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Electric cities — vision and necessity

 

WSP’s report Powering ahead-fast track to an all-electric city suggests that a London which is all electric – for power, heating and travel – by 2035 is a practical answer to an increasingly lethal urban atmosphere.  But is it possible – and what’s the urgency? We explore further.

Buses and taxis are responsible for almost 50 per cent of all NOx emissions in the City of London, while air pollution has been linked to heart problems, asthma and other lung diseases, including cancer. According to the GLA, 4,300 people a year die every year in London because of poor air quality. There is an argument for change, soon.

All-electric by 2035 is both possible and affordable 

The all electric city is almost in reach. Energy infrastructure is being upgraded to anticipate new energy demand. Decarbonisation of the UK’s electricity supply from the National Grid is already underway. By 2035 almost every bus, taxi and car on the road will have been changed from today’s fleet. The vast majority of existing boilers will have reached the end of their life and been replaced. So it’s a simple change to progressively deliver our vision.

The all-electric city is also affordable.  Most of our ideas to deliver our all-electric city are no or low cost or can be funded on a commercial basis. They also take into account the current economic situation and the importance of keeping energy bills low. 

The challenge is to start now

Our all-electric London – or indeed any leading city – will be achieved by clear direction, policy decisions and leadership.

The biggest challenge is to make a commitment. The all-electric city won’t happen by chance and will take time.  Buses, taxis, cars and boilers all have an economic life of around fifteen years. Every year of ‘business as usual’ is a year’s delay for a low noise, clean air city. That’s why we believe 2035 is a reasonable target – close enough to encourage momentum, but far enough away to be realistic. 

Electric dreams- our vision

“The all-electric city is a great prize.  Home and office windows will be thrown open all over the city. Londoners will get a better night’s sleep. Today’s traffic-choked, noisy streets will be revitalised as places to relax and drink a coffee.  It’s a leading, competitive city that continues to grow and attract jobs and investment. A true breath of fresh air.”
Barny Evans, WSP associate.

The electrifying facts

  •   London was ranked 38th in this year’s Mercer’s quality of life survey - way behind cities such as Vienna and Zurich because of its air pollution and traffic congestion.
  •    Buses and taxis are responsible for almost 50 per cent of all NOx emissions in the City of  London
  •    Commercial and domestic gas use accounts for 14 per cent of total NOx emissions
  •      Air pollution has been linked to heart problems, asthma and other lung diseases, including cancer
  •   According to the GLA, 4,300 people a year die every year in London because of poor air quality; the UK-wide estimate is 29,000 premature deaths
  •    Full electrification of London by 2030 could bring an overall 37 per cent reduction in NO2 emissions (which harm the airways in our lungs), with greater reductions possible on a local level
  •     London has failed to meet European Union agreed air quality standards and recently revealed that it could still fall short in 2030
  •    Electric cars emit 100  per cent less CO2 emissions than diesel or petrol cars from the exhaust
  •    Even when electric cars are the majority of new car purchases there will be time lag of 5-10 years before most people own one

Going electric - Here’s what you think

In October 2014, WSP teamed up with polling and research consultancy, ComRes, to interview over 1,000 adults living in London about all-electric urban living. Our findings were:

  • Almost two in three (63 per cent) Londoners support the city becoming fossil free in the next twenty years
  • Air pollution (16 per cent) is the highest day-to-day problem Londoners face after crime levels and cost of living
  • One in four Londoners (25 per cent) have seriously considered moving out of London because of air and noise pollution
  • Reducing energy bills was the second most important investment priority (18 per cent) for Londoners after building more social housing
  • A majority of Londoners (58 per cent) would support an electric hire car scheme – giving lie to the idea that the British are inseparable from their cars
  • The fact that 29,000 people in the UK currently die each year due to harmful air pollution is the top reason for becoming all-electric followed closely by it being cleaner and quieter

Find out how a city becomes electric

You can read our research using the buttons below or take a look at the full report here.

Take a look at the full report here and read the rest of our electric cities research using the headings below:

Powering ahead – fast track to an all-electric city

Fighting climate change – reducing CO2 emissions

Reducing noise

Taking the city air – the current situation

Forward steps to an electric future

Read the press release

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