­­­­This post forms part of the SDG series at Scene Connect for Global Goals Week. As global representatives gather at the UN Headquarters in New York for the Sustainable Development Summit 2019, we reflect on how our own projects support the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

In this short blog series, we reflect on how our own projects support the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, and we explore what community energy, renewable energy, and energy innovation might look like in the bright future which we are working to help build.


The transition to Net Zero requires urgent action to decarbonise the way we heat our homes, businesses and public buildings. There is a range of technologies out there that can play a part in that transition, and the mix of solutions that is appropriate for a particular place is very much dependent on geography. In some ways, cities have it easy: demand for energy is concentrated within dense neighbourhoods and urban conurbations, making it cheaper to supply power through networks, including heat. People and industry present diverse patterns of heat demand, making energy systems more resilient. Energy infrastructure is already part of the urban landscape, meaning that the disruption and visual impact of new installations can be more acceptable than in rural areas.

However, cities are also faced with huge challenges. With so many people and economic activities packed into a small area, strategists developing plans for futureproof energy systems struggle to find renewable resources that can be accessed at the scale that is needed to make serious dents in a city’s carbon emissions. Urban green space and blue space are critical assets that, if managed correctly, can provide renewable heat alongside – and without detriment to - the recreation, wellbeing and environmental services that we normally think of them providing.

The technology that enables heat to be unobtrusively and renewably extracted from the ground or from bodies of water is the heat pump: widely used elsewhere in Europe, but relatively rare in the UK. Heat pumps are a very efficient way to harvest heat from slightly-warm places and transform it into the ‘hotter’ heat we need to keep our homes and workplaces toasty. [Confused? Check out What on earth is a heat pump? for a factual but accessible explanation.]

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In decades to come, heat from parks, rivers and urban reservoirs, delivered via ground and water source heat pumps, could be prized as among the cheapest sources of heat for nearby buildings.

Through our collaboration with Nesta, 10:10 Climate Action and Hackney Council, Scene is learning more about the potential for this concept to be deployed at scale to reduce carbon emissions, generate revenues for parks services and engage communities in the challenge of decarbonising heat. Ultimately, the financial and non-financial co-benefits of renewable heat installations in public spaces could play an important part in protecting access to green space as an essential component of a sustainable city in 2030 and beyond.

- Louise Waters