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How cities can power a cleaner future

two weeks ago
Oxford city

Lockdown has provided us with a glimpse of life in cleaner, more sustainable cities. Investment in electric vehicle charging infrastructure can help make these changes permanent, says Matt Allen, Co-Founder and CEO of Pivot Power, part of EDF Renewables UK.

Our air has been polluted for so long that whole generations have never experienced anything else. But lockdown has given many of us a tantalising glimpse of what the future could look like.

In cities around the world people have had the chance to breathe cleaner air, enjoy traffic-free streets and catch sight of historic landmarks long concealed from view.

The desire to make these changes permanent is driving increased interest in cleaner modes of transport, from bikes and scooters to electric vehicles (EVs).

We must seize this moment to transform our cities and ensure that post-Covid-19 we provide the low carbon infrastructure and zero carbon transport solutions for people to travel safely and efficiently, creating permanent changes in air quality and accelerating progress towards a net zero future.

Zero carbon transport

Where possible we need to encourage walking and cycling (sales of e-bikes and scooters quadrupled under lock-down) but where cars, vans, buses and other vehicles are required we need to accelerate the switch to electric versions – and make sure the electricity powering them is low carbon.

City-centre clean air zones and other schemes to discourage polluting vehicles make electrifying buses, taxis, council fleets, last-mile delivery vans and business and private vehicles a must.

But this will only be possible with investment in EV charging infrastructure – both capacity and charge points – so that businesses and residents can reliably and affordably charge their vehicles where and when they need to.

Electric taxi

Powering change

One of the biggest challenges is getting large amounts of power to the right places, for example, to charge a bus fleet or power a public superhub – akin to a petrol station – where drivers can charge and be on the move in minutes. But local network constraints can make accessing essential capacity both costly and time consuming, creating a barrier to transport electrification.

This is where Pivot Power comes in. We’re developing a nationwide network of Energy Superhubs, combining grid-scale batteries and high volume power connections to create city-wide EV charging networks powered by low carbon energy sources.

This low carbon infrastructure acts as a catalyst for investment in charge points and fleets, helping to accelerate EV adoption and create cleaner, more sustainable cities where more people want to live and work.

Energy Superhub Oxford

We’re starting in Oxford where we have partnered with Oxford City Council to deliver one of the most ambitious urban decarbonisation projects globally, with backing from UKRI. Energy Superhub Oxford is creating a powerful charging network across the city to help businesses and drivers go electric. An EV public superhub at one of Oxford’s Park & Rides will provide 50+ charge points catering for a range of vehicles and speeds, so that visitors can charge in minutes or while they work or shop in the city. The network has the capacity to expand with EV adoption and provide power for local businesses seeking to electrify their fleets, from logistics companies to bus operators.

It shares a connection to National Grid’s high voltage transmission network with a 50MW hybrid battery storage system, helping our electricity network to make more use of renewable energy. This means that as more EVs hit the road, we can increase the amount of low carbon electricity powering them and accelerate Oxford’s journey to zero carbon.

A net zero blueprint

Energy Superhub Oxford provides a blueprint for towns and cities across the UK to invest in a green recovery and create the low carbon infrastructure needed to achieve net zero.

As part of EDF Renewables, our aim is to replicate this model at 40 sites throughout the UK, chosen for their proximity to urban populations and major road networks, to support greater low carbon electricity generation and deliver power where and when it is needed.

The EV revolution is underway, but working together, we can put the right charging infrastructure in place to enable more businesses and people to go electric, so we can all breathe cleaner air in our towns and cities, permanently.

www.energysuperhuboxford.org