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Paul Winkle – A sustainable city with sustainable skills #Edinburgh2050

23 May 2017

More than 200 years ago Edinburgh earned the nickname “Auld Reekie” for the smog that hung over the city; caused by the wood and coal fires that those living in the overcrowded Old Town used for cooking and heating.

Now we heat and power our homes using an increasingly low carbon mix of gas and electricity– but the smog hasn’t entirely lifted.

Around a quarter of our energy use is on transport and with the city’s St John’s Road consistently registering as one of the most polluted streets in Scotland it’s clear there’s still some way to go in cutting carbon emissions.

However, Edinburgh is modestly leading the way in electric vehicles (EVs) with more than 140 charge points and nearly a quarter of the country’s licensed plug-ins; 325, according to the Society of Motor Manufacture and Traders’ last count, up from just nine in 2011.

As a business, EDF Energy has put a lot of thought into what impact the increase in EVs and alternative heating methods like electric heat pumps will have on our demand for electricity.

By 2035 we expect 20 per cent of the UK’s cars to be electric and, even taking into account home and business energy efficiency measures, we expect demand for electricity to increase from current levels.

So how do we meet that demand? EDF Energy is already the largest generator of low carbon electricity in Scotland and in January we opened a new centre in Edinburgh which is helping to support EDF Energy Renewables’ plans to significantly increase our renewables capacity. We see a strong future for renewables in Scotland as part of a UK energy mix that also includes nuclear and gas.

Edinburgh was the obvious choice for our new base. It is home to the country’s key decision makers and it has thriving business and scientific communities.

The city has long been recognised as a vibrant hub for science and engineering; a home to great thinkers and discoveries. But if that is to continue and if we are to be able to tackle the energy challenges of the future, we have to ensure that we are engaging the great scientific minds of the future.

Research carried out by the Social Market Foundation for EDF Energy revealed that science, research, engineering and technology jobs will grow at double the rate of other occupations between now and 2023 creating 142,000 extra UK jobs. It also forecast that there won’t be enough graduates and apprentices available to fill these roles including a possible 40% shortfall in engineering.

We need to engage children and encourage them to think about careers in science, technology, engineering and maths. That is why we are excited to be headline sponsors of Edinburgh International Science Festival, building on our relationship with an organisation that is committed to inspiring and educating the next generation.

So, what is my vision for #Edinburgh2050? The Edinburgh I want to see in 2050 will be a thriving low carbon city where business, academia and government work together to make the scientific advances needed to ensure a healthy, sustainable way of life for Edinburgh and the wider world. And as for Auld Reekie? That part of our heritage may still be visible in the staining of some historic stonework, but it will truly be a term from the past!

Get involved in the #Edinburgh2050 City Vision >