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How smart grids will save citizens billions

The research also predicts that cities in Far East Asia would become true smart cities earlier than their Western counterparts


Seoul has a large-scale deployment of EV charging infrastructure and smart street lighting
Seoul has a large-scale deployment of EV charging infrastructure and smart street lighting

A study undertaken by Juniper Research found that the development of smart grids linked to smart cities will result in citizens saving $14 billion per annum in energy bills by 2022.


This is up from the $3.4 billion saving estimated for 2017, resulting from smart meter roll-outs, energy-saving policies and sensing technology to improve grid reliability and efficiency.


As part of the new study, Smart Cities: Strategies & Forecasts in Energy, Transport & Lighting 2017-2022, Juniper analysed and ranked global cities to assess their performance and approach towards energy consumption and delivery. The South Korean city of Seoul topped the ranking, followed by San Francisco, New York, Portland (Oregon) and Barcelona.


The research also focused on areas such as the increased investment in renewables, the role of blockchain in the energy sector and mobility-as-a-service and its potential to drastically reduce city congestion.


Here, SmartCitiesWorld asks Juniper principal analyst, Steffen Sorrell, to delve deeper into the findings.


SCW: Can you elaborate on why Seoul did so well in the ranking?


SS: Positive factors included the city’s smart meter roll-outs, smart lighting and an extensive electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure. In addition to this, we noted the Seoul Sustainable Energy Action Plan, which involves catalysing the market for decentralised solar PV generation, building energy management systems and smart grid technologies. We also noted national efforts such as the Zero Energy 2025 policy as additional positive factors.


Can you highlight what activities mark the other four cities out in the top five?


All cities ranked in the top five performed well in terms of smart LED street lighting roll-outs. In addition


San Francisco: several smart grid pilot projects have been conducted thus far. In line with this, the city has deployed a substantial network of EV charging stations; three solar-powered charging stations were unveiled in April 2015 to enable citizens to charge their vehicles at no cost. Meanwhile LED smart street lights ensure that the city’s energy bill is minimised along with its associated carbon footprint; MaaS (mobility-as-a-service) as key to this aim.


New York: the government is a member of the New York State Smart Grid Consortium, a multi-actor public-private focused on efficient energy and grid technology and deployment. Extensive sustainability vision laid out in the One New York Plan, with CO2 reduction aimed at 80 per cent of 2005 levels.


Portland: the city has a green building policy (energy and CO2 reduction) in place, with performance measurements since 2015 to measure progress. The city is actively aiming to transition to EV/autonomous vehicles and has established a substantial EV charging network.

Barcelona: Smart meter roll-outs, as well as several smart grid projects, such as the GrowSmarter initiative, are being deployed to deliver low- to zero-emissions zones in the city. Barcelona is home to one of the larger EV charging networks among the cities analysed.


How quickly do you predict renewables will scale in the future?


Faster than expected. The levelised cost of renewables has, in many regions, come down to the point where build-out starts to become cheaper than fossil fuels coupled to carbon capture and storage technology. The Paris Agreement, as well as national and even state policies, are driving further investment.


This puts the emphasis on how this energy will integrate with the existing grid at scale. For that, storage solutions are required, as well as mechanisms for decentralised energy generation and sale. In addition to that, EVs are rapidly gaining mindshare among consumers as well as vehicle OEMs. The current grid would collapse under the energy demands of mass EV adoption, in turn requiring smart grid technology – which goes hand-in-hand with renewables.


How will blockchain help to transform the grid?


The main benefit will be the speed and reliability at which energy can be traded. The current structure of the market means that energy trades rely on a complex certification system that is susceptible to accounting errors and increased costs, in much the same manner that traditional contracts are expensive and susceptible to mistakes and paper loss.


Blockchain can act as the certification system, removing errors and reducing costs. This applies not only to large-scale trading (which currently has roughly two months’ lag time for payments due to the aforementioned certification system) but also to future peer-to-peer trades, where you could, for example, sell excess energy to your neighbour.


Can you elaborate on how policy has become more important than technology to smart cities?


If one takes the example of urban transport, the solutions that are being rolled out in some cities, such as smart traffic lights and smart parking spaces, are only plasters that fail to address the wider issue. Road-widening failed to solve cities’ congestion issues; eventually, the same will be realised here. Additionally, ride-hailing services have been found to increase congestion and reduce air quality levels.


These factors are not ‘smart’ if one examines the long-term. This means that policy must be put into place to reduce the volume of vehicles on the road. One solution here is MaaS in that all forms of transport are integrated sufficiently so as to make needing a private vehicle for most journeys obsolete. However, companies will not respond to such an ideal unless the city has a specific policy or taskforce to ensure that progress is made in that direction.


What factors will propel Far East Asia cities to become smart cities ahead of their western counterparts?


There are a combination of factors. In the first instance, smart solutions and technologies can, in many instances, be built without disrupting legacy infrastructure, because the infrastructure was not there in the first place. This reduces cost and difficulty in scaling. Additionally, and this goes back to policy, municipal agencies and government have a more rigid approach towards budget allocation and smart city development. In Western markets, the situation is more about letting the markets decide. That can, and has, slowed progress.


You can find out more about the study here: Smart Cities: Strategies & Forecasts in Energy, Transport & Lighting 2017-2022


Juniper Research, based in Hampshire in the UK, specialises in identifying and appraising new high growth market sectors within the digital ecosystem. Market sizing and forecasting are the cornerstones of our offering, together with competitive analysis, strategic assessment, and business modeling.



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