What Was Achieved at the COP26 Climate Summit?

COP 26

To understand what was achieved at the COP26 climate summit it’s helpful to look at the goals that were brought to the table at the outset of the summit.

Two hundred countries were asked to come forward with their most ambitious 2030 emissions reductions targets to align with reaching net zero by 2050 and to keep global warming to well below 2C and to aim for 1.5C.

It was understood that in order to deliver on these targets, countries would need to: accelerate the phase out of coal; curtail deforestation; speed up the switch to electric vehicles and encourage investment in renewables.

Countries were also expected to work together to enable and encourage countries affected by extreme weather events linked to climate change to protect and restore ecosystems and build defences, warning systems and resilient infrastructure and agriculture to avoid the loss of homes, livelihoods and even lives.

Climate Finance

For these first two goals to work, developed countries must make good on their promise to mobilise at least $100bn in climate finance per year by 2025. International financial institutions need to play their part too. It was also considered important to look at ways to work towards unleashing the trillions in private and public sector finance required to secure global net zero.


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Developing countries have been promised that climate finance will be increased in the next 5 years to $500bn. Developing countries would like more of the cash spent on adaptation rather than emissions cuts. This is important because most of the climate finance currently available goes to funding emissions-cutting projects, such as renewable energy schemes, in middle income countries that could often be funded easily without help, because they turn a profit. But the poorest countries who need money to adapt to the impact of extreme weather struggle to obtain any funding at all. It was agreed to double the proportion of climate finance going to adaptation which was an important first step.

450 financial institutions who between them control $130tn, agreed to back “clean” technology, such as renewable energy, and direct finance away from fossil fuel-burning industries. This initiative is an attempt to get private companies to work towards meeting net zero targets and to for them to commit to providing finance for green technology.

Some environmental organisations believe that this initiative amounts to little more than a PR exercise without a greater commitment to ending fossil fuel finance.

Reaffirming the Paris Agreement

Working together was regarded as the only way that we could rise to the challenges of the climate crisis.

It was considered imperative that those at COP26 work together to finalise the Paris Rulebook (the detailed rules that make the Paris Agreement operational) and accelerate action to tackle the climate crisis through collaboration between governments, businesses, and civil society.

It was agreed that the current national plans on cutting emissions by 2030, known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs), are insufficient to limit temperature rises to 1.5C. According to analysis published during the talks if we continue as we are the current NDCs would lead to a disastrous 2.4C of global heating.

Unfortunately, only one major emitter, India, produced a new NDC at the talks which leaves much work to be done to get more of the major emitters on board.

However, it was agreed that the question of revising NDCs would be on the agenda for next year’s COP, to be held in Egypt, and for the one following in 2023. Up until now, under the 2015 Paris agreement, nations were only required to return every 5 years to set new NDCs. Countries have been asked to republish their climate action plans, with more ambitious emissions reduction targets for 2030, by the end of next year.

Setting a roadmap for revisions next year, rather than several years away is one positive outcome from the talks.


Leaders from more than one hundred countries, representing about 85% of the world’s forests have promised to stop deforestation by 2030. Trees can absorb vast amounts of carbon dioxide, one of the key greenhouse gases adding to global warming. Ending deforestation is seen as a vital way to tackle climate change. However, previous initiatives haven’t stopped deforestation though this one is better funded. It is also unclear how the pledges will be policed or monitored.


Coal is the biggest single contributor to climate change. Although progress has been made in reducing its use, it still produced about 37% of the world’s electricity in 2019. It is the dirtiest fossil fuel, and the International Energy Agency has said that if it is not rapidly phased out the world has no hope of staying within 1.5C of global heating. To hit the target, at least 40% of the world’s existing 8,500 coal-fired power plants must be closed by 2030 and no new ones built.

More than forty countries including major coal users such as Poland, Vietnam and Chile have agreed to shift away from coal. A milestone has been reached at this COP as for the first time the Glasgow Climate Pact has made a direct reference to phasing out fossil fuels. The phrasing of the commitment in the final text of the pact was hard fought. India insisted on changing the final phrase from “phase out” to “phase down” despite pleas from other developing countries. Some of the world’s most coal-dependent countries, including Australia, India, China, and the US, haven’t signed up. And the agreement doesn’t cover other fossil fuels such as oil or gas. However, the first step has been made towards ending coal’s grip on the energy industry.


More than one hundred countries have agreed to a scheme to cut 30% of current methane emissions by 2030. Methane, as one of the most potent greenhouse gases, is currently responsible for a third of human generated warming. Most methane is produced from cattle production and waste disposal. Though the big emitters, China, Russia, and India haven’t joined the scheme it is hoped that they will later.

One of the most surprising announcements made during COP26 came from the US and China. They made a joint declaration to “recall their firm commitment to work together” to achieve the 1.5C temperature goal set out in the 2015 Paris agreement. As the world’s two biggest CO2 emitters, an agreement between the US and China is seen as critical in keeping the 1.5C temperature rise threshold within reach. Steps were agreed on methane emissions, the transition to clean energy and decarbonisation. Despite China being reluctant to tackle its domestic coal emissions in the short term, China does appear to recognise the need for urgent action. Organisations such as Greenpeace though welcoming the joint declaration warned that both countries needed to show greater commitment to reaching climate goals.

 By and large, any commitments made by countries at COP26 will have to be self-policed. Only a few countries are making their pledges legally binding. It is hoped however that as momentum builds towards net zero, it will encourage countries to keep up.

 The real value of meetings like COP26 is to try and encourage every country to stay involved. There would be little point in imposing sanctions on countries who don’t keep to their pledges as this could see them withdrawing from international agreements completely.

 Though COP26 has by no means solved the climate crisis, it has turned out much better than many people had expected. Broadly speaking the conference can be seen as a success as the ultimate aim of ‘keeping alive’ the Paris Agreement global warming goal of 1.5C has been achieved. This does of course rather depend on what happens in the next year or two and all the way up to 2030.

 Improving the short-term carbon cutting actions that are so important to hitting that target has become a lot easier with the Glasgow Climate Pact. Hopefully, those nations that are not doing their bit to hit 1.5C will come back with plans to increase cuts up to 2030 at next year’s COP, in Egypt.

Morrisons Plans to reach Net Zero 5 Years Ahead of Original Target


Supermarket giant Morrisons has become the latest major company to bring forward its commitment to be net zero. It has pledged to achieve net zero emissions across its own operations by 2035, five years ahead of its previous ambition and 15 years ahead of the UK government target.

The move followed a similar announcement by Sainsbury’s perhaps spurred on by Metro.co.uk who recently called on the UK’s major supermarkets to do more to help save the planet telling them that it was “time to shelve” damaging environmental practices. Like Sainsbury’s, the chain had previously stated that its target was to reach net zero by 2040. Undoubtedly these announcements will pile pressure on other supermarkets to act especially at a time when the world is already focused on the UK hosting the Cop26 summit in Glasgow.

Morrisons has announced plans to work with more environmentally friendly farms in the UK, to use low carbon vehicles, reduce food waste and lower food miles.


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The company which was recently taken over in a £7bn deal has become the first supermarket to own and operate its own solar farm. The solar operation will stretch to 230,000 panels covering a near 125-acre site and generate energy to supply 20% of the power required by the stores involved. The panels will be installed on top of two thirds of Morrisons’s stores and sites by 2025 and are expected to produce over 100MW of electricity. The solar farm will be one of the biggest in the UK. It is also estimated that they will reduce their CO2 emissions by 21,000 tonnes per year which is equivalent to 42,000 return flights to Spain! The supermarket has confirmed that it has already installed over 5MW of solar power across 37 sites but that it now wants to accelerate the roll-out.

The supermarket is not only planning to cut its operational scope 1 and 2 emissions but has further committed to significantly reducing its value chain scope 3 emissions across its own brand supply chains by 30% over the next decade. Here’s an explanation of what’s involved with the different scopes:

  1. Scope 1 covers direct emissions from owned or controlled sources.
  2. Scope 2 covers indirect emissions from the generation of purchased electricity, steam, heating, and cooling consumed by the reporting company.
  3. Scope 3 includes all other indirect emissions that occur in a company’s value chain.

Morrisons is already collaborating with its suppliers to cut its scope 3 emissions and is adopting several new initiatives in order to reduce its own emissions faster than previously anticipated.

These initiatives include switching to low carbon transport and offering EV charging; certifying its palm oil and soy are sourced without deforestation; being directly supplied by ‘net zero’ British farmers; reducing energy and using renewable energy; reducing food waste and food miles; ensuring zero deforestation in it supply chain and as already mentioned installing its own solar arrays on the roof of Morrisons stores to power the store appliances that require the most energy like fridges and freezers. Most of the power generated by the solar panels will be channelled straight into Morrisons stores and sites, rather than going into the National Grid.

The company has committed to reporting its progress every year and is working with the UN-backed Science Based Targets initiative to approve its new Scope 3 targets. 

The company is ahead of its forecast as far as reducing its operational emissions are concerned. It promised a 33% cut in carbon emissions by 2025 and the current reduction has already reached 32% which means that almost 300,000 tonnes of CO2 have been saved since 2017. It also plans to help its suppliers audit and reduce their CO2 emissions. Morrisons has a robust carbon reduction plan rather than relying heavily on offsetting which will please environmentalists.

David Potts, CEO at Morrisons, said:

“As a supermarket we depend on a healthy planet to produce the goods we sell to customers. We’ve committed to removing carbon emissions, rather than setting a carbon neutral target that would depend heavily on offsetting. We’re also investing resources to bring forward our net zero commitment by five years which is extremely ambitious but very necessary. Our new solar farm and net zero carbon agriculture programme are just two ways we’ll achieve our commitment.”

The chain has partnered with the National Farmers Union and McDonalds to launch a School of Sustainable Farming at Harpers

Adams University in Newport, Shropshire with the aim of training farmers in low-carbon farming techniques.

Morrisons compares well with most of its rivals and has won praise from Greenpeace for its work on plastics. M&S and Co-op have also pledged to get to net zero by 2040.

Hugh Jones, the managing director of the Carbon Trust which worked with Morrisons to measures its emissions said: 

“By aligning its goals with a 1.5°C future, Morrisons is ensuring it builds resilience firmly into its business model and will be positioned to thrive as the global economy moves to zero emissions.”

How the shift to a circular economy could benefit your business


Traditionally, businesses have relied upon a linear model sometimes described as the ‘take-make-waste’ economy. Companies prioritised decisions that focus on cheapness, ease, and convenience. But with public perception shifting to a preference for sustainable and environmentally friendly thinking – there has been a push towards a circular economy.

Functionally, you can think of the circular economy in terms of three words: reduce, reuse, and recycle. It revolves around making better use of materials and resources to ensure that there is as little waste in the system as possible. And many businesses might assume that the move to a circular economy is simply well intentioned, but too expensive or difficult to implement. In fact, there is good evidence to the contrary. 

Studies have suggested that a move towards a circular economy ‘could boost Europe’s resource productivity by 3 percent by 2030, generating cost savings of €600 billion a year and €1.8 trillion more in other economic benefits’. These kinds of cost savings are only one of many benefits of a shift to a circular economy for businesses. 

Here we take a look at some of the key benefits of the circular economy for businesses, and why your businesses should consider making changes to the way it operates. 


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A path to sustainability

Sustainability is often seen as a goal for businesses, but it is not always appreciated that this can actually be hugely beneficial for organisations, as well as being good for the environment. 

Joe Hemsley-Rudd is the Business Development Manager at Countrystyle Recycling, who have recently expanded their operation into Cambridgeshire. He explains the path to sustainability is more viable than ever before: “Businesses are looking for a green alternative to waste management. With landfill diversion, promoting biodiversity and working with local organisations to minimise the impact of waste on the roads and local environment, Cambridgeshire has a very green future”. 

There is good evidence to show that customers actually prefer to work with businesses that prioritise the environment and green alternatives. Some studies suggest that 4 of out 5 people prefer to work with companies that have a positive approach to environmental sustainability. 

Increasing profits

Interestingly, the circular economy can provide new opportunities for profit. Cutting costs associated with waste, reducing energy consumption, and potentially broadening the client base all offer possibilities to increase the profits of your business. 

This is something that can often be overlooked – but lowering costs and improving revenue streams are two of the key ways to improve profits. 

Moving towards digitisation

Taking things virtual is one of the most important aspects of a circular economy. The simple fact is that traditional, non-digital ways of working are typically far more resource heavy and intrusive, compared with digital. 

Let’s take a couple of examples: first, moving to be a paperless office means investing in technology, doing so not only minimises paper usage and waste but also reduces the amount of physical space needed to store large amounts of documents and data. Second, allowing employees to work remotely can often massively reduce the carbon footprint of a business

The important thing to state here is that digitisation – an important part of the circular economy – has a profoundly positive impact on areas like productivity and profitability. The encouragement on being a part of a circular economy turns out to be a huge advantage. 

Reduced material costs

The traditional economy model puts a great deal of emphasis on the use of raw materials. One of the major issues here is that businesses are very rarely in control of the costs associated with sourcing these raw materials – ultimately, then, profits are at the mercy of often volatile raw material prices. 

When you recycle a great deal of the materials you use, you are reducing your dependence on raw materials. This is just another example of where the circular economy model can end up saving your business a significant amount of money in the long term. 

Final thoughts

Many businesses think of a switch to a circular economy model and more sustainable practices as something that is beneficial for the environment. But it can actually have enormous tangible benefits to the company too. Don’t think of the move to this model as being an inconvenience – look to the advantages that it can have from both perspectives. 

Daniel Groves – Business Growth Consultant

Is The UK On Track to Reduce Net Zero Carbon Emissions By 2050?


The UK government has committed to an ambitious target of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions to net zero by 2050 in order to help tackle climate change. Net zero is the point at which the country is taking as much of these greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere as it is putting in. As part of this end goal, the government recently made further pledges to cut emissions this decade by 68% compared to emissions in 1990 and by 78% by 2035.

However, despite the government’s target for all the UK’s electricity to come from clean sources by 2035, it is currently falling short of what will be required to achieve this. More funding and policy interventions will be needed to reach the net zero goal by 2050. Back in June, the Climate Change Committee (CCC), a group of experts that advise the government said that the UK only had credible policies in place to deliver about a fifth of the cut in emissions necessary for the net-zero goal.

The UK government are currently hosting COP26 in Glasgow where the signatories of the Paris Agreement are setting out their targets for reducing national and global emissions of the greenhouse gases that are causing climate change. It’s questionable whether the UK can claim the mantle of climate leadership based on current policy commitments. The emissions projections produced by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, show that greenhouse gas emissions are only expected to fall by 52% relative to 1990, by 2030.


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Successive governments have had relative success in reducing emissions from energy. They fell by 40% between 1990 and 2019 largely due to the closing of coal-fired power stations and more money being spent on solar, wind and nuclear energy.

Wind Power

The UK is leading the world in offshore wind. Presently it has capacity of about 10GW which the government has promised to quadruple by 2030. This increase would generate enough energy to power every home in the UK. Although this is achievable energy companies are concerned that the price, they are paid for wind energy is dropping rapidly which could squeeze their revenues and limit further investment. Another consideration is the need for there to be far more energy storage for the times when the wind does not blow.

Heat Pumps

British homes account for about 14% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions mostly due to gas boiler heating systems and poor insulation according to the CCC.

The UK government has committed to installing 600,000 heat pumps a year by 2028. Heat pumps transfer heat from the ground, air or water around a property into its heating system and cost upwards of £8,000.

In terms of numbers, about 35,000 heat pumps were installed in the UK in 2019 compared to about 1.7 million gas boilers being sold each year. There are 23.5 million gas boilers in the UK. The government has banned gas boilers from new builds from 2025. In its latest strategy the government has allotted £450m for the installation of heat pumps over 3 years. Grants of £5,000 will be available for homeowners which would be enough for 90,000 grants and that’s if you ignore any administrative costs. The CCC think the overall number installed each year should be higher than the 600,000 a year target and environmental experts are questioning how the government will meet this target anyway. The scheme is part of a wider package, worth £3.9 billion to decarbonise heat and public buildings.


Further to this the CCC has said that insulation rates vital to the decarbonisation of energy in homes are only about a third of what they need to be. The government scrapped the Green Homes Grant scheme earlier this year, which was put in place to help people with the cost of insulating their homes. The latest net zero strategy only mentions insulation once with support promised for low-income households.


Cars and taxis accounted for 16% of UK emissions in 2019 and in a bid to reduce this the government has said that no new petrol and diesel cars will be sold from 2030. After 2040 you will only be able to purchase zero emissions vehicles. Though the number of electric cars being sold is growing quickly only 10% of cars sold in 2020 were electric. This is up on 2.5% in 2018.  The government has not brought in a scrappage scheme to help incentivise people to buy electric cars though there is a £2,500 grant available for fully electric cars that cost less than £35,000. There are 25,000 charging points in the UK, but the Competition and Markets Authority believes that 10 times that number could be needed by 2030. Huge growth in publicly accessible charging points is crucial for the move to electric cars.

To get people out of their cars the government has spent £338m on walking and cycling infrastructure in England with a view to building a “world class” cycling network by 2040.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, flying made up about 7% of overall emissions and shipping about 3%. There is very little known about how the government plans to reduce them and there are no targets for these sectors yet.  The CCC would like to see a freeze on demand for flights and a strategy to cut emissions from freight transport, aviation and shipping. The government has placed no restrictions on people flying and has claimed that there is technology yet to be developed that will allow domestic flights to be almost emissions free by 2040, and international aviation to be near zero-carbon by mid-century.


The CCC has said that emissions from agriculture need to be reduced by 30% by 2035. In order to achieve this people would need to eat 20% less meat and dairy on average, more land would need to be used for trees and restored peatland and shifted from agricultural use and there would need to be less food waste. The government has yet to publish its food strategy.


The role trees play in removing carbon emissions from the atmosphere is very important. The government does have an ambitious plan to plant 30,000 hectares of trees a year by 2025. Though the government wants to treble planting, in England during this parliament it has a long way to go to meet this target.


Hydrogen is a low-carbon fuel that could be used for transport, heating, power generation or energy storage and the government would like to have a capacity of 5GW of hydrogen production by 2030. However, it’s early days for this industry and in fact there is almost no low-carbon production of hydrogen in the UK or globally now. The industry will need “rapid and significant scale-up” in the coming years if it is to be part of the solution. The government is promising a decision on the role of hydrogen in heating by 2026.

Carbon Capture and Storage

The government is highly reliant on new technologies, such as carbon capture and storage, to allow the continued use of fossil fuels without releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The ability to capture carbon and store it is essential for the UK to reach net zero by 2050. The government is planning to capture and store between 20 and 30 million tonnes of CO2 a year by 2030. The technology is still emerging and is very expensive. A project has been planned for North-East Scotland that can extract as much CO2 from the air as 40 million trees can. Two areas have also been chosen to have priority access to government funding for carbon capture projects. They are the Hynet Cluster covering the North-West of England and North Wales, and the East Coast Cluster in the Humber and Teesside. North-east Scotland will be the reserve cluster. Even if the government’s target is met, it will account for less than 3% of current emissions which is far short of the emissions cut required this decade.


The government has said that it will cut emissions from manufacturing by about two-thirds before 2035. Carbon capture and hydrogen will both play a big role, but substantial progress will be needed in these technologies. The government is also planning to cap the amount of emissions allowed by individual sectors each year, which will reduce gradually. It’s not clear how the scheme will prevent production and emissions shifting to other countries. The CCC has also advised the government that all gas-fired power stations where carbon is emitted and not captured should be phased out by 2035.

Over the past 12 months the government has released several strategies to reduce emissions in key sectors, including transport, industry and hydrogen production. Apart from phasing out petrol and diesel cars in 2030 there have been no new policies that would significantly reduce emissions announced or enacted. Given the limited timeframe between now and 2030, substantially more urgent action is needed if the UK is to live up to its mantle as climate leader.

The current COP26 global climate summit in Glasgow is believed to be crucial for climate change to be brought under control.  Almost 200 countries are being asked for their plans to cut emissions, and it could lead to big changes in our day-to-day life.

Critics say The Government’s Net Zero Plan Falls Short of What Is Needed

Net Zero

The UK government has finally revealed its net zero strategy just in time for COP26, the United Nations Climate Change conference in Glasgow. The government has set out its policies and proposals for decarbonising all sectors of the UK economy in a bid to meet its aim of net zero by 2050.

Ministers say that the plan will create 440,000 jobs and “unlock” £90bn in investment in the next decade, most of it from private sector companies. The Net Zero review which was published at the same time by the Treasury says “the costs of global inaction significantly outweigh the costs of action” to tackle climate change. Despite this, experts and campaigners have warned that the UK’s current strategy falls short on ambition and is not backed up with adequate funding.

The plan includes measures designed to drive the transition to new technologies such as electric vehicles, heat pumps, carbon capture, hydrogen and sustainable aviation fuel. There are also plans to restore approximately 280,000 hectares of peat in England by 2050 and create at least 30,000 hectares of woodland per year across the UK in the next 2 to 3 years.


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The announcement of these new measures comes at a time of high energy prices and rising consumer bills. Against a background of uncertainty partly caused by the pandemic, the government is saying that the new investment will provide the UK with energy security and stable prices in the years to come.

Boris Johnson said:

 “The UK’s path to ending our contribution to climate change will be paved with well-paid jobs, billions in investment and thriving green industries – powering our green industrial revolution across the country. By moving first and taking bold action, we will build a defining competitive edge in electric vehicles, offshore wind, carbon capture technology and more, whilst supporting people and businesses along the way.”

Households will be offered grants of £5,000 from April 2022 to help them with the installation of low-carbon heat pumps as part of a £3.9bn plan for decarbonising heat and buildings. However, just £450m is being put aside for the 3-year boiler upgrade scheme which amounts to the installation of 90,000 heat pumps in all. This new grant spells the end of the Renewable Heat Incentive, a financial incentive which has been in place since 2011. If you have the funds to cover the initial outlay for a heat pump this scheme is far more generous than the new grant as it is possible to recoup up to 80% of the cost of installing your heat pump over a period of 7 years as well as saving money on your energy bills. The Renewable Heat Incentive is scheduled to end in March 2022.

Many critics including scientists, green campaigners and even the government’s own supporters find the plan for heat pumps wholly inadequate.

Patrick Hall, a senior research fellow at the Conservative, thinktank Bright Blue said:

“The government’s stated aim is to install 600,000 heat pumps per year by 2028, so the maximum of only 90,000 pumps to be covered over the next three years falls far too short. The funding simply isn’t sufficient.”

The government’s new strategy also doesn’t address how the insulation of the UK’s draughty homes will be managed since the failure of the Green Homes Grant earlier this year.

There is an emphasis on carbon capture and storage in the blueprint as well as hydrogen which is controversial as some forms of gas come from fossil fuels. The government had said that it would focus on low-carbon forms generated with renewable energy.

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has advised the government that all gas-fired power stations where carbon is emitted and not captured should be phased out by 2035.

Ministers have come under fire this year due to the delay in releasing the plan for net zero. The Committee on Climate Change (CCC), the independent statutory body that advises ministers on how to reach net zero, issued a warning this summer that measures were needed urgently as delay would raise their cost.

Katie White, Executive Director of Advocacy and Campaigns at World-wide Fund for nature, said:

“We are finally seeing the UK Government set out a positive vision for net zero, sending a clear signal to every sector of the economy on their role, but we are still lacking the full suite of policies and increased funding to close the gap between climate promises and action. The UK can’t afford to stand still, every climate promise must be kept. Future generations won’t forget, and they won’t forgive those who fail to act while there’s still time.”

So where is the money coming from to fund the green plans? Officials say that £26bn of funding will come from the public sector over the next spending review period, from 2021 to 2025, and more than £60bn is expected from the private sector. Another nearly £6bn is coming from overseas investment in green projects since Boris Johnson set out his 10-point plan last year.

However, the parallel document, the Net Zero Review shows that the government are likely to lose tens of billions in revenues from fossil fuel taxes as we switch to renewables and highlighted the risk that green policies may lead to the need for new taxes.

The promise of 440,000 new jobs has also come under close examination after sources at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) claimed the figure was not intended to mean all newly created jobs, but also those that would undergo a natural transition such as employees in car plants moving over to electric vehicles. The government has been reluctant to clarify how many new jobs it expects to create with the strategy, rather than jobs that transition.

Kevin Anderson, a professor of energy and climate change at the University of Manchester, told the Guardian:

“The UK’s net zero strategy falls far short of both its Paris and G7 temperature and equity commitments. Scour the associated spreadsheets and the numbers reveal a story of subterfuge, delusion, offsetting and piecemeal policies – all dressed up as a shiny new strategy for Cop26.”

Green campaigners distrust the speed, extent and funding of the new plans, pointing out the government’s continued support of the expansion of fossil fuel industries through new oil and gas licenses which is at odds with the government’s green promises.

Rebecca Newsome, the head of politics at Greenpeace UK said:

“This document is more like a pick and mix than the substantial meal that we need to reach net zero. Extra cash for tree planting and progress on electric vehicles doesn’t make up for the lack of concrete plans to deliver renewables at scale, extra investment in public transport, or a firm commitment to end new oil and gas licences.”

Responding to the announcement of the new strategy, Community Energy England, the sector body for energy co-ops and community energy businesses said that the plan contained no practical support measures to harness the potential of community energy.

Back in April, the Environmental Audit Committee highlighted the benefits of community energy in terms of creating  jobs, boosting local economies, tackling fuel poverty and engaging citizens.

The Environmental Audit Committee warned:

“We heard that the same benefits will not be achieved if energy decarbonisation is only achieved via commercial, large-scale renewable projects. Due to the urgency of the climate crisis and the vital roles communities will have to play in reaching net zero, it is essential that a timely solution to support the long-term growth of community energy across the UK is found.”

Community Energy England added:

“The Climate Change Committee’s Sixth Carbon Budget said unequivocally, ‘if the people of the UK are not engaged in this challenge – the UK will not deliver Net Zero by 2050… people need to be brought into the decision-making process and derive a sense of ownership of the Net Zero project.’

“Community energy is a key way of engaging people to ‘own’ the Net Zero project and is essential to achieving it.”

Community energy doesn’t go unmentioned. The government have at least declared an intention “to work in partnership with people and communities across the country”.

James Wright, policy officer at Co-operatives UK, has also called for more recognition for the community energy sector though he welcomed recognition in the strategy that SMEs will need help in the transition to net zero.

He said:

“Our latest research suggests that 40% of co-ops could benefit from grants to help develop and implement net zero plans while 20% would need investment support to finance their transitions. We are encouraged that the British Business Bank has been tasked with supporting SMEs to move towards net zero, but for this to be useful to co-ops the bank will need to adapt its current investment products to cater to the distinctive features of their model.”

Successive governments have to some extent been successful in cutting emissions from energy. Emissions fell by 40% between 1990 and 2019 as a result of closing coal-fired power stations and spending money on solar, wind and nuclear energy. The UK is a world leader in offshore wind. It currently has capacity of about 10GW, which the government has promised to quadruple by 2030. However, if we are to achieve this, there will need to be much more energy storage for times when the wind doesn’t blow.

It appears that there are many gaps in the government’s new strategy, and we can only hope that the measures that have been introduced are built upon and enhanced as soon as possible and before it’s too late.

Renewable Energy for Your Self-Build

Self-building is becoming increasingly popular in the UK and the potential to create an energy efficient home has become an important factor in this.  

There has never been a better time than now to invest in carbon neutral technologies with renewable energy prices falling and incentives to go green. This is particularly true for self-build projects which are achieving the greatest results.

It is also worth bearing in mind that the UK government has ruled that gas boilers will be banned in all new homes built after 2025. The government’s “future homes standard” will require all new builds to have low-carbon systems, such as electric heat pumps. Any new homes built from this year on are expected to achieve a 31% reduction in carbon emissions to ensure industry is ready to meet the new standards by 2025.


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It’s invariably cheaper to merge renewables into a new build project than trying to retrofit into an older house. You have the advantage of being able to include renewable energy in your initial self-build planning.  This means that you can install renewable energy systems that complement each other without running into restrictions as well as being able to choose the best options available without the need to compromise.

In order to build a sustainable home, you will need to consider what types of renewable energy systems you can use to power your home. Though most people want to save money, many will put a greater priority on cutting their emissions and lowering their carbon footprint. Fortunately, there are several renewable energy systems available which can both reduce your carbon emissions and cut your energy costs.

As heating accounts for most of our home’s energy demand and carbon emissions let’s start by looking at renewable heating options. 

Air Source Heat Pumps

The most popular type of air source heat pump (ASHP) in the UK is the air-to water model which absorbs heat from the outside air into a liquid refrigerant at a low temperature. Using electricity, the pump compresses the liquid to increase its temperature. It then condenses back into a liquid to release its stored heat. They distribute heat via a wet central heating system and work much more efficiently at a lower temperature than a standard boiler system would. For this reason, they are more suitable for underfloor heating systems or larger radiators, which give out heat at lower temperatures over longer periods of time. ASHPs can still extract heat when air temperatures are as low as -15°Celcius!

The perfect place for an air source heat pump is outside either at the back or side of your property, ideally in a sunny spot. They require good air flow in order to work at their most efficient as they draw air in through the sides and the back of the unit and then allow cold air to exit from the front once the heat has been extracted. You will also need to bear in mind the space you require indoors for the compressor and a hot water cylinder.

On average the supply and installation of an air source heat pump will cost in the region of £8,000-£14,000. This is more expensive than many traditional heating systems, but the benefit to the environment is considerable and they are currently highly incentivised.

In 2011, the UK government launched the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), a scheme aimed at encouraging the uptake of renewable heat technologies amongst householders, through financial incentives.

To be eligible for RHI payments all renewable technologies must be:

  • listed as a Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) certified product
  • issued with a MCS certificate

Technologies that are covered by the domestic RHI are:

  • biomass (wood fuelled) boilers*
  • biomass pellet stoves with integrated boilers providing space heating*
  • ground to water heat pumps
  • air to water heat pumps
  • solar thermal panels (flat plate or evacuated tube only) providing hot water for your home
  • water source heat pumps can potentially be eligible for the Domestic RHI – they are included in the definition of a ground source heat pump.
  • certain cooker stoves and high temperature heat pumps may also be eligible

If you are eligible, you’ll receive RHI cash payments quarterly over seven years. The amount you receive will depend on a few factors, including the technology you install, the latest tariffs available for each technology and in some cases metering. After seven years of receiving RHI payments, a combination of these plus savings on your heating bills should see you making back a good chunk or in some cases all the initial investment.

Though ASHPs run on electricity they are cheaper to run than traditional heating sources as they should use less electrical energy than the heat they produce. They are generally very efficient and are known for their reliability and consistency. The efficiency of a heat pump is measured by their Coefficient of Performance (COP). That is the ratio of heat produced per unit of electricity consumed when pumping the heat. A COP value of 3 means that you get 3kWh of heat output for every 1kWh of electricity used to run the pump. The average annual heat demand for most homes in the UK is at 12,000 kWh. If you divide the annual heat demand by 3 kWh, the heat production per unit of electricity, your heat pump would use 4,000 kWh of electricity. The average price of a kWh in the UK is around 14.37p. The cheapest price per kWh is around 12p and the most expensive is 24p. Say your electricity was priced at £0.13p per unit your annual heating costs would be around £520.

When calculating the size of heat pump that you require for your self-build the general principle is the bigger the house, the bigger the heat pump you will need.  A 100 sq. m house may require a 5kW air source heat pump. This will double to 10kW for 200 sq. m houses. You have the advantage of being able to ensure that your self-build is properly insulated which is vital if you are to enjoy the full benefit of an air source heat pump.  

In order to reduce the cost of running your heat pump as well as your carbon emissions you can generate your own electricity by installing solar panels on your roof. The number of solar panels that you can install on your roof will determine the amount of electricity you can generate. More on solar panels to follow.

Another type of heat pump is the air-to-air model. While the system works to produce warm air that is then circulated by fans in order to keep your home nice and warm, it cannot heat your water at the same time. They can generally only be used for one function at a time. Air-to-air heat pumps are also not eligible for the UK government’s Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI).

Ground Source Heat Pumps

A ground source heat pump system (GSHP) harnesses naturally occurring heat from deep underground by pumping water through it in pipes. The heat pump increases the temperature and the heat produced is used to heat homes or hot water. Ground source heat pump systems are made up of a ground loop (a network of water pipes buried underground) and a heat pump at ground level. A mixture of water and anti-freeze is pumped around the ground loop and absorbs the naturally occurring heat stored in the ground.  The water mixture is compressed and goes through a heat exchanger, which extracts the heat and transfers it to the heat pump. The heat is then transferred to your home heating & hot water system. A ground source heat pump can increase the temperature from the ground to around 50°C.

Installing a ground source heat pump system is perfect for self-builds as it involves a lot of soil upheaval in your garden or drilling deep down into the earth. Plenty of room is required for digging machinery and the installation process can be quite disruptive. How big the ground loop needs to be will depend on how big your self-build is and how much heat you need. The ground array for a GSHP can be either a horizontal grid of pipes which should be 1.2m below ground level or two or three vertical boreholes which are likely to be more than 70m deep.

Like ASHPs, GSHPs run on electricity, but they are even more efficient than air source heat pumps. For every unit of electricity used by the heat pump, three to four units of heat are captured and transferred. This means that a well installed ground source heat pump can be 300-400% efficient in terms of its use of electricity. Installing a GSHP can lower your fuel bills especially if you are replacing conventional electric heating or an old oil or LPG boiler. 

We are all aware that currently electricity is one of the more expensive fuels particularly when you compare it to gas and oil. However, the highly efficient performance of GSHPs means they can convert electricity into 2-4 times as much heat. To give an example if you were paying 14.4/kWh of electricity, each thermal kWh of heat produced by a GSHP with a SCoP of 4 will cost 3.6/kWh. Because gas boilers aren’t 100% efficient this is potentially cheaper than gas. The reason for this is that average gas prices stand at 4.17p/kWh so for a gas boiler with an efficiency of 93% to deliver a full thermal kWh it would cost 4.46p/kWh which is more than a heat pump.

It isn’t cheap to install a GSHP, typically around £18,000 to £30,000 for a horizontal ground array or £25,000 to £40,000 for a borehole system depending on the size of system you choose. However, GSHPs are an attractive choice for self-builds because after you’ve made the initial outlay, the Renewable Heat Incentive payments are higher for GSHPs compared to ASHPs, meaning you will save more in the long term when opting for a ground source heat pump. 

To create an energy efficient home, it is essential to ensure it is well-insulated as this will affect the performance of either an ASHP or a GSHP.

Solar PV

Solar panels also known as photovoltaics (PV), use the sun’s energy to create electricity and only require daylight not direct sunlight to work. They generally work better on a south facing roof at a pitch angle of about 30 or 40 degrees. You can fit panels on a flat roof, or on a frame on the ground but a sloping roof is usually the easiest. Though south facing is optimum, anywhere between east and west is possible. When designing your self-build, it’s important to ensure that your solar panel system is not going to be overshadowed by trees or other buildings as this will have a negative impact on the performance of your system. Space is a key consideration. A 4kW solar PV system, usually consists of 10 to 16 panels, and requires around 25m²-30 m² of roof space.

Solar PV is far more affordable today and can be paired with air source heat pumps or used as a standalone system to generate electricity for your household. A typical solar panel system supply and installation with 30m2 of panels will cost between £4,500 and £6,500 and is getting cheaper. If you include a renewable battery in the package the cost will rise to between £7,000 and £10,000. In recent years, the price of installing panels has decreased by 70%.

To make the most of the electricity generated while the sun is shining you would ideally be at home during the day to use appliances such as washing machines and dishwashers etc though you can of course set your appliances to come on during the day when you’re out and about. If you’re generating more electricity than you need during the day the surplus will be fed back to the National Grid for someone else to use. If you want to avoid having to use electricity from the Grid during the night you can invest in a special renewable battery system in order to store any unused energy generated during the day.

Alternatively, you can take advantage of the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) a government scheme devised so that energy suppliers pay their customers for the renewable energy that they export to the grid. You will need to sign up to a SEG tariff with a company, otherwise you won’t get paid for your excess electricity and will export any you generate but don’t use to the National Grid for free.

Currently the cost of domestic solar electricity is around 8p per kWh which is a lot less than the 14.7p average domestic import cost from the grid which means you will definitely save money on your electricity bills. This cost has increased by an average 4.75% each year over the past decade. Just taking this fact into consideration will make installing solar PV extremely worthwhile as you will be protecting yourself against future increases in the cost of importing power from the grid.

Solar Thermal

The sun is an infinite renewable energy source which can also be used to heat your hot water using solar thermal systems. Solar thermal panels are ideal for a self-build project. They work by transferring the sun’s heat within special pipes on your roof via copper wires inside. There are two types of solar thermal, Flat plate collectors and Evacuated tubes. Flat plate collectors are heavier, take up more room, and can be cumbersome to install on certain roofs while Evacuated tubes tend to have lighter components which tend to be more fragile but are easier to manage on the roof.  Solar thermal systems work best when sited on a roof facing between southeast and southwest, with little to no shading. The optimal angle for solar thermal is quite steep to maximise their performance throughout spring and autumn,

To decide if installing solar thermal is suitable for your build, you’ll need to consider how many occupants will be living in the property. Roughly speaking, you’ll need one metre squared of panel per person, but larger families who use more hot water than single occupants are likely to get the most benefit.

The installation of a typical domestic solar hot water system, with 4m2-6 m2 of panels will cost you between £2,500 – £5,000.

Solar thermal systems are eligible for RHI which means you will be able to get some of your initial layout paid back over 7 years.

In the summer, they should provide all the hot water you require for your home. In the winter, it’s a lot less, however over the course of a whole year, roughly 60% of your hot water needs could be provided by your solar thermal install.

Other than the initial installation cost and a little maintenance, there are no running costs with a solar water heating system as it’s free energy. Solar thermal systems are very low maintenance. Aside from an annual check by you, your system should only need professional servicing every 3-5 years.

Basically, the world is your oyster with a self-build project. You have a range of options to look at, some of which we’ve covered here, but none of the considerations of existing systems you would have with a traditional home.

A final consideration to take into account when making your self-build more sustainable is that your house value will ultimately rise too. With a super energy efficiency rating, your home will be more attractive to potential buyers, especially knowing that they won’t have to go through a ‘transition’ to clean energy later on as the work is already done. That means renewable energy is a true investment into your present and future wealth.

Expect All of UK’s Energy to be Sourced from Renewable by 2035, Says PM

UK Energy

In early October, England’s Prime Minister (PM) Boris Johnson established a plan of sourcing 100% of the country’s energy from emission-less sources. He hopes to reach carbon neutrality by 2035, increasing the demand for sustainable technological advances. Before examining the major societal and technological shifts necessary to achieving the goal, we must assess the UK’s drive for sustainability.

The Drive for Sustainability

Nearly 43% of England’s electricity source derived from fossil fuels in 2019. The energy sources release greenhouse gases into the environment during the combustion phase, creating adverse ecological and human health effects. The pollutants alter the atmosphere’s natural composition, hindering its ability to maintain life-sufficient temperatures of Earth’s surface.

Over time, the emissions raise the global temperature, creating a ripple effect of environmental degradation. The series increases agricultural limitations, water scarcity, forced migration and other biodiversity-minimizing impacts. The PM plans to reduce England’s greenhouse gas emissions production to enhance conservation and climate change prevention efforts.

Another driving factor enhancing the country’s reliance on renewable energy is human health protection. In high emission regions, individuals have a greater risk of developing asthma and other respiratory illnesses. More citizens also develop lung cancer in polluted areas, increasing the demand for emission-less energy sources.

Making the complete transition away from fossil fuels toward renewable energy requires significant technological and systematic changes. The UK can support its sustainable goal by improving battery storage systems, building a clean electric grid, adopting efficient devices and expanding offshore wind farms.


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Battery Storage Advancements

Solar is one of the most recognizable forms of renewable energy. It effectively converts non-depletable sunlight into electricity without producing emissions. Though many individuals invest in solar power, placing panels on their roofs, the technology has limitations.

Panels directly produce electricity from sunlight, immediately transferring the energy into one’s outlets. Store large quantities of solar power have created challenges within the industry. Environmental scientists and engineers studied the source’s limitations and developed sustainable solutions using hydrogen fuel cells.

Hydrogen is a renewable energy source, which professionals are using to expand the storage capacities of solar power. Solar energy feeds through an electrolyzer, splitting water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. The system stores hydrogen in tanks until the energy demand rises.

The technology transfers hydrogen into a fuel cell system during peak electricity hours, producing a stable energy source. Hydrogen can remain in storage for extended periods, helping production centers access enough power to support an entire grid.

If the UK adopts hydrogen storage technology, it can generate and store enough renewable electricity to support regional demands.

Building the Clean Electric Grid

The country must also convert all conventional, fossil-fuel-powered electric grids into clean energy systems. Professionals can follow the model produced in Monterey, California by Vistra ate Moss Landing. The company converted an old power plant into a renewable energy storage facility using large-scale battery power.

Professionals placed a 1,200 megawatt-hour lithium-ion battery in an abandoned smokestack, holding enough power to support the region’s peak-hour needs. Using established energy production space to produce and store renewable energy can help England effectively develop a sustainable grid system.

Adopting Compatible and Energy Efficient Tech

The UK must also transition away from fossil-fuel-reliant technology to support its 100% renewable energy goal. Maintaining a consistent power source requires energy-efficient devices. When our gadgets over-consume power, they may quickly deplete the supply, creating limitations.

Energy-efficient systems and appliances can heat and cool our homes, power our lighting and regulate our generated electricity consumption patterns. Individuals must additionally adopt electric vehicles to support the transition, fueling the transportation sector with emission-less energy. The country plans on advancing its production methods, producing enough power to support the carbon-neutrality goal.

Expanding Offshore Wind Farms

The PM hopes to achieve its 100% renewable energy objective by expanding wind power production. He plans on investing nearly £160 million into the offshore wind sector, minimizing interference with land use. Boris also expects the increased production rates to support 250,000 new green jobs, increasing job security while decreasing ecological degradation.

The Sustainable Impact on Society

UK residents can expect the renewable energy transition to affect their daily lives significantly. As emissions decrease, individuals’ health and well-being may improve, minimizing their risks for fatal illnesses. They can also anticipate a country-wide transition towards sustainable technology, ditching all fossil-fuel-reliant devices for electric versions.

Written by Shannon Flynn

How Startups Can Make a City Smarter

Smart Cities

The world is progressing towards the development of smart cities, and with each passing day, the role of digital technology is increasing. Innovations in science and technology are becoming increasingly in frequency, and as gradually this tech reaches a level of development at which it is commercially viable.

These innovative technologies have the power to transform our lives, not to mention the way we interact with our surroundings and affect our urban environment. Take, for example, Elon Musk, the eccentric inventor who founded Tesla. Initially, he was not taken seriously, but now ‘smart’ electric vehicles are commonly accepted as the future of transportation, and this will have profound effects on the urban area.

A smart city is a broad term, applying to a wide spectrum. But there is no better way to define a smart city than by using the definition of the Smart City Council. According to the Smart City Council, a smart city uses digital technology to enhance the livability, sustainability, and workability of the city. The city itself should be built keeping in mind the demands of the future.


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Smart City Trends

Recently, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EUI) surveyed a number of people in Southeast Asian cities. This survey shed light on the needs and trends that embody a smart city, helping to clarify what the masses envision for the future and the present day.

•    Creating a smart city is turning into a necessity

Smart cities aren’t something of the distant future. And the next generation won’t be the one creating it. The wheel is turning, and smart cities have become a present day reality. With a growing population, the threat of climate change, technological advancements, and the expansion of urbanization, needs and attitudes are changing. More and more, people are looking to develop and live in smarter cities.

•    Connectivity is the heart and soul of a city

What makes a city smart, according to the people? Connectivity. It’s the life blood of a city. Gone are the days where people are fine with limited connectivity. Now, they wish to be connected to the internet at all times. Initiatives like smart transportation, free Wi-Fi, and e-learning tools are sought after.

•    The conservation of the environment is imperative

Smart cities have become a sought-after way of life because of the benefits associated with it. The largest being the positive effect it will have on the environment. As the world moves towards digital platforms, the carbon footprint of companies will decrease.

The Role of Startups in Smart Cities

How do startups fit into the picture? They’re seen as a way to achieve smarter cities, delivering solutions that are far advanced to the technologies that we know today.

Developing a smart city is no easy feat. The support and encouragement of startups is a start, as economies are partly dependent on local innovation. And this will create a ripple effect. For a city to be smart, there must be a given standard of living, in part, that means employment opportunities. And a future which is driven by technology and innovation will help provide jobs and increase GDP.

Creating a Startup, is it Enough?

What type of startup makes a city smarter, and do all types of startups suffice? A locally innovative startup has the potential to make a city smarter. Businesses will be more likely to invest in technologically innovative products.

Remember, the cities of today, with their current level of development, also resulted in urban pioneers deciding to introduce novel concepts and measures. Let’s take Paris as an example. The city didn’t just evolve haphazardly. Instead, people like Baron Haussmann, a French entrepreneur who renewed Paris in the 1800’s, modernized the city completely.  

Before we think about achieving the true definition of a smart city, we too must lay the founding pillars. Let’s just say startups that encourage investment in technology are the founding pillars. The private sector has a huge role to play in encouraging such startups, and whilst not all startups may bring the same level of benefit to a city, the development of a startup unicorn within a city can have profound effects beyond mere the job creation and taxation benefits.

Role of Private Sector

It isn’t easy to begin a start-up. It requires a lot of financial backing, and startups have up to 90% chance of failing. This may be because of poor goal development or a lack of funds. Partnering with a private sector company makes sure that a startup is able to channel through the first few years.

You might wonder, why would a private sector company invest in a start-up? It’s obvious that the deal would be beneficial for the small business. But what do big companies have to gain from it? As mentioned in ‘The Complete Guide to Partnerships for Startups & Corporations’, big companies also profit from such deals.

There are various startup success stories that have taken a huge chunk out of the pockets of private companies. Whether it’s Uber or Airbnb, such startups are digitally advanced as well as in high demand.

These are the types of startups that pave way for smarter cities and disrupt industries.  By missing out on the chance to own a chunk of these disruptive companies, private companies lose both profit and business. By partnering with them, they are able to retain their market share.

There are different ways that a private firm may choose to partner with a startup. This includes the following:

•    Giving funds (venture capitalists).

•    Offering corporate accelerator features to startups.

•    Delivering platforms for their operations.

•    Collaborating via startup competitions and thought leadership.

Types of Startups that matter

Partnership with the private sector? Check.

Providing jobs to the growing workforce? Check.

What else goes into ensuring that a startup contributes towards or benefits a smart city? The sector a startup works in matters greatly. As mentioned, those which invest in technology and innovation are where the future of our smart cities lie.

Here are just some of the niches highlighted by dataconomy that have the power to transform a city:


The city of tomorrow won’t be phased by slow-moving traffic. You won’t be stuck hailing for a cab, and following traffic information won’t be as big of a hassle as it is now. For this to happen, we need startups to focus on digitalizing the various aspects of transport. A company which helps in collecting traffic information in real-time and then telling commuters which route to take can make all the difference.

Such measures have already begun. In Manchester, which is already on its path of being converted into a smart city, you can now find ‘talkative bus stops’. It is a given that such technology needs both funding and human capital. While startups might have the latter, the public or private sector can help with the former.


Have you ever seen overflowing bins in your area? A smart idea and investment in technology can guarantee that such an incident never happens in the future. Digitalizing bins can allow the refuse collectors to know which bins are full. This can help them in ensuring the cleanliness of the city. Let’s face it, no city can be smart if it is not able to maintain sanitation.

Energy conservation

The city of the near future should use energy efficiently. This makes sure that we have a bright future for the generations to come. Startups can work on delivering energy saving solutions. Glasgow has already started adopting this. Their smart city plan, with 24 million pounds in funding, involves connecting the energy grid of the city to smart technology to monitor the energy consumption of the city and make the required changes. For example, escalators and lights in different areas are only activated when people use them. Someone needs to deliver such solutions. A startup can do so.

Has the transformation begun?

It is true that startups do have the potential to transform any city into a smart one. But, have they been able to put the money where their mouth is? Are there any examples of startups that have delivered a solution in any of the key areas?

There are a few examples that are available. Startups are currently delivering solutions to governments in an effort to make them smarter and more efficient. Ideas like SmartProcure, MuniRent, and NextRequest are just a few examples.

While NextRequest helps in coordinating public records, Munirent allows for easy transferability of heavy-duty equipment with other public offices and agencies.


It is safe to say that startups are one of the ways to realize the dream of creating a smart city. It is high time private and public sectors come together with small businesses to make a difference.

The future potential for cities is immense, and there is in doubt that with time, our cities will function in a way that is far superior to the systems we know today.

Written by: Jurij Radzevic


Growth hacker with experience in digital marketing and SEO. Graduated from The University of Southern Denmark with a master’s degree in Marketing, Globalization, and Communication. Currently working as a Head of Digital Marketing at Valuer.ai in Copenhagen.

According to Industry Experts, An Earlier Shift to Renewables Would Have Lessened the Energy Crisis

Renewables Shift

Industry experts believe that renewable energy and low-carbon heating could have done a great deal to help reduce the effect of this winter’s soaring gas prices. The government needs to expedite the move to low carbon solutions sooner rather than later to assist in alleviating the gas supply problems of the future. 

The gas supply crunch has led to a spurt of government meetings with industry and the reassurance from the business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng that “there is no question of the lights going out” and that the UK is “highly resilient”.

The UK is not alone in its energy crisis. Since the beginning of the year, wholesale gas prices in Europe have risen by 250%, the result of economic, natural and political forces. Globally, demand for energy has shot up, as China and other major economies bounce back from the pandemic.

According to Roger Fouquet of the London School of Economics, the supply issue shows that fossil fuels are inherently subject to wild price fluctuations, which occur at least once a decade.

He said:

“Price volatility is an inevitable part of the fossil fuel energy system. Renewables do not suffer from these market-related problems.”

Rob Gross of the UCL Energy Institute voiced the view that switching to renewable energy would mitigate the effects of fossil fuel price fluctuations but that the UK was still particularly exposed to international gas prices.

He said:

“Gas power stations set prices in the UK, particularly when demand is high and renewables output is low. Countries with a lower share of gas in their power mix experience less volatile prices and we should expect that here too.”

Dan McGrail, chief executive of RenewableUK, which represents wind energy companies, said the government should learn an important lesson from this energy crisis for future years.

He said:

The first priority for government and the sector is, of course, protecting consumers in response to this price surge. The only way to do that in the long term is to have an energy system powered by cheap renewables, with flexible storage, hydrogen and other low-carbon technologies to meet demand at lowest cost.”

He called attention to the fact that it was already cheaper to generate electricity by building a new windfarm, even before gas prices began to soar, than run an existing gas power plant. The growth of renewables has reduced the proportion of electricity the UK gets from fossil fuels from 60% to less than 40% in the last few years.


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Dan McGrail went on to say:

“The industry is working with government to accelerate investment in renewables, which is key to ending our reliance on gas for heating our homes and in heavy industries. Alongside massive investment in renewables, we need to shift the dial on electrification and green hydrogen production in the UK to meet net zero at lowest cost.”

Despite the lack of government subsidies, solar power has plummeted in cost in recent years. It is forecast to be the cheapest form of power within a few years exceeding even onshore windfarms. Chief executive of the trade body Solar Energy UK, Chris Hewett, said that solar power could continue to supply electricity during the winter months. Solar currently provides about 4.5% of the UK’s electricity but he said it was “eminently achievable” to triple this by 2030, at no cost to consumers, if the government paves the way by removing regulatory difficulties.

Jan Rosenow, Europe director at the Regulatory Assistance Project, said that even though UK electricity is partly generated by gas, domestic heat pumps that run on electricity could also reduce the UK’s dependence on gas.

He said:

“But even if all of the electricity used by heat pumps was generated by gas the much higher efficiency of heat pumps would still result in a reduction of gas use.”

However, as Fouquet notes:

“Wind and solar do suffer from intermittency problems. So, while accelerating the transition to renewable energy sources is welcome for environmental reasons, it is important to develop an energy system that is flexible to these intermittencies.”

There needs to be more investment in large scale battery storage technology which up until now the government has failed to do. Also though controversial, nuclear reactors could provide a steady stream of power to the grid to counterbalance the intermittency of some renewable energy. Plans to build a new fleet of reactors by successive governments over two decades, to replace the UK’s ageing nuclear plants have been mired in difficulties. The Trade union, Prospect, has called on the government to prioritise its strong domestic sources of electricity, including nuclear power, to ensure a safe and resilient low carbon future.

Another crucial measure that needs to be addressed is to reduce the amount of energy that is wasted. British homes are currently among the draughtiest and least efficient in Europe, but little has been done to improve this. The government introduced a scheme last year, the Green Homes Grant which was largely meant to get to grips with the issue of insulation. The grant was part of the government’s much vaunted push to Build Back Greener from the pandemic. However, due to poor administration it was scrapped by the Treasury in March this year after only 6 months, and nothing has yet replaced it. 

It will be tempting for ministers to go back to business as usual once the current crisis has passed. However, experts contacted by the Guardian warned that this crisis should be seen as a sign of things to come and that the government should introduce the package of measures needed to protect the UK’s gas supply and shift the economy to a low-carbon footing.

Rob Gross concluded:

“Ultimately, it will depend on the level of storage, interconnection and demand management to make best use of renewable resources and break the link between gas and power prices.”

What Part Will Heat Pumps Play in Achieving a Net-Zero Britain?

Heat Pump

Heat pumps are a key low carbon heating system that will be vital in helping to decarbonise heat in our homes over the next decade. It is crucial that we address the challenge of installing these systems at the pace and scale necessary for meeting the UK’s net-zero targets. Millions of homeowners will have to change the way they heat their homes. Around 15% of energy is currently being used to heat our buildings and homes. This means that there are big carbon savings to be made if we change to low carbon renewable forms of heating.

Although heat pumps have been around for a long time take up has been slow due to issues with installation costs and practicalities. Most homeowners are not familiar with the technology so need to be able to access expert, impartial advice on how to make heat pumps cost effective for them. There is an abundance of information available now to help energy consumers understand the benefits of heat pumps.

Heat pumps are becoming more popular as people look for ways to decarbonise the heating of their homes. They work by extracting energy from the ground, air or water, and transferring this heat energy from one area to another in the same way that refrigerators or air conditioning units operate. They do still consume a significant amount of electricity. For example, for three units of heat energy produced by a typical system, around one unit of electrical energy will be consumed. If renewable electricity is used the system becomes carbon neutral. Heat pumps can be installed in most property types, but many people are still unsure about their benefits. Change needs to happen because if heat pumps do not become a normal fixture in people’s homes, the UK will not meet its net-zero targets. If we were to replace all oil boilers and half of our existing gas boilers with an air source heat pump, we could reduce our national CO2 emissions by 8%, or nearly 29 million tonnes.


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An important milestone on the UK’s path to net-zero emissions by 2050 was reached on Easter weekend when the electricity system was the greenest it has ever been. Low carbon energy sources made up almost 80% of power, there was no coal generation on the grid and just 10% of power came from gas-fired power stations. Several factors contributed to this achievement. It was a sunny, windy day on a bank holiday when factories were closed and coupled with a lockdown it was the perfect day to make the most of the UK’s renewable energy sources.

However, there is still a long way to go to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. Key to meeting the net-zero challenge for homes is the scaling up of the supply chain. Firm targets and long-term investment from both the government and the private sector are essential to provide the confidence in demand which will allow the supply chain to invest.  

In November 2020, one of the headline ambitions in Boris Johnson’s Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution was the commitment to a new target of 600,000 heat pump installations a year by 2028. The government has committed to bringing an end to installing gas and oil boilers in new build homes by 2025. At the same time the government’s independent advisors on the climate change committee (CCC) has recommended a UK target of one million installations a year by 2030. A steeper deployment trajectory could result in 5.5 million heat pumps in homes cumulatively by 2030. The CCC also predicts that that around a fifth of heat will be distributed through heat networks by 2050. All of this is a sizeable ambition, and we will need collective action from policymakers, landlords, local authorities, businesses and homeowners to get us there. 

The government also raised the interim greenhouse gas emissions target for 2030 to a 68 per cent reduction on 1990 levels, up from 57 per cent before. This brings the interim target in line with the UK’s net-zero by 2050 goal, but this also means that the 2030 challenge is increased by 20%.

The CCC said:

“We firmly believe that we need to make the move away from fossil fuel boilers attractive, simple and fair for all.”

In order to speed up the installation of heat pumps across the UK financial incentives will be required for both social and private sector homes. Though the Green Homes Grant was blighted by problems and was closed to new applicants after only a few months it did at least raise the awareness of heat pump technology. The grant provided vouchers of up to £5,000 for primary measures including insulation and low carbon heating systems.

However, many people may not realise that there has been funding in place to help with the cost of installing heat pumps since 2011, the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI). To access the benefits of the RHI you need to be able to afford the upfront investment for the installation of a heat pump. If you join the RHI scheme, you receive a quarterly tariff payment for every kilowatt hour (kWh) of renewable heat you produce. This is paid quarterly over 7 years and goes a long way towards covering your initial outlay. The RHI scheme is due to close in March 2022. This scheme does not suit everyone of course and the government is said to be looking at hugely expanding an existing scheme called Clean Heat Grants to boost the take up of low carbon alternatives to traditional heating systems. Currently the Clean Heat Grant scheme is due to be launched in April 2022, run for two years and offer grants of up to £4,000. It has been rumoured that Boris Johnson would like to quadruple the scheme’s funding to £400m, extend its duration to three years and increase its starting point to £7,000.

It has also been said that the government are preparing a big advertising campaign for the new scheme sometime in the autumn to encourage people to replace their gas boilers, in the run up to the COP26 climate change conference in November.

If the UK is to reach its net-zero target by 2050 there needs to be a clear phasing date for fossil fuel heating which is in line with the phasing date for gasoline and diesel vehicles. This will support the renewables sector as well as give individuals and markets a clear signal of direction. With the lifespan of a traditional boiler being around 15 years, it would suggest that the latest the date should be set is 2035.

At this time less than 250,000 of the 29 million UK households are equipped with heat pumps. In 2019 just 27,000 heat pumps were installed in sharp contrast to the 1.7 million replacement boilers. The CCC has said that if the UK is to meet its ambitious net-zero targets by 2035, up to 15 million homes would need to be fitted with heat pumps or hybrid heat pumps by 2035.

Decisions made by the government now will have far-reaching consequences for the UK. The government is due to publish its long-awaited Heat and Buildings strategy this year and there is no time to lose on this vital policy area. The strategy needs to provide confidence and clarity around making heat pumps available to everyone and to stimulate the market investment that will make this happen.

If we are to have a heat pump revolution, we will also need greater investment and commitment to green jobs. Thinktank, Onward, estimated in a recent study that while the need to retrofit homes and ensure low-carbon domestic heating will create around 1.1 million new jobs by 2030, only 5,700 workers a year are currently training in these areas. This indicates a serious shortfall for what is required.

Around 23% of fuel-poor households in England live in social housing and for many other householders, the expense of a heat pump is prohibitive. This has led to 20 organisations including the Energy saving Trust to call for a Fair Heat Deal that will help give people on low incomes access to heat pumps and ensure that they are affordable to install and run.

We all stand to benefit from a future where we enjoy warm, well-insulated homes heated by low-carbon heating system technology. Heat pumps can and must help to lead the way in accelerating the UK’s transition to net-zero.