Lizards, snakes and the sustainable city of the future

In this blog, Michael Lewis, Chief Executive of E.ON UK, explores how inspiration from the natural world could shape the future of our cities and towns. We’re delighted that Michael will be addressing Heat and Decentralised Energy 2020 in London on 25 March, and grateful to E.ON UK for their support for the event.

We live in power hungry times where urbanisation is growing at a rapid rate, meaning cities worldwide need to find ways to grow sustainably along with their swelling populations. In the UK, 2017 figures show 83% of the population already live in urban centres whereas analysts predict that by 2050, 68% of the global population will live in towns and cities.

As the demand for energy grows in these rapidly expanding cities, research and development into new and innovative ways to generate energy is focused on clean, sustainable sources that have minimal impact on the natural environment during production and low, or zero, greenhouse gas emissions when in use.

Energy for sustainable cities
One innovation that can reduce energy consumption and pollution in our growing cities is ectogrid™. Named after ectothermic animals such as snakes and lizards, which repeatedly adjust their temperature up and down to match the surrounding environment, this new energy solution taps into the thermal energy created in cities by human activity. It connects buildings with their neighbours and uses, reuses and balances the residual thermal energy flows between them.

How does ectogrid™ do this?
It combines the best performance elements of heat pumps and cooling machines with those from energy distribution grids in a new and novel way. It connects the city with a cool and flexible grid that distributes thermal energy flows between neighbours. Buildings connected to the grid make energy deposits and withdrawals as required, which means that the energy demands from all the buildings are balanced against each other.

Introducing the world's first ectogrid™
This innovative new energy solution has been developed by E.ON and the first ectogrid™ is being installed at Medicon Village in Sweden, a research and development complex dedicated to advancing knowledge in the life sciences.

The Medicon Village ectogrid™ will connect 15 commercial and residential buildings, all of which have different heating and cooling needs. It's being installed in different phases, but once complete and with the entire network connected, it will cut Medicon Village's energy consumption by approximately 78%, from 10 GWh heating and 4 GWh cooling to as little as 3 GWh of supplied energy. This will see its energy costs reduced by around 20% too.

Another Swedish installation in development is at Orebro Hospital, which will see residences in the health centre's neighbourhood heated by the energy used to cool the hospital.

Future of ectogrid™
Currently available in the UK, Sweden and Germany, businesses can tap into this innovative new energy to improve environmental performance and cut costs through a range of investment options that can flexibly adapt with changing business needs.

This means that the growth our cities will see over the next 30 years can be built on sustainable energy from the outset.

Join us at Heat and Decentralised Energy 2020 to hear more about E.ON’s pioneering and innovative work as we discuss how local energy can help to “level up” the UK’s economic and environmental performance. Click here to book your place.