Cities should generate their own energy, says National Trust expert

British cities should generate their own energy, according to the National Trust’s rural enterprise director.

Patrick Begg told an audience at the Hay Festival last week that cities should not rely on rural areas to meet all their energy needs, but should look to the example set by sustainable cities like Freiburg in Germany.

Freiburg, one of the world’s greenest cities, generates much of its own energy and has many eco-friendly homes, which are super-insulated and very energy efficient. Car use in the city is discouraged, and instead citizens are encouraged to use public transport, or to cycle or walk.

There is a divide between rural areas and cities. When I was in Germany I was wide-eyed and impressed by places like Freiburg, and how it generates all its own citizens’ energy, said Begg, quoted by the Sustainable Cities Collective. I just don’t see that thirst here to allow that in cities or to encourage people to do something – to encourage that responsibility to generate their own energy.

Begg also called for the National Grid to be overhauled, incorporating new technology to make it more flexible and responsive.

I think we have got to sort out the Grid. It’s just not smart enough. If you could have it working so it understands supply and demand, that would make a big difference, he argued.

Talking about the role that smart meters would play in an updated electricity network, Begg said: When we set our washing machines to go on at 2am, it would be much better if that house had a smart meter that said, actually, the demand across the grid is here, so let’s not run your washing machine until 5am.

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