Brexit is the ultimate test of government’s environmental commitment

The outcome of the EU referendum has divided opinion, but within the sustainability sector there appears to be real concern that the absence of legislation from Brussels could have long-term impacts on the local and global environment.

Of course, the uncertainty that exists now only adds risk to investment decisions, provides excuses to not implement and will, naturally, mean that investors will put their cash where they have greater certainty of cash value and policy. This limbo position won’t help the market for investment in renewables. Our own government has flip-flopped enough with energy policy for decades – now, with uncertainty surrounding trade deals and energy this will likely add cost to supplies and infrastructure investment.

Read more here.

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Budapest cool: history and hipsters join forces, resulting in one fantastic, evolving city

Great piece on a great city – thanks Jen – hope you don’t mind me re-blogging!

The Urban Observer

In 2005 I moved to Budapest, to study in the Masters of Environmental Science, Policy and Management (MESPOM) programme at Central European University (CEU). More than 10 years on, MESPOM was one of the best decisions of my life. Studying with 50 students from 35+ countries meant that every lecture followed in international reflection. I learned as much from my fellow students as I did from the coursework and my professors – and certainly my adopted city Budapest.

Budapest (population 1.75 million) is the Hungarian capital. It sits at the centre of Europe, divided by the mighty Danube River. It is a mesmerizing city, a beautiful city, a historic city, a complicated city, a changing city. So many memories took place in this beautiful historic complicated place that I hold close with a smile…

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In May 2016 I returned to Budapest for CEU’s Department of Environmental Science and…

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Smart District Heating in Sweden

A new district heating network in Sweden is based on a digital control system that allows for what its developers call virtual energy storage in buildings.

A control system manages the heat network, co-ordinating production and distribution with consumption through real-time analysis. Stored heat can be redistributed across the network, reducing peak load.

‘Through intelligent property controls the energy reserve can be put to better use in other parts of the network, thus reducing so-called peak load without affecting the indoor climate,’ the developers said. ‘This evens out the load on the grid over a 24-hour period, so the boilers do not need to work as hard and the flow through the district-heating pipes is more uniform.’

Bristol Steps up to District Heating

I wrote in March 2014 that cities were entering a new age of Victoriana, where cities, bereft of Government spending and failed by national energy policy, are returning to their roles of municipal leadership and investing in the infrastructure they need to serve not only voters in homes but those businesses that generate the ever important business rates. It’s great then to read that Bristol has committed £5m of capital expenditure to create a new district heating scheme in the city utilising biomass as the low carbon fuel of choice and, alongside other forward thinking cities such as Nottingham (Robin Hood Energy, etc) are genuinely delivering this vision.

The money is one thing. Well done to Bristol for committing £5m when budgets are tight and austerity means competing for budgets within frontline services is every more ferocious. But the really neat part of this is the way in which the Council’s Planning Authority has used its policies to drive demand for the heat network and de-risk the project.

Under current planning laws, all new building developments in Bristol within a designated “heat priority area” are required to connect to a heat network or be “district heating ready” unless technically unviable. Therefore, the new network scheme is also expected to significantly improve the green credentials of new developments in the city.

Of course, new build projects in 2017 and beyond, even without code for sustainable homes and a more proactive building regulations for commercial build will be low demand in terms of heat so the business case still has to stack up. But achieving the city’s carbon targets is serious for the Mayor and he’ll need a 4th generation heat network to deliver it.

Over two years ago I wrote about 4th Generation Heat Networks – setting out what a 4th Generation, 21st Century, heat network should achieve. It should seek to achieve a number of improvements on existing networks, including:

  1. Greater resilience, through heat storage, back-up and optimisation;
  2. Lower carbon heat, through the adoption of lower carbon fuel sources, such as geothermal heat, biomass, biogas, solar;
  3. Choice and product differentiation, offered through multiple heat providers inputting to a singular (independent possibly) network over which consumers buy their heat. Products could be differentiated by temperature (return temperatures are lower than those temperatures leaving central plant), carbon intensity (fuels of varying intensities of heat can command different prices and values shaped by carbon markets and carbon targets).

The (new) Mayor of Bristol has approved the expenditure on the back of the city’s status of 2015’s Green Capital. He approved the city’s first major step towards becoming carbon neutral by 2050, giving the go-ahead for £5m in capital funding to build a low-carbon district heating network to serve the city.

The first phase of the heat network, which was approved earlier this week, will supply low-carbon heat to buildings throughout Bristol via a network of underground pipes connected to a number of energy centres, including biomass boilers and gas combined heat and power plants. Over time the city plans to phase out the use of natural gas in favour of renewable alternatives.

One of my campaign promises was to put Bristol on course to run entirely on renewable energy by 2050,” Mayor Rees said in a statement. “Without a city-wide heat network this target will not be possible, particularly in a city with a historic centre, where solar and wind technologies are not always an option for technical or financial reasons.

This is a major infrastructure project that will connect parts of the city over a number of years and which will deliver substantial benefits to the environment, residents and businesses in Bristol,” Mayor Rees added. “In the meantime, we are already delivering low carbon, stable and fairly priced heat to council tenants, many of whom are currently living in fuel poverty, which is a cause that’s very close to my heart.”

 

Three big challenges for smart cities and how to solve them

Ayona Datta has written a human-centric case for smart cities for The Conversation. Read it – it’s a great summary, with solutions, on how three big challenges can be overcome.

The notion of the “smart city” has been gaining attention around the world. Also called the “wired”, “networked” or “ubiquitous” city, the “smart city” is the latest in a long line of catch-phrases, referring to the development of technology-based urban systems for driving efficient city management and economic growth. Read more here.image

Shambala – Leading sustainability light on the UK festival circuit

Great blog Seth. The opportunity to promote sustainable practices through mass participation events such as music and arts festivals is not to be underestimated.

Seth Kirby

With the UK festival season now in full swing I wanted to delve deeper and reflect on what really makes a festival sustainable. Using the example of Shambala Festival (25-28 August) I’m going to identify some key areas that require attention for festivals, in order to greater understand how other festivals can lower their impacts or even become carbon neutral.

In 2014, I produced a guide to the top sustainable festivals in the UK and a number of festivals including Shambala Festival were featured throughout. What makes Shambala so different is that it is committed to being as environmentally sustainable as it can. These key achievements really do portray it as an exemplar in its field, and how festivals should be run with regards to their impact on the local community and environment:

  • In the last five years they have reduced the onsite carbon footprint of the festival by 81%;

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Green Roofs Improve Energy Efficiency and Livability

. Electric Car Expert, Green Guru, Green Building Design

Installing a green roof offers property owners a fantastic opportunity to decrease their energy costs while also increasing environmental efficiency. While converting to a green roof isn’t precisely inexpensive, this improvement could easily pay for itself in just a few years. Plus, studies have shown that green roofs help people breathe easier by reducing air pollutants as well as provide a community gathering place. Understanding these benefits of having a green roof may just convince you to replace your traditional roof with something newer and more innovative.

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Image via: Rooflines

Green roofs are particularly popular in urban places where high-rise buildings dominate the skyline. However, they are also increasingly showing up in residential neighborhoods as more people understand the value of a green roof. Unlike a traditional roof that merely provides protection from the elements, a green roof transforms this previously unusable space into something that improves the energy efficiency…

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