Net Zero in London by 2050. What does the next generation have to say?

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Earlier this year, Octopus Energy established the Octopus Centre for Net Zero (OCNZ) - a centre for independent research, engagement and open technology – harnessing the power of the tech sector to find faster, cheaper, and fairer routes to Net Zero.

Now, the Octopus Centre for Net Zero has put the capital's brightest young minds to the test at the very first London Energy Idea Challenge.

Introducing the 2021 Energy Idea Challenge

The 2021 Energy Idea Challenge – a weekend long hackathon – was OCNZ’s first big public project, giving a younger generation of thinkers the opportunity to showcase their ideas for achieving Mayor Sadiq Khan's ambitious goal to make London a zero-carbon city. The wider aim is to limit global average temperature rise to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels, as set out in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. Sounds easy, right?

The London Energy Idea Challenge was organised and run by London University students, and at the Octopus Centre for Net Zero we were thrilled to support the event, along with ARUP Group and Benchmark Mineral Intelligence. This was the perfect opportunity for students to apply their passion and intellect to the creation of an energy industry that can help us achieve this goal.

An image of the logos of ARUP Group, Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, and the Octopus Centre for Net Zero

On your marks. Get set. Go!

27 teams were given 24 hours to: 'Develop an idea that can be implemented in the next ten years to help London reach net-zero carbon emissions. Your idea can be anything from energy-saving public policy to innovative energy-generating technology'

The teams were judged on four categories: impact, creativity, practicality, and clarity. The judges themselves were an expert panel of energy industry leaders, joined by Peter Underwood of the Green Party. The top eight teams were then given the opportunity to expand on their ideas for a chance to win the top prizes.

When the dust settled on Sunday evening, five teams remained:

  • 5th place – Intelliglass: an electrochromic window solution paired with a low-cost solar cell to make office buildings more sustainable
  • 4th place – Eurostars: JUMPuary: a jumper-wearing social event to encourage people to turn their heating down and signal a willingness to change for the good of the planet
  • 3rd place – CarbonPay: an app to help consumers identify products with a lower environmental impact
  • 2nd place – Coolab: a data visualisation platform for qualifying climate actions with open-source datasets

and finally... drum roll please!

  • 1st place – THelix: a proposal to install water turbines between the arches of London’s bridges

As well as cash prizes for the main event, additional special prizes were also awarded. The ‘Benchmark Energy Storage Innovation Prize’ was awarded to THelix and included a fast track interview with the award’s sponsor. The ‘Best Application of Open Technology’, sponsored by the Octopus Centre for Net Zero was won by Coolab, earning them the chance to participate in a global climate-themed machine learning challenge associated with this year’s COP26 summit.

After the final presentations, I sat down with two of the organisers of the event; Inês Gomes Pádua and Philippa Davidova, to ask them how it all went:

We’re quite happy and glad that people really engaged with the event despite the online setting. We were unsure about convincing people to spend an entire weekend in front of their screens. So we’re definitely so glad with this amazing turnout!

A lot of the ideas were quite unexpected and nothing I would have thought up, but I found myself engaging with them and wanting to take part with the teams and work with them.

So the first London Energy Idea Challenge was a hit. The organisers are already thinking about the next one, which will hopefully take place in person.

At the Octopus Centre for Net Zero, we can’t wait. It’s clear that the next generation has incredibly bright and fresh ideas for reaching net-zero emissions, and the OCNZ will always be willing to come along for the ride. Watch this space.

If you're interested, you can find out more about the Octopus Centre for Net Zero from its founder Lucy Yu.

Published on 31st March 2021 by:

image of Nathan Weston

Nathan Weston

Energy Specialist

Hey I'm Constantine, welcome to Octopus Energy!