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Presented by Professor Simon Spooner, Principal Scientist, Atkins UK

About this Webinar

The City of London Corporation’s Climate Action Strategy commits to net zero by 2040. By far the largest direct greenhouse gas emissions from the City of London are from burning natural gas to heat buildings. Better insulation levels can reduce this requirement but for existing buildings there are limits to the practical levels of improvement and for new buildings extreme efficiency involves compromises with building function and aesthetics. District heating systems using combined heat and power are more energy efficient solutions overall but are rarely economic and the insulated hot pipe networks are impractical. Electric heat pumps have emerged as the practical and high efficiency solution eliminating
combustion and emissions at the point of use and dramatically reducing the total energy demand overall. Individual building ground source systems require expensive and impractical excavations or boreholes and air sourced systems require large fan arrays and struggle in severely cold weather. Something better is needed by 2040.

A possible solution for the City of London would be to construct a network of low to medium temperature water circulation to which users can connect their building systems and extract heat using heat pumps or deposit excess heat from their processes or building cooling. Multiple additional sources and sinks for heat such as the river Thames, the underlying aquifers and the transport network can be connected via heat pumps to supply heat or provide sinks for excess heat as required. Data centres and industries can also use the network to reuse heat under circular economy principles.

The technical challenges of implementing such a system are not that great, all the components are available today, however, the financial, institutional, and regulatory challenges are considerable. In this talk I will introduce the technical premise and then explore ways that such a system could be implemented applying the principles of a combustion transition. This is a framework of metrics and enabling funds to facilitate multiple stakeholders to cooperate to deliver major infrastructure innovations that in this case could help the City of London to achieve its net-zero targets by 2040.


About the Speaker

Prof Simon Spooner is an environmental scientist applying scientific methods combined with social, political and regulatory models to address the challenges that we face and help build better infrastructure systems.

Currently his main activities are: as a senior expert advisor on the UK health Security Agency programme to develop wastewater based epidemiology responses to the Covid-19 pandemic; applying his SimBasinQ river basin water quality model to address the impact of wastewater discharges on our rivers; and developing nature based catchment solutions to flooding, water quality, water resources, biodiversity and carbon sequestration.
He has developed the combustion transition framework, an innovative approach to integrating GHG emissions reductions and land-use based regeneration of natural processes with a framework of metrics and economic tools to facilitate an accelerated transition to net-zero.

As a consultant with Atkins and before that Mott MacDonald he worked about half his time overseas, mostly in China over the last 30 years, on major World Bank, EU and UK government projects in urban environment development, energy systems and environmental policy. He was Technical Director for water and environment for Atkins in China delivering urban planning projects. More recently he worked in partnership with KPMG for the UK FCDO in China on the development of environmental governance processes and access to international financing for infrastructure projects under China’s Belt and Road programme. In the UK he mostly worked for water companies in wastewater and river basin management and in water industry regulatory processes.

Honorary Professor of Nottingham University in UK and China, regular guest lecturer Cambridge, Tsinghua and many Chinese Universities. Author of reference books on water and environmental regulation in English and Chinese. Advisory Board Member for UK and EU research projects.

What he really enjoys is building on the latest science and digital systems to innovate and find simpler integrated solutions to complex problems.

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