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Smart Cities Are Driving Fundamental Changes In Energy Landscape

In news that will surprise absolutely nobody, cities the world over are experiencing massive pressures to keep up with the times — policy and the public are pressuring for changes to economic, environmental, social, and technological issues. These pressures, and the changes being made as a result, are helping cities develop “smarter” technologies and policies that are driving rapid growth and change in the energy landscape.

This, according to a new White Paper published by Navigant Research, which explores the critical issues facing cities and energy utilities as they develop energy policies to suit the ever-shifting 21st century.

“Cities around the world are recognizing the importance of – and the opportunities offered by – changes in energy infrastructure and energy markets,” says Eric Woods, research director with Navigant Research. “In addition to being the focus of extensive smart grid pilots, cities are becoming increasingly proactive in terms of the targets they are setting for their utilities to shift from fossil fuel to renewable energy, and are encouraging local generation on both the residential and commercial level.”

According to Navigant’s press release accompanying the publication of the White Paper, “support for renewable generation by city authorities places increased pressure on utilities to deliver an infrastructure that can integrate these new resources in a manageable way.” As a result, grid reinforcement is often required to support the new resources. Navigant, however, suggests that these issues can sometimes be offset by the wider use of smart technologies, such as smart grids, “for both network management and demand management initiatives.”

According to the White Paper, Smart Cities and the Energy Cloud (available free with login), a smart city is defined “as the integration of technology into a strategic approach to sustainability, citizen well-being, and economic development.”

Developing these three areas — sustainability, citizen well-being, and economic development — requires an integrated energy strategy. The authors of the report going so far as to label it a “crucial factor” to such improvement.

The White Paper concludes that investments into an integrated energy strategy can help a number of issues, such as enabling community-based programs for energy monitoring, improving energy efficiency, and more, while the utilities own improvements — such as deploying smart meter and smart grids — can enable a “closer engagement with communities, individual consumers, and businesses.”

In April of 2013 a report published by GBI Research found that the smart city and smart homes markets are expected to double between 2012 and 2017 (as seen in the graph below).

smart cities market

Later that same year, Enrique Peñalosa, former mayor of Bogotá, Colombia, speaking at TEDCity2.0, claimed that public/mass transport is a necessity to building the smarter cities of the future. Clearly, smart cities must incorporate smarter technologies and innovation in many sectors of society.

Regardless of what form smart cities take, the pressures created by the widespread deployment of clean and renewable energies, as well as growing public demand for energy efficiency and better energy policies, will all combine to force the issue sooner, rather than later.

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