The Data Behind the Arc’s Renewable Revolution
'Supercharging’ the Arc is as literal as it is figurative in the context of the region’s renewable energy infrastructure.
Demand for clean, sustainable sources of power is at an all-time high, and ‘green’ generative capacity is now a necessary fuel that feeds our national economic output. The government is committed to a transition that’ll see 40% of our future energy production originating from wind, solar, and hydroelectric sources by 2030, in the recognition that existing energy supply chains are responsible for 65% of greenhouse gas emissions globally. The Oxford-Cambridge Arc must play its part in the pursuit of carbon neutrality.
As a long-term spatial framework for growth, the Arc’s responsiveness to new energy requirements will prove crucial to its collective prosperity. At a local authority level some are seeing this relationship faster than others, not least the middle of the Arc where Bedfordshire is making strides in developing its capacity in wind, battery, and solar voltaic energy production. Milton Keynes has also led the way in the operation of state-of-the-art advanced conversion technologies, like waste recovery which utilises heat energy recovery to convert black sack waste previously condemned to landfill into energy which now powers the equivalent of 11,000 homes annually.
Renewable energy generation is important from the perspective of industry operating within the Arc, too.
Oxford’s cluster of atomic engineering has long relied on harvesting localised power in the form of JET flywheels to generate the seismic power required to undertake fusion-based experiments. ‘Energy to pioneer new energy solutions appears’ somewhat ironic, but ultimately the Arc is the site of some of the latest innovations in renewable energy production. The Harwell Campus in Oxford includes an EnergyTec Cluster which includes Siemens and EDF Energy, in addition to consultants such as Ricardo Energy & Environment, and the Faraday Institution, the latter of which has received over £75m in UK government funding to create more efficient batteries.
Looking at our own data, we can show the positive direction of travel for renewable energy within the Arc on a grassroots level. Accounting for schemes in planning, 1663.3 MWelecs of installed capacity for solar power on 161 different sites as diverse as golf clubs, farms, schools and manufacturing plants are proposed. Oxford County Council and the other authorities within the Arc can use and promote renewables for a variety of applications, including for example the biomass boiler at Northampton General Hospital, which won silver in the 2020 Health Care Climate Challenge Champion Awards, saving money for an NHS Trust and the taxpayer whilst helping the local area and the UK meet their climate obligations.
Local authorities must capitalise on the array of renewable energy infrastructure options that are available, if the Arc is to be a genuine standard-bearer.
The diversity of renewable sources of energy in use across the Arc, from onshore wind, to solar, biomass, landfill gas and anaerobic digestion, shows the impressive array of renewables now available in the UK but also the commitment of private business, the public sector, academia, and local government to contributing to the sustainability of the development of the Arc in a tangible and meaningful way. The Arc is a world leader in producing renewable technology, but when this technology is reinvested and used within the region itself it can continue to reduce its impact on the climate in an increasingly efficient way, becoming a cleaner place to live, work and study.