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Decentralised energy - reducing London's carbon footprint

London First, a membership organisation dedicated to furthering the city’s pre-eminence as a global financial centre, released a report last week on the potential of decentralized energy to achieve major carbon reductions.

London’s Climate Change Action Plan sets a target of decentralising 25% of London’s energy supply by 2025. London First commissioned Buro Happold to review how this target can be met - hence, the report.

Decentralised energy means that local authorities would identify ‘anchor’ sites for combined heat and power generation within a major new building or within an existing campus (such as a university or hospital) which could then be linked to nearby buildings.

Some of the report’s statistics are compelling. The heat wasted in central power stations across the UK is enough to heat all the UK’s buildings or replace the gas used by every domestic gas boiler in the country. Centralised power generation means that only 37% of the energy content of each unit of fuel is used. This could be increased to 80% by capturing waste heat and reducing the distance that power has to travel to reach the end user.

The Buro Happold report estimates that a £7 billion investment is required to build the infrastructure to deliver decentralized energy. It calls for all London boroughs to undertake energy mapping and develop energy master plans as part of their Local Development Frameworks.

Copenhagen already relies extensively on decentralized energy. 97% of its buildings are connected to decentralized systems after a 30 year investment in its infrastructure. Barking Power Station is currently being extended using these principles.

Continuous strategic planning and public-private partnership are the only way forward for delivering this kind of transformation to the city’s infrastructure. Judging from the timeframe associated with Crossrail, this sounds optimistic.

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