The requirement to meet growing energy demand in a cost-effective, secure and sustainable way, is driving the need for a new approach to energy management.
From the cars and buses that make our cities accessible, to the heating and cooling systems that make them comfortable, an intelligent energy system can help cities pollute less, use more renewable energy, improve resiliency and put customers in the drivers seat, says Kate Zerrenner, Energy Efficiency Specialist at the US Environmental Defense Fund in Austin, Texas. The Fund is working in partnership with Pecan Street Inc. in Austin to help develop its first living smart grid laboratory. The Pecan Street project brings together residential and commercial buildings into a neighbourhood smart grid. Pecan Street is focused on engaging real people to help structure next generation energy systems, says Zerrenner.
A key new component of an intelligent urban energy system is a smart grid which utilises information communication technology to optimise energy efficiency, integrate renewable energies and to manage variations in the supply and demand of energy in real time to help manage peak loads.
Much of the technology for smart grids already exists to help modernise urban energy systems, increase visibility and integrate renewable energy, says Ken Geisler, Vice President of Strategy for Siemens Smart Grid Division in North America.
Until recently, energy systems were all about one-way generation and distribution, controlled and operated by local utilities (municipally-owned or private). A smarter grid facilitates two-way generation and distribution by systematically integrating decentralised generation from local businesses and citizens so that customers can offset energy costs and sell excess energy back to the grid.
This all links directly back to the concept of smart grids enabling smarter cities by allowing business and society to become participants in energy management programmes through both local generation of energy and active management of their demand, says Geisler.
Instead of relying on fossil fuel power stations to support intermittent renewable energy sources such as solar and wind, there is an alternative approach to keeping the lights on. In a city, supported by a smarter grid, variation in energy supply and demand can be managed by harmonising decentralised energy systems such as rooftop solar panels or electric vehicles and/or demand response. Through increased grid connectivity and end- user visibility and controllability, local businesses and citizens can participate in the urban energy system and respond to demand/supply variations by adjusting their role from energy user to energy provider based on pricing mechanisms. Smart grids can help trigger transformation across the energy value chain by altering the relationship that consumers have with electricity from energy users to energy providers.
Smarter energy, smarter cities
A growing number of municipalities are experimenting with smart grids to provide customers with new forms of control and visibility around energy use. Vienna is working with Siemens on the implementation of a smart city in the district of Aspern, where energy supply, building systems, smart grids, and information and communication technologies interact. The project represents an opportunity to develop a long-term integrated concept for increasing the energy performance of Aspern by making the whole system smarter.
The US east coast city of Boston was ranked first by the American Council for Energy-Efficiency Economy on its policies to advance energy efficiency. Boston is rolling out an enterprise energy management system covering 1.5 million square metres of city-owned real estate, the equivalent in size of 200 soccer pitches. According to Brian Swett, Chief of Environment and Energy for the City of Boston, a key goal of the project is to give us better management and control of energy and to increase visibility.
In France, Lyon is demonstrating that energy is a key enabler of the sustainable city, and has set itself an ambitious goal of becoming energy-neutral by 2030. The Lyon Smart Community is an attempt to bring together homes, activities and shops as well as public, cultural and leisure facilities across an entire neighbourhood.
Practically speaking, this involves improving the energy efficiency of buildings and transport, getting renewable energies on the grid, modelling energy supply and demand for an entire district, demonstrating the benefits and informing users about their consumption, says Bruno Gaiddon, the project coordinator. New partnerships are at the heart of this project, whereby an ecosystem of organisations has been assembled to bring together diverse expertise and skills.
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