Bristol Smart Energy City Collaboration

Mapping the route to realise the vision

Project duration: April 2015 ongoing

Bristol has ambitions to become a smart energy city. As part of CSE’s contribution to Bristol 2015 European Green Capital, the Bristol Smart Energy City Collaboration aims to provide a road map to realise that ambition over the next 5 years.


Click here for our thoughts on the first year of the Collaboration.


Click here to read about the half-day event held on 14 December at which we shared the progress that has been made so far.


Click here to download the detailed progress report: 'Towards a Smart Energy City: mapping a path for Bristol'.


Click here for the publications that came out of our research challenge to explore the public interest in smart energy data.


The vision for Bristol as the UK’s first smart energy city

By 2020, Bristol will have a public-interest organisation coordinating the 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

The Collaboration

This Smart Energy City vision fits squarely with the city’s aspirations and low carbon energy ambitions, captured in the goals for Bristol 2015 and the City Council’s energy and digital strategies" says Simon Roberts, CEO at the Centre for Sustainable Energy and lead on the project.

"But it barely hints at either the complexities and challenges involved in its realisation or the the enormous gulf between this smart energy future and the current small-scale technical trials even with their suggested expansion".

Realising this vision requires:

  1. a detailed understanding of the complex web of technical, commercial, regulatory and social aspects;
  2. a clear sense of the skills, capabilities and facilities required across the city;
  3. a plan for how these might be viably established and how they might best be orchestrated.

That’s where the Smart Energy City Collaboration comes in. With support from the three of the Sainsbury Family Charitable Trusts, CSE is bringing together a cross-disciplinary group of ‘Collaborators’. The group includes obvious participants like Western Power Distribution (who run the local electricity distribution network); relevant City Council teams; the University of Bristol’s Computer Science and Electronic Engineering departments; and other Bristol 2015 supporters such as KPMG, Arup and DNV-GL. It draws in data, technical and smart meter expertise from Secure Group (which owns Bristol-based Horstmann controls), Demand Logic and the city’s ‘programmable city’ platform, Bristol is Open.

And crucially it reflects social and community interests, both through the Centre for Sustainable Energy and with Knowle West Media Centre – innovators in engaging more deprived and vulnerable communities. The Collaboration will work together to start developing our collective understanding and to map out the steps which need to be taken over the next 5 years to establish the conditions and capabilities in Bristol to realise this vision.

Our approach is to establish five interlinked work strands: Technical I (energy systems); Technical II (IT, data, apps and analytics); Commercial (how to create and realise value); Regulatory/Policy (including opportunities for experimental zones for new practices); Social and Cultural (including public perception and community needs). These will be explored through a series of specific discussion papers and stakeholder workshops over the year, integrated by the Collaborators into a comprehensive road map to be launched in December 2015.

Our approach

The Collaboration will work in a way that's inquisitive and open to uncertainty, accepting the complexities involved and the dynamic nature of the relevant regulatory, technical, commercial and social domains. While it may find some ‘answers’, its principal goal is to establish an understanding of the challenges involved and a workable approach to engaging with and addressing them over time. That said, there are four key questions which we do expect to answer by the end of the year:

  1. Can ‘Bristol’ work as a viable organising scale for the management and application of smart energy data in the public interest, and if so, on what basis?
  2. What institutional and governance arrangements need to be in place to sustain progress for Bristol while enabling a flexible response to changing circumstances?
  3. What are the key steps to take next in Bristol?
  4. How can the lessons of the Collaboration be applied more widely? 
For further information contact:

Simon Roberts OBE | 0117 934 1441

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