A report by Sarita Patel
The world’s environment is dying! We, as the prominent species that live on the planet, contribute to this existential crisis. Last month, the European Parliament declared a climate emergency. We wanted to find out how Coventry, the businesses, the people and the Council, could reduce our impact on the climate crisis and understand how Coventry should secure a ‘clean, green future’. So we interviewed the Head of E.ON Drive UK, Darren Gardner and the E.ON UK City Energy Transformation Manager, Phil McDermott.
Sarita: What initiatives have E.ON already put into place to secure a ‘Clean, Green Future’ in the UK?
To secure a clean, green future in the UK and help to meet the UN environmentally sustainable goals and the 2015 Paris agreement, Darren said that E.ON has sold off all of its fossil fuel assets, replacing coal with wind, solar and small-scale biomass. He explained that E.ON now only generates and supplies renewable electricity to customers, whether they are a business or an electric vehicle driver.
“For the last 10 years, E.ON has focused on de-carbonising power. Instead of the energy market acting as a centralised energy function, relying on power generated via fossil fuels from large power stations, E.ON is facilitating the transition to a decentralised and democratised energy system. This involves utilising local recycled and renewable energy sources and empowering communities and city councils to own their own assets and really get their voices heard by taking an active role in the future of energy”.
E.ON has also developed ‘Ectogrid’ which Darren explained is a more efficient way of serving the energy needs of a group of different customers . For example, if a care home were to produce excess heat demand then instead of using fossil fuels to generate cooling, E.ON recycles and saves the energy from another place that has excess cooling.
Sarita: Are there any cities which have programmes to reduce their carbon footprint?
City Leap in Bristol is a leading example of how to tackle climate change. City Leap is a series of energy and infrastructure investment opportunities that represent a big step towards a cleaner, greener Bristol. Bristol is committed to being a carbon-neutral city by 2030.
“Bristol recognise the climate emergency and are taking clear steps in response. The elected mayor of Bristol, Marvin Rees, is very keen on promoting equality amongst the culturally diverse population in Bristol. The collective values of people in the city are strongly aligned with sustainability issues generally. Anything that Bristol does, Marvin Rees wants to be part of – in Bristol that is raising equality and creating benefits for everyone that lives there”.
When asked if he thought Coventry could do something similar to this and how, Darren said Coventry could “most definitely learn from Bristol and the City Leap programme by engaging with the population of Coventry at a political level. The City Council should be a natural leader to communicate a vision and take drastic leadership in addressing the serious issue of climate change”. He said “there needs to be encouragement from the right people, for example, large corporations and businesses to support and highlight the importance of climate change”. Phil explained that “there is a huge commercial opportunity here to support local businesses and employment in this transition but also implement change in a positive way that improves the lives of people in our communities”.
Sarita: What do you think some of the obstacles would be and how would you suggest we overcome them?
In order to receive engagement from the population in Coventry, there needs to be a realisation that the climate crisis is a serious issue and needs addressing in the long-term – both from the City Council and the businesses within Coventry.
Phil also explained another huge challenge Coventry needs to overcome:
“One of the biggest challenges Coventry faces, and the UK in general, is transitioning to a more renewable supply for electricity is the costs. To execute this decentralised energy model is more costly rather than a traditionally centralised model. This is a result of the huge investment needed in infrastructure to support that and to support growing demand. As things decarbonise, things become electrified therefore electricity becomes a key commodity (other more carbon-intensive fuels melt away into the background). The biggest challenge is for businesses and the Council to communicate to the population to use less electricity as the cost is only going to get higher. Investing in energy efficiency measures for homes and businesses is a key step to mitigate these costs”.
This all comes back to the Coventry City Council establishing leadership and communicating a vision to the people of Coventry. By getting citizens involved, the Council need to prioritise telling people to change their lifestyle in simple and effective ways in order to build momentum and motivation.
Sarita: What are your final words to the people of Coventry?
Darren asked the question “How high on the agenda is climate change for you?”. Phil said “Our response to Climate change has a big role to play in our future health and wellbeing. For example, if people aren’t warm enough because their homes are not energy-efficient and costly to run, this has a detrimental effect on personal health, impacting waiting lists and spending in doctors surgeries and hospitals. Coventry could make things cheaper and better for people by re-prioritising the agenda.”
- City Leap programme: https://www.energyservicebristol.co.uk/cityleap/
- ON à Smart Cities: https://www.eonenergy.com/business/challenge/smart-cities-and-communities.html
- ON à Ectogrid: http://ectogrid.com/
- Coventry Telegraph: “Why I went on strike from school to protest climate change” https://www.coventrytelegraph.net/news/coventry-news/went-strike-school-protest-climate-15992288