Providing energy for the smart city revolution

Faced with mass urbanization, "smart cities" will increasingly harness technology and data to ensure efficient management of urban resources and assets for their citizens.

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June 19, 2019 17:26
2 minute read.
A general view shows the urban landscape of Tel Aviv, Israel May 15, 2019

A general view shows the urban landscape of Tel Aviv, Israel May 15, 2019. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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More than two-thirds (68%) of the world’s population is expected to live in urban areas by 2050, according to the United Nations. Combined with global population growth, another 2.5 billion people are forecast to make the world’s cities their home.

Faced with mass urbanization, especially in Africa and Asia, “smart cities” will increasingly harness technology and data to ensure efficient management of urban resources and assets for their citizens.

Whether its waste management, traffic, electricity grids or water supply, cities must become smarter to remain sustainable.

Energy consumption and management is already one of the pressing issues facing modern cities, and challenges are only going to become more acute as increased demand is placed on existing infrastructure.

According to Idan Mor, investment director at Centrica Innovations, smart energy innovation can now transform the way city dwellers move around the city, live and work.

Centrica Innovations, the investment arm of British multinational energy company Centrica, is one of a few early investors scouting for energy innovation in Israel.

“Energy is not just about electricity consumption by streetlights – it’s significantly impacting the way we move,” Mor told The Jerusalem Post.

“Cities will be home to a combination of charging stations for electric vehicles, car-sharing companies that will allow you to travel around the city, and other means of electric public transportation.”

While Israelis are currently limited to installing solar panels at home in order to ensure greener consumption, Mor emphasizes trends elsewhere that are changing the way energy can impact our day-to-day lives in smarter cities.

“If you have a smart system in your home, you can request 20% of your electricity to be sourced from green energy, consumed from solar panels in the city or elsewhere in the country,” said Mor.

“If you can produce energy from solar panels during the day, store it in a battery at home, and use it during the night to charge your car, then we can substantially reduce energy consumption from the grid substantially,” he said.

The need to make energy consumption “smarter” is particularly urgent in electricity-guzzling industry and the offices where we spend our days.

“We need to start looking at industrial areas, which are the prime sources of money, resources or taxes for any city,” said Mor. “Smarter consumptions means using Internet of Things (IoT) devices and local energy production.

“For example, there are generators that are quiet and can produce electricity and heat combined. The residual heat that is being produced out of electricity can be used to boil your water.”

In 2015, Centrica acquired Israeli energy management company Panoramic Power for $60 million, enabling businesses to gain cloud-based insights into their energy usage.

In February, the company announced investments in German company GreenCom Networks – which enables customers to earn money by making surplus power in the home available to the grid at periods of high demand – and Mixergy – which combines sensory and IoT technology to learn household hot water habits so it only heats just enough to meet their needs.

“Today, energy innovation is currently at the customer level, where people adopt it because they know about the environmental impact of global warming and care about it,” said Mor.

“Realizing the vision of the smart city, however, is a joint effort, requiring government legislation to enable local districts and municipalities to manage their own assets. Technology is just the tool to help them create the smart city solutions.”

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