New projects in Nottingham and Cambridge harness the power of green energy to tackle climate change





Key worker homes at Eddington, North West Cambridge (Mecanoo Architects for Cambridge University - Greg Holmes Photography)



We are delighted that at our next discussion on sustainability this month, part of our series leading up to COP 26, we will include the following speakers: Infrastructure & Projects Authority Development Director Karl Fitzgerald, Amber Infrastructure's Development Director, Peter Radford, Head of Planning at Lewisham Council, Emma Talbot and Cllr Adam Harrison, Cabinet Member for Environment and Sustainability at Camden Council.


The discussion will look at how local authorities can tackle climate change within their budgets and serve their communities in a balanced way, how large institutions such as hospitals and universities can swap to greener forms of energy and whether the government's green homes grant will continue to benefit home owners.


At our previous forum Mike Cooke, Managing Director, Vital Energi, spoke with Patrick Allcorn Head of Local Energy at the BEIS about the need to reduce costs of energy to the consumer and how hospitals and universities can help in the transition to green energy systems:


'We recognise the difficult and arduous journey through the planning and procurement stage of these projects. It often takes only a third of the total time duration to actually execute the projects as opposed to the planning as the hurdles are often at the front end. There is a lot of brain power to get the concepts across the finish line and construction side is often much simpler. The validation of the business case can change over time from being around carbon currently to historically being around economics.


'We are seeing a huge transition in technology from fossil fuels to renewables. As Patrick said, this is in the electrification of heat. We are on the edge of real change and we have the 'energy trilemma' which is made up of the challenge of security of supply, the carbon reduction element and then the cost of energy. Unless we do something radical with cost of energy we will see price increases. The challenge is also how we embed the new technologies to help reduce carbon.


'Manchester's new central heat network is a CHP centre underneath one of the tram system bridges. We are privileged to be working with Manchester City Council on this, and great to see new infrastructure being put into the city, although we have to work very carefully around and beside the metro lines.


On funding Mike added:


'The heat network project in Leeds is a terrific success, and we are helping with accessing grant funding. We need to take stock of the high energy costs that may be coming. Hospitals and universities with large campuses can help cities to make the step-change. Getting to the table to work together can take time. It does require public-commercial partnerships.'


Vital Energi has secured a £25m contract with Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust to reduce the Trust's carbon footprint by 14,000 tonnes a year and guarantee energy savings of approximately £1.8m a year for the Nottingham City Hospital. The project received grant funding form the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme (PSDS), which is administered by Salix on behalf of the Government's Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).


The City Hospital currently relies on aged gas and coal fired boilers for heating and hot water, which Vital Energi will be replacing with more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly technologies, resulting in a reduction of 14,000 tonnes of carbon per year.


The old laundry building will be demolished so Vital can construct a new energy centre at the heart of the site, which will be equipped with combined heat and power units to provide heating and electricity throughout the hospital using new and improved energy infrastructure. Vital Energi will also be installing renewable generation and energy conservation measures such as LED lighting, 300 kWe solar PV panels, and 342 KW air source heat pumps around the hospital, which will deliver energy and carbon reductions.


Further south Vital Energi has signed a five-year deal with the North West Cambridge Development, providing over 1,000 Eddington residents with a revolutionary way to manage their energy use.


The first phase of the North West Cambridge Development, Eddington, has over 1,100 homes and has been designed with exemplary sustainability specifications to help support a healthy, active and environmentally conscious community. The North West Cambridge Development has signed up to Glass, keen to encourage online account management in order to reduce paper billing, in line with their sustainability goals. Glass, Vital Energi's new smart energy app and online portal, allows Eddington residents to access their utility accounts in a way that is easy and convenient for them.


Vital Energi recently developed and launched Glass to give heat network users the visibility and control to manage their energy use and payments more easily, and it allows users to top-up or pay their bill anytime, anywhere. Using the built-in weather forecast, customers can also predict their future spend.


Glass also provides housing associations, local authorities , developers and other service managers with access to energy consumption and financial data via a dedicated portal. This will allow the North West Cambridge Development to serve Eddington residents more effectively, optimise network performance and effectively reduce debt.


Karl Fitzgerald, Development Director at the I&PA - who will join our next forum debate this month and who is currently involved in the Oxford-Milton Keynes-Cambridge Arc, will be describing how infrastructure planning around energy, housing and transport needs to be joined-up if Net Zero ambitions are to be approached - especially where there are new settlements:


'The key', Karl says,' is to find willing stake-holders, who are prepared to drive up the quality of thinking, planning and implementation. The themes of Net Zero, bio-diversity net gain, and natural capital are all relatively new in planning and infrastructure terms. There is no pattern book (around infrastructure and sustainability) but we need to establish one. It is only by getting under the skin (of these issues), getting stuck in to projects, and learning by example that we can move forward.


'The range of stake-holders involved in planning the housing and supporting infrastructure of energy, utilities and transport for the Oxford to Cambridge Arc is massive. This also includes DEFRA, Natural England and the Environment Agency as well as the county councils, transport providers, the LEPs, developers and the utility companies. Eventually, when things move to a statutory level, decisions will fall to the local authorities.'


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