Architects aren't typically known for their policy planning and work on climate change, but Rem Koolhaas's OMA (Office of Metropolitan Architecture) is a bit outside of the box. They recently unveiled a policy report on how Europe can drastically reduce its carbon emissions by 80% before 2050 rolls around. Their plan, developed in part with the Imperial College London, Kema, Mckinsey & Company, and Oxford economics, proposes an EU-wide decarbonized grid and essentially a realignment of the boundary lines according to renewable energy resources. The Roadmap 2050, which was commissioned by the European Climate Foundation, actually provides a practical guide to replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy, but it only works if the whole of Europe works together.
OMA studied a number of fields to come up with their plan — namely the existing power grid, economics of various scenarios, renewable energy resources, energy efficiency, and transportation networks. They highly suggest implementing a plan no later than 2015 that includes policy development and implementation on the following five areas: energy efficiency; investments in regional grid interconnections and smart grid projects; continued and accelerated technology development; market reform to ensure an effective long-term investment case for business; and switching away from fossil fuels in both the building and transportation sectors.
As part of their pragmatic guide to reducing carbon emissions, OMA recommends a major overhaul of the transmission system to efficiently connect the entire EU to make the best use of renewable energy sources in the region. The UK has a lot of tidal and wind resources, while Spain and Portugal have a lot of sun and Eastern Europe’s main resource is biomass. The report even goes so far as to redraw the region’s boundaries according to their resources. Ireland would be called the Tidal States, Britain and Northern Europe would be the Isles of Wind, countries on the Mediterranean become Solaria, and Eastern Europe becomes Biomassburg. By rethinking the regions in terms of their natural energy resources this would ideally make for more efficient planning and development. And by including solar-rich North Africa in the mix, Europe can exchange power all year long and in the winter export some its wind power.
OMA uses creative graphics and maps to illustrate their point effectively. Visualizing Europe’s transmission grid as a subway map makes the point especially clear. The Roadmap certainly has some merit, so perhaps bringing in an architecture firm has helped make the idea more palatable. One of the most important take home points though is that action is needed. Now.