The development of livable and attractive cities requires better integration of energy services into the multiple urban functions, industrial production and different aspects of people’s lives. In this context, it remains important to deliver energy services with high standards of safety, reliability and convenience, while also improving efficiency and reducing negative environmental and health impacts. For that to be possible, it is necessary to devise integrated infrastructure, compatible technological solution packages, new management practices and innovative business models.
Modern energy systems are characterized by technological patterns that were developed over time. Urban transformation is gradual and traditional solutions tend to persist despite the potential of innovative options. Electricity systems, for example, continue to expand on the basis of centralized generation in most parts of the world despite the potential to develop decentralized generation. The reasons for that are not only related to technology per se, but also to planning and management practices, regulatory frameworks and established business models.
A new landscape can be engendered in the energy sector, incorporating a variety of innovative energy and information technologies and systems solutions, some of which are now being tested. This includes distributed generation based on renewable sources and managed through sophisticated information technology; new storage technologies; polygeneration systems capable of delivering heating, cooling and electrical energy with higher efficiency; urban energy systems integrating and connecting different sectors (i.e. waste management and transport, electro-mobility) with efficient appliances. Thus, it is necessary to rethink energy provision and use in cities in a context of integrated solutions.
The vitality of urban environments depends on the capacity to innovate and reshape local economies and this requires new technological systems. In addition, there is need for new regulatory frameworks capable of accommodating the interests of various stakeholders, as well as new policies and business models to operate the energy system efficiently in the context of competitive markets. We cannot meet the demand for energy services in a modern city using old planning procedures based on sectorial approaches and segmented decision making. To achieve change, innovation needs to be embraced across sectors, and action be pursued jointly by academia, policy makers, public and private organizations, and technology providers. To have real impact on climate change mitigation, smart and efficient solutions need to be disseminated worldwide. At ECS, we are exploring ways through which sectoral integration can be engendered with new technologies, and promoted through innovative planning processes, policies and business models.