The future of energy efficiency in cities, Imperial EU energy day

As part EU Sustainable Energy Week this year two students, Livia Kalossaka and Alison Midgley organised a meeting on the future of energy efficiency in cities. They wrote a great post about what they hoped the day would achieve. We have asked them back to give an overview of what happened at the event.

For our event The future of energy efficiency in cities last month we were delighted to be able to have four amazing speakers, Petra Sarapatkova, Policy Officer from the European Commission Professor Mark Barrett, from UCL, Ipek Gencsu, Research and Engagement Manager at the New Climate Economy, and Richard Kirkman from Veolia Ltd. They covered many different areas while keeping the debate centred on the how to secure energy to continue growing economically, while still providing a safer, cleaner environment in today’s cities.

The event opened with Petra Sarapatkova, who introduced the role of the EU frameworks in supporting renewables for a secure, sustainable and competitive European Union. The use of renewables in Europe has increased with Sweden being the EU member with the highest share of renewables. At the moment, the EU 2020 Energy Targets drive the increase in the use of renewables, which will be followed by the 2030 Energy Targets. Petra then discussed the role of offshore wind energy and the need for an integrated approach between different EU member states in order to connect wind farms to the grid.

Several sources of funding offered by the EU for renewables research include:

  • Horizons 2020
  • NER 300
  • Innovfin Energy Demo
  • Juncker Fund

Funding is currently increasing for smart cities and the marine environment, since 2014, and various traineeships are available through the EC.

Professor Mark Barrett then took the stage, outlining the central challenges faced by cities in terms of energy: growing urbanisation, growing demand, the risks to supply and air pollution. Mark described how models can be used to match energy demand with supply. He also discussed the potential for tackling these key challenges through implementing international transmutation links to move energy supplies across Europe. By providing a network at a national and international level, fluctuations in energy demand and supply could be met more easily by renewable resources. This may be initially costly, but citizens would be free from energy cost fluctuations, ensuring greater economic stability.

Ipek Gencsu then presented the challenge of urban sprawl as a key issue of energy in cities. She outlined the benefits of allocating resources in more compact urban areas, using two examples of cities with similar wealth and populations, but with different compactness (i.e. Atlanta, a city with a large urban sprawl versus Barcelona, a compact city). The examples were used to show that by designing more compact, connected and efficient cities, one can generate better and more sustained urban productivity and a wide range of economic, social and environmental benefits. The benefits of low-carbon investment are therefore greater than simple cost savings. Ipek concluded with several recommendations to transition to a low-carbon economy, through the Global Commission’s 2015 report.

The event closed with insights by Richard Kirkman, who outlined the role that Veolia Ltd has played in helping the transition to a low-carbon economy. Veolia is concerned with the future of energy efficiency in cities and has focussed on the circular economy to capturing and recycle waste, using it to generate energy and produce new resources. He outlined the potential for crowd funding of innovative technologies to make cities like London more resource-efficient. These could be used to tackle the key challenges in cities of energy security, quality and affordability.

Sustainable Energy Week 13 - 17 June 2016The EU Energy Day and the subsequent networking session provided a dynamic forum for open discussion about our most pressing issues in energy and cities. We would like to thank all the speakers and audience for their participation and their level of engagement, without which the event would not have been as successful as it was. We would also like to extend our gratitude to Energy Futures Lab for their aid in advertising the event and to the Centre for Environmental Policy for providing the networking opportunity.

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