Supporting Bristol’s Smart Energy City vision

CSE to collaborate with council, university, businesses

15 April 2015

As part of CSE's contribution to Bristol 2015, we’re leading a new initiative to map out what needs to happen for the city's Smart Energy City vision to become a reality over the next five years.

"Bristol’s vision to become a smart energy city fits squarely with its aspirations and low carbon energy ambitions, captured in the goals for Bristol 2015 and the City Council’s energy and digital strategies" says CSE's Simon Roberts, who is leading the project. "But there are complexities and challenges, both in its realisation and in the enormous gulf between this smart energy future and the current small-scale trials – even with their suggested expansion."

The smart energy city vision for 2020 – easy to describe...

The vision is that by 2020 Bristol will have a public-interest organisation coordinating smart use, distribution and supply of heat and power across the city for the benefit of its people and businesses. The city will have the capabilities and systems to access, manage and interpret local energy supply and demand data, enabling co-ordinated city and neighbourhood-scale interventions to:

  • balance heat and power demand and supply across the city in real time
  • curb energy waste and reduce peak demand
  • enhance the financial value of renewable heat and power generated in the city, particularly from variable sources like wind, solar and tidal
  • reduce network losses and manage system constraints
  • provide commercial leverage in the energy market to capture for the city, its businesses and households, the economic benefits of an optimised local energy system

…but much harder to realise

To address this, CSE has pulled together a cross-disciplinary group of collaborators. It includes the relevant City Council teams, experts from the University of Bristol and businesses (including some of Bristol 2015’s main supporters), and organisations that represent community and social interests. The Collaboration will explore technical energy and IT issues, commercial drivers, regulatory aspects and the social and cultural dimensions of smart energy, bringing in other stakeholders and experts as necessary. The objective is to map out the steps needed over the next 5 years to realise a Smart Energy vision; what skills, capabilities and facilities are needed across the city and how can they be established and orchestrated?

Simon explains the approach at the heart of the project: “The Collaboration will be inquisitive and open to uncertainty. Our focus will be on finding a workable way to understand and address challenges as they emerge rather than producing ‘answers’ which won’t stand the test of time.”

The Collaboration’s task has been described by one participant as "really really difficult but absolutely the right thing to be doing". Simon welcomes the challenge: “We’re going into this knowing what a complex task we’ve set ourselves – but that’s core to our role as a charity and it’s the point of building a collaboration across sectors and disciplines.”

Read the full project profile here.

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