Green Futures: Sustainable energy supply and generation

It is unmistakable that we are living in a climate, energy supply and biodiversity emergency. Most people agree that it is past the time for half-measures. If we are going to tackle the climate emergency, we need to go way beyond current practice for sustainable building design.

In June 2019, Theresa May put in place a legal structure[1] for the UK to become carbon neutral by 2050, making Britain the first major economy to do so.  Most people agree that this is a step in the right direction, but that the hard work is only just beginning.

Cambridgeshire is facing an electricity emergency as infrastructure investment isn’t keeping up with growing demand in the county. Energy supply in South Cambridgeshire is already at capacity and much more supply is needed to support growth. Local residents and businesses in South Cambridgeshire villages have already noticed problems with their energy supply, with power outages becoming more common. The Local East Energy Strategy sets out the challenges to our electricity supply.

Peak demand for electricity nationally is expected to increase from 60GW currently to 85GW in 2050. Current peak demand in the LEE area is 6.4GW. If our area sees similar increases to those projected nationally this would imply energy demand of approximately 9.1GW by 2050.

To support the expansion plans within the Cluster over the period up to 2027 requires an additional 89 MVA (Mega Volt Amps) against 2 MVA of spare capacity available currently at the substation serving the Southern Cluster Area. – Local East Energy Strategy 2019

Micro-grids, or Smart Integrated Decentralised Energy (SIDE) systems, have been proposed as the answer to the world’s energy crisis. This type of system uses an intelligent system to integrate different components and balance supply and demand, reducing costs. For example, solar panels could collect energy when the sun shines and charge electric vehicles or allow businesses to run; any surplus power is either stored in a battery or sent by the system to power other houses or businesses in the community[2].

SmithsonHill’s plans for ARC include a decentralised energy system complete with energy generation installations and an primary electricity substation to benefit both the proposed project and the surrounding area.

“We are exploring a number of options in line with the targets for the Local East Energy Strategy, which include a decentralised energy system on site and electricity substation and possibly a micro-grid with solar panels, which ultimately could take the development off grid.

“Given that the electricity grid in the area is already at capacity, we would be managing an intelligent multi-input local energy system, that could not only serve the development but also offer reinforcement to the local grid e. In order to future proof our systems we are considering the load demand anticipated from electric vehicle charging points and the very real possibility that fossil fuelled cars will very quickly be phased out of use.Our building designs will include passive cooling to reduce the demand for mechanical fans and air conditioning, which will further reduce the load on the local electrical system” Mark Duffield, Technical Director for SmithsonHill

It has been widely reported that the Combined Authority Board have reviewed electricity supply challenges but as yet no concrete plans are in place to increase supply capacity for the area in line with projected increases in demand.

“It is vital that we have the right energy infrastructure in place to meet the needs of our businesses and beyond, including local residents already inconvenienced by a flagging supply. ” Emma Fletcher, MD SmithsonHill

Through careful design, attention to detail and incorporation of cutting edge technologies the development will be sustainable and energy efficient  while also helping our area continue to be one of the major economic drivers for the UK.


Find more information about our proposed ARC project here.

Read more in our sustainability blog series here.