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Thoughts on Copenhagen: Brian Mark

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Renewable energy production must increase dramatically and energy wastage must be halted if 2020 targets are to be met says Brian Marks

As a sustainable design engineer, I only want one thing to be decided during the COP15 talks. Nations must agree to limit global warming to 2oC and set clear, fair and binding carbon and greenhouse gas reduction targets with route maps for each nation to achieve them.

This will establish the true and tradable price of carbon, and let me get on with designing carbon-efficient systems knowing how much money they will save and, therefore, how much they cost.

Our targets for sustainable development in the UK are already tough. We don’t have to wait for the results of COP15. The Renewables Advisory Board, of which I am a member, is struggling to understand how the built environment sector can meet its 25 per cent sector contribution towards the renewable energy production target needed in the UK.

This means moving from about two per cent now to the 15 per cent binding EU target in 2020. To illustrate how difficult this is, the National Grid generation profile alone has to rise from about 5.3 per cent to 34 per cent by 2020.

Nations must agree to limit global warming to 2°C and set clear, binding carbon reduction targets

The EU 2020 Renewable Energy Directive targets are met equally by renewable electricity or heat. When the urban built environment generates electricity, waste heat should be captured, not thrown away, through the use of combined heat and power (CHP) systems – just like every other advanced northern European or Scandinavian country.

Energy has finally entered the spatial planning system. The Planning and Climate Change Supplement to Planning Policy Statement 1 (PPS1) requires planning authorities to facilitate local renewable energy production.

Local planning authorities will be required to place a value – rather than a cost – on waste, by converting it to energy as best value treatment after maximising recycling. Government is providing financial incentives to support waste-to-energy CHP. This will only be commercially viable at the municipal and district level.

Likewise, existing stock, which will comprise 70 per cent of the built environment in 2050, must come to terms with using district heating rather than gas because between 2030 and 2040 it will probably stop being available.

I am embarrassed whenever a client asks to see an advanced sustainable development because there is nothing major of note in Britain. We have to take them to Hammarby or Malmo in Sweden, or Freiburg in Germany. These projects are all underpinned with community part-owned waste-to-energy CHP plants – a bit of a clue as to what we should do here.

Brian Mark is a director at Fulcrum Consulting

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