of the cities involved in the government’s city devolution process, and are referred to in Liverpool’s devolution agreement and Manchester’s Devolution Agreement.