Cities are major contributors to climate change, emitting substantial greenhouse gases and consuming a significant portion of the world’s energy.

Bristol is well known for its efforts to become a green city, and for over the past decade has been pioneering solutions, with initiatives such as the Bristol Climate and Nature Partnership (initially the Bristol Green Capital Partnership), which brings together businesses, NGOs, and government agencies to promote sustainability — as well as projects that promote cycling, renewable energy, energy efficiency, and biodiversity.

The city of Bristol is home to several high-tech companies, research institutions and startups, contributing to its reputation as a centre for innovation.

One public-private partnership in Bristol is scaling up cleantech infrastructure projects to provide warm, comfortable homes for its residents and create jobs for the long-term. Ameresco is at the heart of it; a company with global expertise in delivering large-scale green infrastructure projects.

Ameresco and Bristol City Council are working together on
Bristol City Leap, a first-of-its-kind project, which will increase green energy investment and help decarbonise the city by 2030. Bristol City Leap is a bold and ambitious vision for the future of Bristol, aiming to create a more sustainable, resilient, and inclusive city for current and future generations. It prioritises community engagement, innovation and technology, and of course partnerships and collaboration.

“Our team are mostly engineers and project managers, working exclusively on the energy transition,” explains Ameresco’s Managing Director, Mark Apsey.  

Ameresco’s Managing Director, Mark Apsey

Founded in 2000, the company has been working on initiatives across the US, Canada, UK, Ireland and Europe, to deliver energy-transforming projects. 

Ameresco was a natural fit for a city looking to try something unique. Bristol City Councillor Kye Dudd and his team knew the scale of the task called for something truly innovative.

“We worked out that it would cost around £5 billion to decarbonise the energy system of Bristol. Quite clearly, the council hasn’t got that kind of money; the government wasn’t stepping up to that level of funding, so we asked ourselves; could we attract some private sector investment into the city.”

Bristol City Councillor, Kye Dudd

“Private sector involvement can meet a significant part of the costs involved in decarbonising Bristol. Clearly the right partners with the right experience were needed, and Ameresco was the perfect fit.

“Bristol City Leap came about as an initiative from the council several years ago. They recognised, having declared a climate emergency, that they needed to partner with the private sector to bring in all the capacity and resources, and skills and investment, to transform the city and try and meet that net zero objective. We think it’s a blueprint for other cities to potentially follow now,” says Mark.

Over the next five years, Bristol City Leap will deliver nearly £500 million into infrastructure such as solar, wind, heat networks, heat pumps, and energy efficiency measures — all of which will help Bristol meet its carbon reduction targets of becoming carbon neutral by 2030. And in doing so, will create over 1000 jobs.

“In terms of making a real, tangible difference, we need that large-scale investment, so I’m really proud that I’m part of a project that’s the first one in the UK to start to unlock that large amount of private sector investment to deliver a city-wide solution,” says Kye.

Blaise Primary and Nursery School on Bristol’s northern edge is one example of where Ameresco’s technology has been adopted to reduce the carbon output of the city.

The school has an air source heat pump unit installed, providing the school’s heating and hot water. The pump works in conjunction with buffer tanks that ensure there’s enough heating capacity to cover the peak demands of the school throughout the winter period.

Many other key cities across the UK have implemented — and continue to implement — forward-thinking sustainability initiatives to address environmental challenges and promote sustainable development and decarbonisation. 

London — as the UK’s capital, London has embraced a number of green projects, including the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) to reduce air pollution, the Mayor’s Energy Efficiency Fund to improve energy efficiency in public buildings, and the London Plan, which sets out policies for sustainable development, transportation, and housing.

Manchester has launched several sustainability projects, including the Manchester Climate Change Agency, which aims to reduce carbon emissions and increase resilience to climate change. The city also has initiatives to promote energy efficiency, renewable energy, and sustainable transportation.

Glasgow focused on its preparation for hosting the COP26 climate conference, which included efforts to improve energy efficiency in buildings, expand renewable energy generation, and promote sustainable transportation options.

Aerial view over the West End of Glasgow towards Gartnavel Hospital.

Edinburgh has worked hard to reduce carbon emissions, improve air quality, and promote sustainable transportation. The city has introduced measures such as low emission zones, cycling infrastructure improvements, and programs to promote energy efficiency in buildings.

Birmingham has launched the Birmingham Energy Savers program to improve energy efficiency in public buildings and the Birmingham Connected transport strategy to enhance public transportation and cycling infrastructure.

Liverpool has implemented sustainability initiatives such as the Liverpool Climate Positive strategy, which aims to make the city carbon positive by 2020. The city also has projects to promote renewable energy, green spaces, and sustainable transportation.

Hull has recognised the importance of climate change adaptation and resilience, and introduced initiatives focused on preparing for the impacts of climate change, such as flooding and extreme weather events.

These efforts include flood defense projects, emergency response plans, and community engagement activities to raise awareness and build resilience among residents. Learn more about that here.

Urban Evolution: Our Future Cities

Look out for ITN Business’ 2024 programme Urban Evolution: Our Future Cities – launching at the Net Zero Festival, 22-23 October, and presented by broadcaster and anthropologist Mary-Ann Ochota.

The programme will shine a light on the organisations leading the way when it comes to:

  • Creating more resilient, affordable and accessible cities
  • The innovative solutions to cut carbon emissions
  • Initiatives to promote good mental, physical and social health

Launching a month later is Engineering: Today, Tomorrow & Beyond (November 2024), featuring the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) and the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE).

The programme will shine a light on the positive work in action across the spectrum of engineering specialties, raise awareness of the various possibilities in engineering careers, and reinforce how critical the engineering profession is to achieving our sustainability goals.