Green Infrastructure: Opportunities and Challenges
With COP26 being hosted in Glasgow this past week, the focus is once again on climate change and net-zero efforts. What’s become evident in recent years is that single approach or solution will not be enough to meet the targets within the tight timeframe we have. Additionally, it’s not enough to green infrastructure, it needs to be resilient too. What are the opportunities and challenges ahead to develop better infrastructure that will support the economy and achieve climate change targets?
Challenges in green infrastructure development
The major challenge in green infrastructure development is that the clock is ticking. There’s little time left to debate what the best path forward could be, the focus instead needs to be on implementation. Achieving net-zero also requires broad thinking, understanding circular economy principles and what exactly needs to be achieved. While a few industry leaders and environmental experts can lead the way, this knowledge needs to be disseminated throughout organizations. Unless everyone understands what needs to happen and why, implementation will be slow
Another major challenge will be linking everything together in a way that provides stability and consistency. Collaboration between industries is key. Hybrid infrastructure is the future and projects need to proceed at pace. It’ll be beneficial to all to make use of the skills and knowledge that already exist, rather than waiting for existing staff to learn new technologies. (That can be achieved in time, but not at the cost of implementation)
Opportunities in infrastructure development
There are opportunities to involve communities. Local projects should stimulate job opportunities and help generate demand for new skills. The future of energy infrastructure is likely to lean heavily towards renewables and industry leaders believe that the best options will be a hybrid of different technologies. Significant investment has been made in wind and solar projects. However, there is still huge potential in other technologies such as tidal power which are yet to be leveraged.
New technologies for carbon capture and energy storage are actively being explored which can offer the industry more efficient solutions in future. A few of the more interesting projects involve looking at decommissioned infrastructure – such as mineshafts, reusing them for energy storage. Many of these types of opportunities exist if companies are willing to embrace the ‘recommission and reuse’ way of thinking and look for ways to engineer new opportunities for greener infrastructure.