Britain’s cities need urgent transformation in the next decade and beyond if the country is to meet its 2050 net zero targets and create cleaner, safer spaces for citizens, according to a major study from E.ON and the UK Green Building Council.
The two organisations have collaborated on a new initiative called Streets of the Future, drawing on insight from experts across energy, transport and the built environment to create a blueprint of what the UK’s cities should aspire to become.
It details some of the major upgrades needed to combat the climate crisis and meet environmental targets, to develop new economic landscapes post-Covid, enhance the wellbeing and health of citizens and to overcome energy and water conservation challenges. In doing so, cities would be better equipped to manage the many impacts of the climate crisis.
The Streets of the Future insight outlines a range of opportunities for communities, including:
- Smart technology helping people to use less energy and reduce reliance on fossil fuels
- Giving new life to old buildings by re-using and re-purposing existing structures and materials and transforming them for new uses
- Create new green spaces for pedestrians and wider roles for public transport, reducing dependency on private vehicles which would ease congestion whilst reducing emissions and air pollution
- Greater use of nature such as rewilding and more green spaces such as rooftop gardens and green walls, as well as sustainable drainage systems mimicking natural processes while enhancing biodiversity
It also reveals how cleaner energy sources, greater reliance on energy storage and sharing, and much expanded electric vehicle charging networks must become standard for all urban landscapes.
Streets of the Future launches following a significant nationwide survey of 20,000 people which reveals more than half (51%) of UK adults agree the country needs to move faster to address climate change. The survey1, carried out for E.ON, found that more than 23 million people nationwide want to live in the UK’s ‘greenest’ city. Almost two in three people (60%) said taking action for climate starts with communities and cities.
Michael Lewis, Chief Executive of E.ON UK, says: “Cities consume almost four-fifths of the world’s energy and emit more than 60% of greenhouse gas emissions2, so it’s vital that they lead in way in transforming how they are heated and cooled, how transport is managed, and how they support people’s lives. We must create communities that reduce our impact on the planet while being inclusive, safe and equipped to offer every citizen access to a good quality of life.
“The decade ahead is crucial. We need to use it to take action for climate which means fundamentally rethinking our urban areas: to decarbonise and to clear the air in our streets, and also to build communities able to adapt to a changing climate and help mitigate further irreversible changes.”
Julie Hirigoyen, Chief Executive, UK Green Building Council, adds: “Our buildings, streets and cities shape our lives in profound ways. But we urgently need to rethink how they are designed, constructed and maintained if we are to meet the needs of society. We’re all only too aware of the impact of rising energy prices and recent extreme weather conditions on individuals, households and businesses across the country. Our streets and cities must now urgently adapt and transform so that our communities and nature can thrive, as we work toward achieving our net zero 2050 target.
“A critical component to transforming our streets is a national effort to improve the energy efficiency and reduce energy demand across the UK’s homes. We predict around 80,000 homes each month will need to be retrofitted between now and 2050 to reach net zero, with the majority (80%) of them needing to replace gas boilers with high efficiency heat pumps by 2040.”
Delivering the changes needs a multi-pronged approach centred on re-training the energy industry workforce to specialise in new energy systems. It means making sustainable energy technologies, such as solar panels and heat pumps, more affordable to the public through grants and other government support, as well as ensuring every home is properly insulated to reduce energy demand.
But the challenge and scale are not to be underestimated, with more than 20% of homes in the UK built before 1919 and more than 19 million homes estimated to have an energy efficiency performance rating of less than a Grade C.
Lewis also believes the first stage of getting to a cleaner future is to improve millions of homes around the country which are desperately in need of energy efficiency improvements. To do this, he says, “we need to engage consumers and provide them with personalised actions that would help them to decarbonise their homes over the next 10-15 years.”
E.ON is one of the UK and Europe’s leading developers of the energy infrastructure needed to deliver today’s smarter cities, including electric vehicle charging points and tackling energy inefficient housing and commercial buildings.
For more information, and to explore the interactive representation of our future cities, visit eonenergy.com/streets-of-the-future.