WEX NEWS: Phil Reid of Tractebel takes us on an energy journey through Brazil, Mexico and Rugeley before landing at WEX 2020 in March

Phil Reid is the Head of Global Business Development for the Urban sector at Belgian engineering consultants Tractebel, a subsidiary of energy and services group Engie – at WEX 2020 he is jointly chairing a session entitled Energy – Water – Waste : Integrating the Circular Economy into Future Smart Cities.  The session will explore what a sustainable world looks like, and ask what roles all stakeholders can play in the mission to decarbonize energy consumption – from the way we heat and light buildings, transport goods, people and services, to the way we process water.


Why do you come to WEX?

“WEX is one of the few events that actually looks at the circular economy as linking water, waste and energy all together. This is going to be extremely relevant going forward.”

What’s a big priority in your opinion?

“We have to get close to Zero Carbon – quite a few cities are aiming for zero carbon by 2050 (and sometimes 2040 or 2035). The USA is playing catch up on this one now and starting to move quickly. As consultants, Engie are aiming to reduce to zero carbon in 20-25 years with concession models and climate investment.”

What’s Tractebel up to at the moment?

“In the area of sustainability, we’re working on three interesting projects in Brazil and Mexico – two in Brazil, one in Mexico. In Mexico we’re consulting on energy efficiency in public hospitals. The project, funded by the European Investment Bank, is at the stage of technical feasibility. The technologies to be used include solar thermal, CHP, efficient lighting & controls and Building Energy Management Systems.

“In Brazil we’re working on projects to replace street lighting in Maringa, a medium-sized city in the south of the country where the plan, using smart-tech, is to convert all the lighting to LEDs, and install remote control and monitoring of the lighting in order to achieve impressive cost efficiencies and reduction of CO2 emissions. LEDs have a much longer lamp-life and can be dimmed depending on the ambient light levels. Detailed design work is in under way as we speak.

“We’re also working on a state schools project in Porto Alegre in Brazil’s southern-most state of Rio Grande do Sul. We’ve identified a ‘energy efficiency’ opportunities in schools, using PV solar panels on the roof, LED lighting, smart controls and electrical storage. Many state schools don’t have heating or air-con despite the country’s climate. There are 99 state schools in total in this project and we’ve taken a sample to assess what’s needed (overall in Brazil, the education system is a mixture of public and private). The standard of education varies, but considering the conditions they’re operating in, it’s extremely good.

GIZ– the German Society for International Cooperation – and the European Investment Bank are mainly behind these kinds of projects, and they have to test their green credentials as well as bankability and work out where the returns are. The money comes back from the savings made in efficiency. Long-term savings are made over a number of years, so they have to be long contracts of 20-30 years.

“Instead of property, many banks and investment funds are now tending to look at energy projects, but they need technical input in order to assess their viability. They very much want to ‘be seen to be green’. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is being tested, and people won’t invest in banks if they’re not happy that they are saving the planet – but of course they still want to pay back at a rate they consider acceptable.”

Where are you in water?

“Although my work is mainly concerned with reducing energy demand, and energy generation, within the water division there are all sorts of projects, as well as a desalination portfolio. I went to Saudi Arabia twice last year, where the urban side of things has just got going, and I’ve been focusing on several urban projects with Engie, which will include a water component.”

Tell us about the Rugeley project

This is very exciting! The Rugeley project is a major 15-year redevelopment of an old power station site bought by Engie in the county of Staffordshire, UK, turning it into a sustainable and smart community destined to be Zero Carbon by 2038.

“While the cooling towers will be blown up at some point this year, there’s a sub-station building which has to stay intact, as it’s part of the National Grid. The new Rugeley development will be built to the side of the existing community, which takes up a third of the town in size. The idea is that the new development will export zero-carbon energy to Rugeley in the future.

“The aim is to make it a popular residential neighbourhood and place of work, with a network of pedestrian and cycle routes, and open spaces connecting Rugeley with the surrounding area.

“It’s particularly interesting as Engie owns and will be the developer of the whole site. The formal details are being worked on, but in terms of technology there will be district heating, heat pumps, solar, efficient buildings, on-site private grid.

“There’s no industry planned, but there will be a small amount of retail. As for water, there will be full control over one system, so recycling and some water treatment can be done. The concept involves an effluent system, waste collection, and maybe some AD (Anaerobic Digestion), achieving economies of scale.

Around 1,800 houses are planned for the development, and over the past year various obsolete buildings have been demolished, with more to come including the blowing up of the remaining power station’s landmark towers.

What’s next – carbon capture?

“I think Carbon Capture is going to play a big part in what’s happening. There are some really creative solutions in this area, and greenhouses are particularly good – they’ve embraced this heavily in Holland. If you have a CHP plant next to greenhouses it creates a negative carbon scenario – waste heat from the CHP plant is recycled to heat the greenhouse, CO2 from the flue gases absorbed by the plants and electricity exported. These types of systems are being rolled out in the UK now.”

Any thoughts on Brexit?

“It’s a complex area but I think it should be okay for us as the business is pretty global; we need to sit tight and see what happens.”

What’s in the ‘pipeline’?

“We have a big urban project with Engie in the North-Western French city of Angers, 30-50-year projects in the USA and Canada (Ohio and Ottawa), a district cooling scheme in the Philippines, and involvement forthcoming in Saudi Arabia.”

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