What is GreenSCIES?
The GreenSCIES (Smart Community Integrated Energy System) project is a group of organisations working together on a detailed design for a smart local energy system in Islington.
GreenSCIES is a new approach, which replaces fossil fuels with local renewable power generation and waste heat to provide heating, cooling, power and mobility. This will help tackle climate change by significantly reducing carbon emissions. The GreenSCIES design will be replicable across London, the UK and beyond.
The project is being co-designed with the local community, who are contributing to what the system will look like and how it will run.
How does GreenSCIES work?
GreenSCIES is an integrated energy system. It will include a district heat network, where buildings will share heating and cooling. It will also generate clean electricity from solar panels, and provide electric vehicle charging as well as vehicle-to-grid storage. (see also ‘What about electric vehicles?’)
This integrated system will be optimised using a smart control system, minimising energy costs and maximising carbon savings.
What is a district heat network?
Heat networks are sometimes described as “central heating for cities”. They exist in two types: district heating and communal heating. Communal heat networks supply heat and hot water from a central source to customers within one building only. District heating networks supply heat and hot water from a central source to multiples buildings, via a network of pipes.
District heating networks can cover a large area or even an entire city, or be fairly local supplying a small number of buildings. They are more efficient as they avoid the need for individual boilers or electric heaters in every building.
GreenSCIES is an integrated energy system which includes a district heat network. Its central heat source will be wasted heat from the local area. This waste heat can come from data centres, tunnel ventilation (such as the London tube!), or even groundwater under our feet.
Where will GreenSCIES be located?
We have selected a number of areas in Islington to develop a more detailed design. One of these, called New River, is expected to be the first to be built.
What is the New River scheme?
The New River scheme is the first detailed design of the GreenSCIES project. It will provide heating and hot water to a network of three housing estates and other businesses and organisations in the Angel area of Islington. The primary source of heat will be waste heat generated by a local data centre.
First, the energy system will gather waste heat from the local data centre and groundwater.
Next, the heated water will be pumped into energy centres situated in each building across the New River network where solar-powered heat pumps will increase its temperature and then store it in large water tanks.
Finally, the heat will be circulated into each individual flat and building in the network providing heating and hot water.
What is the project timeline?
GreenSCIES began in 2019, with a technical feasibility study. Then GreenSCIES was awarded more funding from Innovate UK to develop a detailed design by May 2022. Once the detailed design is finished, Islington Council will explore different options to fund and build GreenSCIES, potentially completing the first New River network within 2 or 3 years.
Is this the same as Bunhill?
GreenSCIES builds on the experience of Bunhill. The Bunhill 2 Energy Centre is a district heating system, which uses waste heat from the London Underground to provide heating and hot water to 1,350 homes, one school and two leisure centres in Islington. Some of the same organisations involved in the Bunhill project are part of the GreenSCIES team, and have used their experiences to inform this project.
How are local energy systems good for the environment?
In a conventional system, each building is heated or cooled independently. Buildings that produce too much heat because they have large amounts of machinery or computers, must use costly cooling technologies to avoid overheating.
Meanwhile, neighbouring buildings burn oil or gas to provide heating and hot water, which is costly, produces significant carbon emissions and creates air pollution.
In a smart local energy system, heating and cooling is shared between buildings. Buildings that produce too much heat can transfer it away, helping to cool them down and saving energy. Buildings that receive heat, no longer need to burn fossil fuels, saving energy, reducing carbon emissions and improving air quality.
GreenSCIES will also include solar panels, that will be used to power the heat pumps in the energy centres and provide electric vehicle charging.
The first GreenSCIES scheme, New River, will save around 5,000 tonnes of CO2 per year, which represents an 80% reduction in carbon emissions, and is the same as taking 3,000 cars off the road.
What about electric vehicles?
GreenSCIES energy centres will include charging stations for electric vehicles incorporating locally generated solar power. By supporting the growing demand for electric vehicles, the project will help displace traditional vehicles which are a significant source of carbon emissions and local air pollution.
The centres will also provide for vehicle-to-grid charging, which allows electric vehicles to sell back their electricity to the grid when not needed. This allows the energy centres to buy and store electricity when it is cheap and then sell it back when demand is high, in order to reduce overall costs.
What is vehicle-to-grid?
Vehicle-to-grid is a technology that allows electricity to flow into and out of an electric vehicle. A vehicle-to-grid chargepoint looks similar to a conventional electric vehicle chargepoint, but the ability to discharge the vehicle turns it into portable electricity storage. This storage can then help to optimise the use of local renewable generation (such as solar), store up energy when prices are low, and even help balance the electricity network.
Questions from New River estate residents
How will GreenSCIES impact my estate and my home?
If your estate becomes part of GreenSCIES, you won’t experience any significant changes as a resident. Your heating will come through the same pipes from the same boiler room in your building, and you will still be charged for it by the Council. The only difference is that the source of your heat will be low-carbon.
The only change you will notice will be the energy centres built to house the heat pumps and hot water storage tanks, which will be designed sensitively for each estate. These will be linked by pipework to the energy centres at the other estates and will act as landmarks along the route of the New River scheme.
There may be other improvements to the public spaces, including new gardening areas and benches. As a community-led project, residents are encouraged to take part in the co-design process, to ensure the design reflects and fulfils their needs.
Will it save me money on energy costs?
Gas prices are very volatile and are expected to rise in the future. GreenSCIES will use energy from local, reliable sources, which means your energy bills won’t be affected by the gas prices on the markets.
Who will I go to when something goes wrong or breaks down?
The Council will continue to be responsible for ongoing maintenance on the estates, just as it is now.
How will GreenSCIES link with other low-carbon initiatives?
The Greater London Authority is part of our advisory board in order to make sure that GreenSCIES integrates with planned greening and cycling network developments.
What do we need to make Islington net zero by 2030?
Islington Council declared a climate emergency in June 2019, recognising the need to drastically reduce carbon emissions in the borough. A pledge was made to work towards being a net zero borough by 2030. The Council has published its Vision 2030: Creating a Net Zero Carbon Islington by 2030, which names GreenSCIES as part of its strategy for achieving net zero emissions.
How will GreenSCIES help improve air quality?
GreenSCIES will displace boilers and cars powered by fossil fuels, two of the major sources of air pollution.
What will be the visual impact of GreenSCIES?
The visible elements of the GreenSCIES project – the new energy centres and pipework – will be carefully designed and tailored to the unique characteristics of each site on the scheme. The design team will work with the local community to ensure that the proposals meet the needs of the residents, and the designs will aim to increase the amount of greenery in the borough and improve amenity space.
Finance and management
Who is behind GreenSCIES?
GreenSCIES is a consortium of public, private and not-for-profit organisations with expertise in large infrastructure projects and renewable energy, including: London South Bank University, London Borough of Islington, Carbon Descent Projects, Cenex, Consortio, Building Low Carbon Solutions, Cullinan Studio, Hanger19, Carbon Data Resources, E.ON, Grid Edge, Repowering London, Silver EMS, Transport for London and West Midlands Combined Authority.
How is GreenSCIES funded?
The GreenSCIES consortium received a grant from Innovate UK for both the feasibility study and the current detailed design project.
To build the New River scheme, GreenSCIES will seek grant funding for half of the project’s capital costs whilst the other half is expected to be funded by private capital and community investors.
Who will own the GreenSCIES local energy system?
This hasn’t been decided yet, but it is expected to be owned by Islington Council and a potential private partner.
What do you mean by co-design?
The goal is for the community to help design the project so that it best meets their needs and interests. This process is iterative, so that we continue to engage with the local community on an ongoing basis throughout the project. These interactions have already helped to inform and improve the design of the project and will continue to do so until the design is complete.
How and when you are you engaging with Islington residents?
In 2019 and 2020, we ran a series of in person and online workshops where we introduced Islington residents to GreenSCIES and gathered initial thoughts and feedback on the design of the network. You can find the workshop slides here.
Throughout 2021 we are engaging with residents of the New River estates through online discussions and in-person meetings at each estate. The goal of these discussions is to help further improve the design to reflect the specific needs and interests of the residents.
As the project design develops, we are continuing to have additional workshops to provide updates and invite feedback.
How can I be involved in the decision-making process?
If you would like to be more closely involved, you can join the GreenSCIES Critical Friends group, an early sounding board to provide regular and constructive feedback on the design and development in a confidential and collaborative space.
How can I get in touch?
We welcome your feedback and insights! If you cannot attend one of the workshops, please visit our home page for more information, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also keep in touch with our activities by liking our Facebook page or following us on Twitter and LinkedIn.