Peterborough council-led partnership to design the largest smart city regeneration project in the UK.

Plans for the design of the largest smart city-wide energy system in the UK have been unveiled. The £2m scheme will cut energy bills and provide green heat, electricity and transport for residents.

The Peterborough Integrated Renewables Infrastructure project (PIRI) combines a next generation heat network, electricity network and EV infrastructure under one holistic scheme. 

Led by Peterborough City Council the two-year project has been granted funding to begin the design of a local, smart energy system. The partnership includes: SSE Enterprise, Element Energy, Cranfield University, Smarter Grid Solutions and Sweco UK.

The PIRI project brings together energy generation, demand and storage, thereby unlocking efficiencies not deliverable under our existing, traditional energy systems. It is envisaged to be especially effective in areas where the electricity network is constrained; as well serving as a blueprint for other urban locations across the UK. 

PIRI will be part funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Prospering from the Energy Revolution challenge and unlock major social and economic value for the Peterborough area from 2022. Significant private sector investment has been secured for and by members of the partnership who each have existing decarbonisation expertise.

The project is one of five to win funding to create a pipeline of innovative and investable local energy system designs that will be ready to roll out across the UK in the 2020s.

Peterborough is one of the fastest growing cities in the UK whilst also being committed to reducing its carbon emissions. Its PIRI project aims to deliver a significant drop in CO2 emissions by 2030, whilst cutting energy bills by up to a quarter.

Cllr Marco Cereste, cabinet member for the environment at Peterborough City Council, said: “This exciting announcement will give Peterborough the opportunity to use its own green, locally produced electricity and heat to benefit residents. It’s a landmark step in our aim to be carbon-neutral by 2030 and will be the most exciting and innovative clean, green energy project the city and indeed the country has ever seen.”

Nathan Sanders, Managing Director of SSE Enterprise Distributed Energy, said: “PIRI is an exciting project for us to be investing in. We hope it will demonstrate the potential of smart cities to drive local decarbonisation in a commercially viable manner.

“It takes a ‘whole systems approach’ to energy one step further by integrating all socio-technical elements into one solution that can help councils hit their net zero targets. We are proud to work with leading partners and an enlightened council leadership to enhance the lives of UK citizens.”

Jim Kent, CEO at Smarter Grid Solutions, said: “We are very excited to join a world-class team and demonstrate how system flexibility and commercial models, such as Energy as a Service, can be used by forward-thinking cities like Peterborough, to deliver on their ambitious net zero plans whilst also reducing energy costs for citizens and enabling economic growth.”

Shane Slater, founding director and Smart Energy Systems team leader for Element Energy, said: “Our future energy supply can be clean and low cost, but this comes with a key challenge of much greater variability in energy generation.

“Element is delighted to support PIRI, which will demonstrate how integration of the diverse energy demands of heat, transport, and electricity, balancing supply and demand across day-to-day and seasonal variations, can deliver an efficient energy infrastructure that will be clean, secure and affordable for end users for decades to come.”

Max Joy, president at Sweco UK, commented: “We can’t underestimate the challenges in achieving net zero carbon and, by the same token, the ambitious nature of this project. The real brilliance in the approach, which will also be the defining element of its success, is to integrate wider infrastructure into energy management where all strands can play together.

“Taking this holistic perspective means that far greater benefits will be realised, hitting the sweet spot between environmental gains and commercial viability, while Peterborough will lead the way as a sustainable city of the future.”

Processor Simon Pollard, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, School of Water, Energy and Environment and International at Cranfield University, said: “Cranfield University has a growing portfolio on smart cities and is delighted to contribute its expertise to PIRI.

“Sharing the learning from practical projects like this has proven instrumental to ensuring that communities and industry benefits from innovative designs. This unique partnership will help Peterborough and the UK achieve real energy system improvements.”

Minister for Business, Energy and Clean Growth, Kwasi Kwarteng, said: “Every corner of the UK has a part to play as we eliminate our contribution to climate change entirely by 2050. This innovative project in Peterborough will deliver energy savings and reduce carbon emissions – a win-win for communities and the environment.”

Rob Saunders, Challenge Director, Prospering from the Energy Revolution, UKRI said: “This innovative project provides new approaches to delivering our net zero commitments by delivering cleaner, cheaper energy services while creating more prosperous and resilient communities. 

“But as well as their benefits to consumers, this project, as part of the Clean Growth Industrial Strategy Grand Challenge, place UK industry at the forefront of the global shift to clean energy systems and economies.”