Urban migration is increasing and it is predicted by OECD that by 2050 80% of the world’s population will live in cities.
The rate of urbanisation in developing regions typically means that delivery of infrastructure is much slower than city growth. Many larger cities are characterised by inadequate road infrastructures causing severe congestion and a public transport system which is overcrowded and overused. Population growth, urban sprawl and climate pressures threaten to worsen this situation.
Across the world inspirational cities are setting bold goals and looking for innovative ideas to create models of sustainable living, a greener economy and carbon neutrality.
How does this relate to Exeter?
The provision of jobs in Exeter is over 89,000 attracting 37,168 inward commuters which places strain on our transport system and congests our roads. In addition to this numbers are swollen by shoppers and school runs.
All these homes and cars mean that as a region we use a lot of energy. The Greater Exeter economic region spends £914 million per annum on energy.
Almost half of our energy use is based on our transport choices with 95% of this energy used by private car. The rest of our energy demand is split between commercial and domestic – heating, hot water and appliances.
Whilst the region has massive energy use it is only generating 2.1% through renewable resources.
What about the future?
Exeter is growing. Exeter’s economic region is prospering and the local development framework outlines ambitious and exciting plans for growth.
There are 20,000 new homes planned for East Devon and Exeter Growth point. 17,000 of these will be new developments. It is expected that 40,000 new residents will be living in the region by 2026.
If the expected population increases and the current distribution of travel modes continue, 14,000 to-work car journeys will be added to the roads by 2026.
Exeter’s challenge is to find solutions to reduce energy consumption and remove congestion in the face of an increasing population with roads which are already at maximum capacity.
Why congestion free and energy independence?
The goal of Exeter City Futures has energy balance at its heart ensuring the region contributes to global decarbonisation. Much of our energy is for transportation of people and goods. We know that if we can reduce the number of cars on the road and time spent in traffic then we are burning less fuel and reducing our energy demand.
Being energy independent does not mean we want to disconnect the region from the national grid. It means locally we are making enough green energy to supply all of the demand within the region and are not wasting energy through transporting it from other destinations. If we make more than we need then we should be able to provide it to other regions who have higher demand.
If every region in the UK was energy independent, then the UK as a whole would be able to balance its own energy supply and demand and be a model of sustainability and resilience.