Smart solutions for smart cities

1 July 2010

How can leaders create and transition to low carbon cities that benefit us all?

This key question was addressed in Shanghai two weeks ago, where The Climate Group co-sponsored the 'Partnership for Urban Innovation' conference with technology company Cisco and Metropolis – a network of over 100 cities.

In our SMART 2020 report, we identified that 7.8 Gt of CO2e (or 15% of global emissions) could be saved through the implementation of ‘smart’ grid, transportation, industrial and building solutions. A saving valued at EUR 600 billion in energy costs. Companies and governments can unlock this opportunity through the ‘SMART’ framework: Standards, Monitoring, Accountability, Rethinking and Transformation add up to efficient and thriving places to live.

What this means in reality is that people will be able to plug in electric vehicles without disrupting the power supply, and manage their energy consumption better with more sophisticated in-home metering. Traffic will flow better through car sharing or congestion charging, and tenants will be able to optimize their buildings’ response to their behavior to get the best energy savings while keeping everyone comfortable.

These kinds of services show promise. Logically, we can’t manage what we can’t measure. And as pressure for us all to manage and reduce our energy consumption increases, so does the market for products and services that help us to do this.

According an Intelligence Unit report sponsored by Siemens for the World City Symposium this week, 74% of citizens say that they feel that better access to energy information will change their energy and water consumption levels. This can be as important for governments as it is for households. As a recent report from KPMG shows, technology helps city leaders gain insight into their carbon footprint, define objectives and monitor their progress toward environmental outcomes. Existing cities will use technology to manage their systems more efficiently, and new cities have the opportunity to build ‘smart’ infrastructure right at the beginning.

But leadership is needed. As the Economist Intelligence study shows, both policy and business respondents agree that environmental initiatives must be driven by government, though business is ready to innovate and play its part.

Examples of simple and effective public-private partnerships were on display at the conference (see the full agenda and speakers), where we heard from economists, planners, city governments, academics and companies about sustainable city challenges and opportunities. Alongside Cisco’s Connected Urban Development (CUD) projects, we heard about a new smart city being built from scratch Songdo, Korea; Chengdu’s smart management of livestock; Jinji Lake in Suzhou; Tianjin Hai River development; and Pecan Street's community energy delivery system in Austin, Texas. The Climate Group’s session focused on overcoming challenges to smart cities, and you can hear the follow-up webinar with speakers from Cisco and Arup.

What next for smart cities? At the conference, we announced that The Climate Group will be extending the work that Cisco has begun under their CUD R&D initiative which has delivered 12 projects in 7 cities in the last few years. We will build on our existing work with cities under the HSBC Climate Partnership by developing 10 new demonstration projects in the next 3 years. Through The Climate Group’s SMART 2020 programme we look forward to working with government and business partners to show how technologies – or ‘smart’ solutions – are integral to sustainable cities, and what needs to be done to roll them out and scale-up the benefits.

For case studies of smart solutions in cities, go to

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