Posted by: drmiw | December 7, 2011

Low Carbon Economy workshop at GovCamp Scotland

This is a report on the facilitated theme group session on the Low Carbon Economy, which I participated in at GovCamp Scotland in November 2011. Some good examples were presented by the panel, but not too many recommendations came out of this session. But it’s “only the beginning” as we were often reminded during the event, and the Scottish government has a Low Carbon Strategy we can build on.

Local energy management

Jan Webb, a researcher from Edinburgh University, talked about her Heat and the City (heatandthecity.org.uk) research and Glasgow’s plan to be one of Europe’s most sustainable cities within ten years (sustainableglasgow.org.uk). City-scale energy and carbon planning projects are the way forward it seems and a good example Professor Webb gave of how this can work in Scotland is the Aberdeen Heat and Power company (aberdeenheatandpower.co.uk). She said that we don’t have much in the way of energy management in the UK and we could learn a lot from countries like Denmark.

Obstacles and opportunities for Green IT and Cloud Computing

Andrew Unsworth, Head of e-Government for Edinburgh council, gave mybustracker.co.uk as an example of how open data has been used creatively in the city and he hopes to see more creative ideas across all sectors to encourage recycling and deal with problems like the landfill mountains. He also made a couple of observations that relate to cloud computing and greener IT. Firstly there is too much spare capacity in Scotland’s ICT infrastructure silos but councils are unwilling to give up their data centres and share someone else’s – as someone in the audience joked, it’s like expecting turkeys to vote for Christmas, but councils should be forced to put the needs of the country first. Secondly with the rise of the information worker Edinburgh has less need for office space and that applies to the council, too, so they are planning to reduce their 400 sites by 50%. Like me he believes that the shape of cities will be very different in twenty years.

A low cost method for increasing digital participation and computer recycling

Norette Ferns from the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations gave a good example how recycling can go hand in hand with an increase in digital participation. Her example was the ReBOOT project (reboot-forres.co.uk) in Moray where old computers are refurbished by local volunteers and resold at low prices; and she suggested that this project could potentially be rolled out nationwide.

Learning from other countries

Tony Gribben from Cisco, the fourth and final member of the panel, said that smart and connected communities like Amsterdam have massively reduced their carbon footprints. He also said that Cisco use 100% renewable energy in the UK, which was news to me.

Real world issues

As for the audience, there were concerns that the UK’s “green deal” is no use to citizens on low incomes who are suffering from fuel poverty; and it was pointed out that landlords are under no obligation to make their properties more energy efficient.

Some recommendations to feed back to GovCamp

  1. More intelligent use of existing open data
  2. More data on energy usage
  3. Research into the pros and cons of home working versus office working
  4. Find ways to encourage communities to get involved and take action – e.g. landlords insulating their properties
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