Future-proof London: Redevelopment in the age of IoT

Future-proof London: Redevelopment in the age of IoT

London Old Oak Commons
Greater London Authority
West London's longtime rail hub Old Oak Commons is in the midst of a major redevlopment effort.

Planning for the redevelopment of London's Old Oak Common — a former railroad depot that also served a stint as a center of British pig farming — is in full swing.

With the appointment of the Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation (OPDC) board, what lessons can the team behind the project learn to ensure the scheme is future-proofed and can meet the needs of Londoners for generations to come?

In February, London's population reached a high of 8.6 million people, exceeding the previous record set in 1939. Current estimates predict the city's population will reach 11 million by 2050.

There is an urgent need for new housing in the U.K. capital to help manage this growth. The Greater London Authority (GLA) also has outlined ambitious investment plans to improve the capital's infrastructure, which could require up to $1.987 trillion from now until 2050 — most of which needs to go on housing and transport.

As part of one of the largest redevelopment schemes in London for decades, plans are fully afoot to transform brownfield land in Old Oak Common and Park Royal into a sustainable new town close to the heart of the city.

At present, the Mayor of London's office suggests that development in north-west London will create up to 24,000 homes and more than 55,000 jobs. According to the GLA, the scheme will be an exemplar in accessible, high quality and "smart" redevelopment which, over the next 20 years, will strengthen London's role as a global city.

Low-carbon redevelopment

Within the wider redevelopment project in this currently underused region of west London, the London Sustainable Development Commission (LSDC) is also drawing up plans to create a world-leading clean tech hub.

The LSDC, which advises the mayor on the city's low-carbon economy, hopes the hub will attract forward-thinking startups and large green companies from across Europe, especially once major planned train lines open, including Crossrail and HS2.

Accordingly, the GLA's Draft Old Oak and Park Royal Opportunity Area Planning Framework sets out an ambitious vision to ensure that the Old Oak and Park Royal area is an exemplar of low-carbon development.

The GLA already has committed to achieving the highest standards of energy efficiency and low-carbon technology and, to this end, has pledged to produce an energy strategy and subsequent energy master plan for the area.

[Learn more about smarter cities and resilience at VERGE San Jose, Oct. 26 to 29.]

The mayor has set a target for London to self-generate 25 percent of all electricity consumption by 2025 to improve system resilience and reduce the cost of transmission. Local energy in London includes solar power and heating networks supplied by plants which are close to where energy is used and which generate heat and power at the same time.

The problem with these approaches is that they require space, already at a premium in London.

Added to this, not only is gas for combined heat and power tied in to volatile global energy prices, but it is also carbon emitting — a particularly problematic scenario for a city already struggling with an air pollution crisis.

Catching the smart cities wave

The city is in urgent need of a high-tech energy solution. As this swath of London begins its transformation, it is essential that the GLA fully embraces the huge opportunity for system change to ensure the scheme is future-proofed and can meet the needs of Londoners for generations to come.

Cutting edge software and an Internet of Things approach to energy-consuming assets are enabling advanced forms of demand response technology to be rolled out across a range of equipment. (My company, Open Energi, is one of many that offers products rooted in demand response models.)

Equipment that can be tied into such systems includes heaters, pumps, chillers, refrigerators and air conditioning units — turning them into smart, automated and autonomous devices that can react instantly to changes in electricity supply and demand across the network to free up capacity — while also delivering new revenues for consumers in return for improved grid resilience.

The U.K. historically has tried to deal with capacity issues by increasing supply rather than addressing the root of the problem. To illustrate the potential scale of success, we should look to the United States, where the use of demand response technology already has shaved off 10 percent of the country's peak energy demand.

British utility National Grid urgently needs more flexibility from the demand side to support intermittent renewable use and meet rising energy demand — and already has announced targets to increase demand side balancing capacity from 700MW to 3GW by 2020.

In London alone, around 250MW (equivalent to 5 percent of peak demand) of flexibility in our energy system easily could be used using demand response. This effectively would remove one whole peaking power station from the grid.

Of the $1.987 trillion OPDC infrastructure plan, $229 billion of spending is slated for energy. If we apply the 5 percent flexibility logic above, this equates to instant savings of $11.46 billion.

Demand flexibility resides in a range of city areas. For example, 18 percent of London's energy consumption comes from commercial buildings, of which at least 20 percent is flexible. About 2 percent of power consumption comes from the water sector, of which 80 percent is flexible.

In aggregate, this flexibility can provide London with a "Virtual Power Plant," meeting the needs of the growing population without the need for any new infrastructure.

The business case

The business case for demand response already exists without any need for intervention or support — and already is being applied effectively by organizations from National Grid to energy intensive corporates, such as Sainsbury's.

From a sustainability perspective, too, demand response makes sense in enabling businesses to move beyond their own footprint and supply chains to help deliver system-wide change.

As development progresses, the Old Oak Common and Park Royal project is a prime candidate for smart grids and demand side response at both building (new and retrofitting existing) and aggregate levels to optimize capacity investment, reduce energy demand, balance local energy supply and demand, including peak energy across the site, and reduce the need for network reinforcement.

HyperCat City's work in promoting IOT standards, and then involving these in planning and design phases, already provide OPDC with some crucial tools needed to deliver real cost reduction benefits.

As London expands, there is a huge opportunity to capitalize on power demand flexibility to drive major cost and carbon efficiency benefits for the city.

To achieve that, we must first create a comprehensive map of where flexibility currently resides in the system which will show the level of generation actually required to power new build projects, such as Old Oak Common and Park Royal.

Those new build projects present the opportunity to map demand flexibility at a highly granular level (by building), which will create a true image of where capacity lies. In other words, redevelopment offers a chance to build in resilience from the ground up.