Tag Archives: environmental

Safeguarding the UK’s future water supply- pirates aside

Keeping our future water supply secure- except maybe from pirates.

It might sound silly that on this little island of ours- surrounded by water- we could find ourselves running out of fresh water in as little as 40 years, but as things are, this may well be our reality. It is estimated that by 2050, the UK will have shortages in our water supply of up to 10,000 million litres a day. Innovations in technology and services will be necessary if we want to avoid this grim prospect.

Ten small/mid-sized companies in the UK stand at the ready to deliver feasibility projects designed to help businesses keep our future water supply covered. If successful, these innovative projects could be applied both here and abroad.

With business investment, the total cost of these projects is just over £1 million, with an excess of £500,000 in funding from the Technology Strategy Board, and a potential £100,000 by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), with contributions from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) as well.

The aim of these projects is to give businesses the means to develop the preliminary ideas necessary for the creation of innovative new technologies. These may then become larger projects with the potential to create the new markets of the future.

It is estimated that around 1.6 billion people currently live in countries where scarcity of water is a serious issue, making it a clear and weighty environmental issue for the world as a whole.

The Technology Strategy Board intends for this new venture to find solutions for safeguarding our future water supply, but also create a market opportunity by funding companies that can find new, profitable ways of using the water sources we have at present, more efficiently.

The challenge has been set- every company that is successful will be charged with creating new technologies and processes that can either save or recycle 1,000 million litres of water a day.

Of the intended projects, a couple of particular interest are those of Xeros, and Aquamesh:-

-Aquamesh will be using their knowledge of the mining industry to create a low energy sensor network for farmers, which should significantly reduce the amount of water used in irrigation, and potentially increase the yield of crops.

-Xeros, most recently in the limelight for their innovative new washing machine which use virtually no water. Xeros will be working with the leather industry to find a way of cleaning leather without consuming vast amounts of fresh water, and reduce the polluting toxins in the huge billion pound industry.

Can the UK offer a clean, secure and affordable power sector?

The UK Government has a plan to save energy in homes by overhauling the electricity market.  But they are warned that this overhaul will not ensure the UK has a secure, clean and affordable power sector. If they overhaul energy provision, they will probably want to reform the market. This will bring in long-term contracts that pay a steady rate of return for energy from new low-carbon generators. But this is needed to deliver the billions of pounds of investment needed for energy infrastructure to keep the lights on.

The upfront costs of energy efficiency measures for homes can be covered by a ‘green deal’ that has been brought in. This also includes companies providing energy-saving measures for poor households.

But some consumer, industry and environmental organizations like the University of Exeter, energy giant SSE, Consumer Focus and environmental charity WWF issued a warning that the measures were inadequate. They said that government policies will not deliver the large energy savings that are needed to cut greenhouse emissions and secure that UK’s suppliers are secure.

They said that developing low carbon power and energy efficiency measures would hit consumers, and in particular the people on a low income. The renewable energy sector in the UK would not have the certainty it needs to deliver investments and jobs in the UK with the plans that the government has now.  They said one of the main efforts of the government should be to try and make energy more affordable for everyone.

Energy efficient measures should be funded by the revenues raised through carbon floor prices. So energy companies have to pay a minimum price for the credits they have purchased to cover their pollution.

So it was needed for the long-term contract for low-carbon electricity to be reviewed. They have to make sure that the contracts are suitable for renewable energy, as the scheme has been primarily designed to support new nuclear reactors.

Nick Molho, of WWF-UK, said that everyone is coming at this from different perspectives, but everyone wants the UK to succeed in developing a clean, secure and affordable power sector. They are deeply concerned that Government proposals now are just not up to the job.

Future Cities Demonstrator competition

Local authorities of urban areas with a population of at least 125,000 in the UK can enter the Future Cities Demonstrator competition. This is a design competition to hunt for ideas for “future cities”. The UK government launched this competition worth £24 million and it’s funded by the Technology Strategy Board (TSB). The aim is to improve the overall quality of life for people living in the city. And they want to do this with unique and functional methods of integrating city systems in an environmentally-sound and economical way. So, this calls for large-scale designs.

There are lots of things that local authorities should consider when they think about these future cities. Transport, communication and waste management are just a handful of the systems that have to be put in a proposal for the future city.

Iain Gray, Chief Executive at TSB, said that in the future, efficient, attractive and resilient cities need to be delivered. So there will be a large market for innovative approaches. TSB is well positioned to exploit the growing market since they have world-leading companies in areas such as project management, engineering, architecture, energy and transport systems, communications and the digital economy.

When local authorities enter the competition, they can win one of the 20 grants of £50,000. These grants can be used to further demonstrate and develop the ideas they entered. And one of these twenty grants is a £24 million award for the final proposal.

The government hopes that the programme will give multinationals and homegrown SME’s an incentive to work together with cities and to start debates to create more efficient and integrated systems and products. The debate is already going on, with University College London, Imperial College and Cisco announcing in 2011 that they would open a Future Cities Centre in east London’s Tech City. And TSB  also announced earlier this year that they will launch the Future Cities Catapult, a technology research centre focusing on innovative city planning and supporting businesses in the field.

So the competition gives cities and businesses the change to test innovative ideas and see the results of their ideas sooner than they might have thought.