Net carbon zero sounds impressive, but what does it mean in practice?
Zero is a very easy number to say, but it’s a very difficult number to deliver on. It’s about keeping things in balance; what’s polluting but can be replaced with a green alternative? This is not only limited to energy, but it’s also about buildings as a whole and the materials that go into them and the construction process – traditional concrete produces a lot of CO2. If we can’t remove emissions, how can we counterbalance them?
Can you give some examples of emerging technologies that could be part of the energy mix in 20 or 30 years’ time?
Not all of it is technology, actually! I find that interesting, a lot of it is about integrating things. If you’re releasing heat, you could contribute to the network. We see it happening in Sweden. One example is that we told a small coffee roaster we needed more heat on Mondays and Wednesdays around a certain time of day, and they were able to change their operations to maximise the heat they sold us [from roasting beans] to match that need. They now make money not only from selling their coffee, but also from selling heat that otherwise would be wasted and released to the environment. That’s quite an exciting idea, and it has very little to do with technology.
I can’t imagine the sort of infrastructure you would need in order to make that possible.
It’s not as complicated as we would think. We need infrastructure, but as my colleague who works in engineering would say: the engineering will be sorted. It’s putting in a heat exchanger, something that transfers heat from one side to the other, and then connecting it to a pipe. We can do that. But what we think about a lot is: how do we interact with people? How would all this work in practice? How do people get paid for the heat they sell us? A lot is about getting people excited. It’s a big shift. So how do we make it easy and attractive for people to make good choices? We talk about kilowatt hours, but that means nothing to me as a resident – I want things to work.