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Wooden Hut





to innovate successfully is to understand system complexity        



As climate change forces us to do things differently we are faced with increasingly complex problems requiring urgent resolution and innovative measures to restore ecosystems. This will involve ending our greenhouse gas pollution and going further to design and retrofit systems that help the natural environment to regenerate. Aiming for sustainability is no longer enough to avoid systemic collapse.

Synfo supports clients, helping them to understand the complexity and assess the options to develop regenerative strategies and solutions across multiple sectors, including clean energy, built environment, transport, food and natural resources. The approach is analytical with whole systems thinking to identify opportunities for added value and low waste, promoting circular economy and resilience.


Principal capabilities include


  • feasibility studies and stakeholder engagement

  • research, process modelling and analysis

  • systems design, representation and evaluation

  • consultancy and project management

  • interim leadership



Examples of current and past projects

Developing strategies to meet city-wide net zero targets


Using tools created by the Manchester Tyndall Centre for Climate Research, Synfo helped a local authority set out its carbon budget reduction trajectory and develop a carbon accounting approach to capture Scope 1, 2 & 3 emissions. This is necessary to verify local territorial emissions are consistent with the UK Nationally Determined Commitment to the Paris Agreement. 

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Smart grid architecture for local energy schemes


The challenge was to decarbonise heat and power to communities living in traditional terraced houses. Working in a multidisciplinary team, Synfo was asked to develop the smart grid architecture and use cases that would integrate renewable energy systems providing heat and power into a local market mechanism to trade electricity. A digital twin within the design was included to manage participant feedback and inclusion as well as verify the system performs as expected.

Specifying planning policy for new developments


The built environment was responsible for about 40% of the UK's carbon emissions in 2021. New developments therefore have a key role to play in overall greenhouse gas emissions reduction. Bringing construction in line with Net Zero commitments requires rapid change in conventional approaches to create the lowest whole life carbon emissions in the building lifecycle and a commitment to Scopes 1, 2 and 3 carbon accounting. Synfo has helped to develop planning specifications by drawing together best practice with an understanding of the whole systems nature of constructing new built environments to exemplify sustainability and regeneration.


The Norwich Solar System


This is an ambitious project to drive the uptake and local use of electricity generated by businesses from rooftop solar generators. Synfo is helping Norwich Business Improvement District (BID) to create a large urban solar farm and local energy market. Phase 1 feasibility studies have now been published, and businesses are invited to participate in the Phase 2 pilot with a vision to create Norwich's first 'Solar Zone'. Not only do participants stand to benefit from cheaper energy, but the project will help the city will take another step towards net zero.

Social housing retrofit


Implementation of climate action plans across large numbers of buildings will involve assessing retrofit measures for different archetypes. A one size fits all solution is unlikely to meet the needs of the built environment and requires strategic planning to make use of the features found in different locales. Synfo has been helping Norwich City Council understand and appraise the solutions for its social housing inventory to help drive their energy efficiency and decarbonisation objectives. This involves relationship building with solution providers and other stakeholders. 

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Smart local energy systems


As electrification of everything drives a critical strand of decarbonisation of the economy, the pressure on capacity in local and national electricity networks is evident. At the same time it is recognised that Local Authorities will play an increasingly important role in guiding development in their areas in accordance with commitments they have made to net zero, often following their declarations of a climate emergency. Synfo helps Local Authorities appraise options when planning for new developments to build Local Area Energy Plans (LAEPs), bringing them together with solution providers in renewable energy and the built environment to create Smart Local Energy Systems.  See also leveraging value from the smart grids.

Electrifying the Broads


Programme design, project management, research and analysis for a multidisciplinary decarbonisation challenge to displace marine transport emissions from the waterways of the Norfolk Broads. Electrifying the Broads is a pathfinding project that aims to protect the future of the local economy which is dependent on holiday cruiser boating and the Broads beautiful natural environment.


Local and Regional area energy system analysis and planning

Synfo has conducted research, analysis, system and project design support to the Energy Systems Catapult, Buro Happold, Cornwall Insight and Pixie Energy, Hydrogen East and the Green Party on a range of whole systems energy plans in the UK funded by the national and Scottish governments. A Green Energy Future for the East of England technical report was commissioned by Prof. Catherine Rowett, MEP. 


Design of the conceptual foundations of smart grid electrical architecture for the Saudi Arabian smart city called Neon under construction on the side of the Red Sea. This included a usecase library for engineers to develop high-resolution renewable energy, electric transport and digital connectivity layouts. 


SEAnglia Tecnologies

Development of a seaweed based circular economy in East Anglia. Working with national and international organisations to develop an end-to-end supply chain for sustainable food and other products. Quantification of Kelp yield grown on offshore windfarms in the North Sea to estimate feedstock and carbon capture potentials in comparison with terrestrial forest. This initiative became a founding partner in the new multi-disciplinary Algae Innovation Platform. 

Technical and policy articles

Authoring of  technical and socio-technical articles describing strategies for implementing sustainable and clean energy transitions. Focal topics have included digitalised, democratised and distributed energy systems, circular economies and smart city connectivity at the grid edge.   

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Dr. Nigel Hargreaves PhD, MSc, BScEng, PGCE, is a Chartered Engineer and Member of the Institution of Engineering and Technology. He is the founder and Managing Director of Synfo which he set up in 2015 to offer support for smart energy systems development. He has over 30 years technical and multidisciplinary experience in energy networks, climate change impacts and sustainability, engineering and sociotechnical fields. Nigel provides consultancy on challenges at local, regional, national and international scales, offering a whole systems approach that can contribute to better leadership, business development and policy decision making. 

Nigel works collaboratively with other organisations seeking to find solutions to man-made global warming, regeneration and biodiversity loss. He is a Climate Commissioner advising Norwich City Council on climate change mitigation and adaption policies, and a member of the Norfolk Chamber of Commerce Business Climate Leaders initiative. His experience includes consulting and managerial positions in the following organisations:

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