In 2019 Bristol Energy Coop, along with partners CEPRO and Chelwood Community Energy, established the Microgrid Foundry. Its aim was to establish a replicable way of building net zero residential housing at scale. Microgrids combine excellent energy efficiency with on-site renewables, energy storage and smart technology. Residents get most of their energy from on-site generation, topping up from the grid when needed, and exporting any excess energy to it. No fossil fuel is used on site.
BEC has a 49% stake in the Microgrid Foundry, and has since invested in the first two schemes to be developed using this approach – the Water Lilies microgrid in Bristol and the Hazelmead microgrid in Bridport. Both sites are currently nearing completion.
The Microgrid Foundry approach has struck a chord, and new projects and partnerships are developing at speed. And today we’re excited to announce that the Foundry is part of a winning bid to an international smart cities challenge.
The Climate Smart Cities Challenge is helping innovators and communities design and demonstrate solutions that enable cities to achieve net zero. Launched by the UN and Sweden, the Climate Smart Cities Challenge aims to innovate on a number of climate and sustainability challenges which cities face, and combine the results to achieve multiple, large-scale, transformative outcomes. There are 4 cities acting as “system demonstrator” sites in the Challenge: Bogotá in Colombia, Curitiba in Brazil, Makindye Ssabagabo in Uganda, and Bristol in the UK. The ultimate aim of the smart cities competition is to mobilize over $300 million to implement those demonstrators that are successful.
Each city has a different challenge theme, and Bristol’s is to provide a financing and development model to build out affordable, zero carbon homes.
A unique part of the Climate Smart Cities Challenge is the requirement to collaborate with multiple partners and local council leaders. Often collaboration can be at odds with a business’s financial objectives, yet we know that working together provides a better mix of knowledge to get the right solution.
The Challenge kicked off in 2021, with consortiums forming to work on and submit their bids. Many months later the winning consortiums for each city have recently been announced:
The 4 winning teams are:
and we’re chuffed to say that the Microgrid Foundry is part of the Thriving Places team for the Bristol challenge. It’s made up of:
We’ll be working with Bristol City Council, who will provide suitable demonstrator sites.
Our team hopes to breed a culture of collective design development and decision-making. Given the current context of energy prices, the cost of living and inflation, this is a very timely moment to develop housing that responds to the needs of people and the planet.
More information is at: climatesmart.citieschallenge.org