Mitä energiamurros tarkoittaa kaupungeissa?

 

Globaalin energiamurroksen taustalla vaikuttavia tekijöitä on useita, mutta kaupunkitasolla asia voidaan yksinkertaistaa. Kaupungit kuluttavat valtaosan maailman energiasta ja tuottavat yli kaksi kolmannesta kasvihuonepäästöistä. Samanaikaisesti kaupungeissa on esimerkiksi ilmanlaatuun liittyviä ongelmia, joihin on löydettävä pikaisia ratkaisuja. Edelläkävijäkaupungit ovat jo sitoutuneet päästövähennyksiin joko vapaaehtoisesti tai säätelyn kautta. Useat kaupungit pyrkivät jopa päästöttömyyteen seuraavan vuosikymmenen kuluessa. Käytännössä puhtaat, vähähiiliset energiamuodot ovat tässä avainasemassa.

Miten puhtaaseen ja vähähiiliseen tulevaisuuteen päästään?

Kaupungeilla on käytössään monia teknologisia keinoja, joiden avulla ne voivat siirtyä kohti puhdasta, vähähiilistä energiaa. Polttoaineiden käytön vähentäminen ja uusiutuvien energiamuotojen osuuden lisääminen ovat näistä ilmeisimmät. Myös olemassa olevan infrastruktuurin ja järjestelmien tehokkuutta lisäämällä tai esimerkiksi hyödyntämällä hukkalämpöä tai kaukolämmön ja -jäähdytyksen välisiä synergioita voidaan saada merkittäviä hyötyjä.

Toinen suuri tekijä yhtälössä on kysyntä. Energian kulutusta voidaan merkittävästi pienentää parantamalla rakennusten energiatehokkuutta ja esimerkiksi älykkään energianhallinnan ja varastojen avulla huipputehon tarvetta voidaan vähentää ja siirtää huipputuntien ulkopuolelle.

Mitä seuraavaksi?

Muutos kohti puhdasta ja vähähiilistä tulevaisuutta on jo käynnissä, ja sen vauhti on kiihtymässä. Nyt on oikea hetki tehdä strategiset päätökset ja ottaa ensimmäiset käytännön askeleet. Fiksuimmat ja nopeimmat toimijat ratkaisevat, millaiseksi tulevaisuuden energia-ala muovautuu kaupungeissa. Muiden tehtäväksi jää yrittää mukautua tähän tulevaisuuteen. Energiamarkkinoiden edelläkävijät etsivät aktiivisesti innovatiivisia tapoja maksimoida olemassa olevan infrastruktuurinsa käyttö osana tulevaisuuden energialiiketoimintaa ja pilotoivat samanaikaisesti uusia liiketoimintamalleja. Vitkastelijoiden osalta vaarana ei ole pelkästään omaisuuden kiihtyvä arvon aleneminen ja lopulta hukkaomaisuudeksi päätyminen, vaan he voivat myös menettää tulevaisuuden tarjoamat liiketoimintamahdollisuudet.

Voisitko antaa esimerkin?

Uusien kaupunkialueiden suunnittelu ja olemassa olevien uudelleensuunnittelu avaa konkreettisen ikkunan tulevaisuuteen. Näillä alueilla tulevaisuudessa asuvat kaupunkilaiset käyttävät arjessaan puhdasta ja vähähiilistä energiaa, joka tuotetaan älykkäällä ja joustavalla tavalla useista eri lähteistä.  Tulevaisuuden energiaverkko on kokonaisvaltainen, hajautettu järjestelmä, joka koostuu energiatehokkaista rakennuksista ja hyödyntää moninaisia paikallisia uusiutuvan energian lähteitä ja varastoja. Älykäs energiahallinta puolestaan mahdollistaa aktiivisen kysyntä- ja tarjontamallin hyödyntämisen.

Jo nyt on olemassa hienoja esimerkkejä hankkeista, joissa tulevaisuuden energiajärjestelmien mallintamisen ja simuloinnin ja avulla on voitu testata tulevaisuuden liiketoimintamallien kannattavuutta ja niiden yhteistoimintaa olemassa olevien järjestelmien kanssa. Ainakin se on selvää, että kaupunkien energiainfran rakentaminen tavalliseen tapaan ei ole enää järkevää, vaan tulevaisuuden muutospaineet täytyy pystyä huomioimaan jo tämän päivän investoinneissa.


Lue lisää VTT:n älykkäiden ja kestävien kaupunkien visiosta tuoreesta white paper ‑kannanotostamme: Let’s turn your Smart City vision into reality.

Antti Ruuska VTT
Antti Ruuska
Business Development Manager, VTT
antti.ruuska(a)vtt.fi
Twitter: @antti_ruuska

 

Smart City -vision kehittäminen vaatii luonnostaan eri teknologioiden ja tieteenalojen yhdistämistä. Käytännön sovelluksiin tähtäävänä tutkimusorganisaationa VTT on siihen paras mahdollinen kumppani. Teemme sekä julkisen ja yksityisen sektorin yritysten että teknologian tuottajien kanssa tutkimus- ja innovaatioyhteistyötä, jonka avulla voi nopeuttaa Smart City -kehitystä.  Meiltä saa opastusta vision luomisen ja konseptin kehittämisen alkuvaiheista aina älykkäiden ratkaisujen käytännön toteutuksiin asti.

Energy transition in cities -what’s it all about?

While the ongoing energy transition is driven by a multitude of factors on global scale, the issue can be simplified on city level. Cities consume vast share of global energy and produce over two thirds of the greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time, there is an urgent need to solve urban issues, such as those related to air quality. The forerunning cities are already committed to emission reductions, be it voluntarily or through regulation. Many are even aiming to become emission-free within the next decade or so. Effectively, this means that the main driver for energy transition in cities is the need to move towards clean, low-carbon energy.

How to get there?

The technological means to move towards clean, low-carbon energy in cities are many. Moving away from fossil fuels and increasing the share of renewable energy are the big targets. At the same time, efficiency of existing infrastructure and systems can improved. Examples of this include utilization of waste heat and for example, utilising synergies between district heating and cooling networks.

The other big factor in the equation is the demand side, where energy use can be reduced through better energy efficiency in buildings. Furthermore, smart energy management can help to shift and reduce peak loads.

What should we do next?

The change towards clean and low-carbon future is already happening and the pace of change is only accelerating. The time for strategic planning and first actions is now. It is those who move early, who will be shaping the future energy business in cities. The rest will be playing catch-up. The forerunning energy market players are actively seeking innovative ways to maximise the use of their existing infrastructure as part of the future energy business, while piloting new business models. The laggards will not only risk escalating the value-loss of assets and ending up with stranded assets, but they will also lose out on the new business opportunities that the future brings.

Give me an example, please!

The design of new city districts and re-development of existing ones opens up a concrete window to the future. Citizens, who live in those districts in the next decades, will be powering their everyday activities with the clean, low-carbon energy that benefits from smart energy generation, and distributed, resilient and flexible energy systems. The holistic energy systems that comprise of low-energy buildings, multiple sources of local renewables and storages form distributed energy networks that utilize active supply-and-demand side through smart energy management. We’ve already witnessed great outcomes when advanced modelling and simulation or energy systems has been combined with exploration of new business. The last thing we want to be doing is to build the same infrastructure that we’ve always built, even though we know the changes that lie ahead.

If you want to read more about VTT’s vision regarding smart and sustainable cities, read our new white paper: Let’s turn your Smart City vision into reality.

Antti Ruuska VTT
Antti Ruuska
Business Development Manager, VTT
antti.ruuska(a)vtt.fi
Twitter: @antti_ruuska

 

Smart City development is inherently multi-technological and cross-disciplinary, and as an application-oriented research organisation VTT is an ideal partner. We work with the public sector and private companies as well as technology providers in research and innovation activities that expedites the development of smarter cities.  We can guide you from the early phases of vision-creation and concept development to practical implementations of smart outcomes.

Flexible energy consumption must be increased as part of the energy system – while bearing consumer needs in mind

Demand response appears a reasonable concept, from the viewpoint of both consumers and energy companies. It benefits consumers in the form of comfortable homes, lower costs and positive environmental impacts. The necessary technical prerequisites, such as intelligent energy metering and home automation, are already available in Finland. Nevertheless, we are not taking full advantage of the potential provided by demand response. Why is that? VTT is seeking a solution to this problem through its DyRES project (Dynamic platform for demand RESponse), which we discussed from the viewpoint of consumers in our previous blog post.

Introducing demand response in new area planning

Numerous experiments have been performed in the field of demand response. These typically involve demand response related to either electricity or heating, including individual devices such as electric boilers or room-specific temperature controls. A similar stepwise build-up can be seen in urban development, where the creation of residential areas was previously based on factors such as technical capabilities, cost structure, energy trade that was less open than today, legislation and just a minor emphasis on environmental considerations.

But what if a new urban area was planned as a whole from the early planning stages, instead of being built gradually one fragment at a time? This is now the norm in terms of construction technology, but does energy management still have room for improvement? One example of this approach, familiar to the authors of this blog post, is the Hippos project, a sports and wellness cluster currently under planning in Jyväskylä. At the turn of 2016/2017, we assessed the demand response potential for electricity in this area, in collaboration with Jyväskylä Energy Ltd. Our simulation results showed that energy cost savings of around 15 per cent could be achieved in this area, just by leveraging the demand response for electricity.

Hippos

The Hippos area, which is currently under planning in Jyväskylä, combines significant energy consumption, housing and traffic.

Although the assessment only covered electricity consumption, the energy system of the future would include considerably more, and more flexible, elements than today’s systems. As a result, it seems natural to extend our assessment not only to electricity, but also to heating and, as electric vehicles become more common, to traffic. This will also increase the potential benefits. Regional planning enables interaction between various actors, including matching one actor’s surplus with another’s deficit.

Modelling provides new information on demand response

Demand response is affected by changing external parameters and factors, such as the functioning of the energy market, legislation, integrated sources of energy and the opportunity of consumers to adjust their consumption. These parameters are highly dynamic and interactive. Since real-time use of all this information is virtually impossible without an efficient tool, VTT has developed the DyRES simulation platform that enables the optimal design and implementation of area-specific solutions.

Using this simulation platform, the most extensive work is carried out by the Apros process simulation software, whose applications have expanded in recent years from power plant and nuclear power processes to renewable energy and system assessments. In addition to embedded dynamics, Apros enables the accurate modelling of supply and consumption. Apros’s dynamic simulation model is controlled by an optimisation programme, whose role was aptly summarised by Jukka Aho, CEO of Leanheat, at the Fortum Digitalist Energy Forum in May: ”Why should humans compete with computers and decide on the best algorithm?”

 Numerous parameters form a complex entity that requires a simulation platform such as DyRES, which combines dynamic simulation with optimisation.

By combining two calculation methods – dynamic simulation and optimisation – we can respond much more accurately to practical issues than by using current off-the-shelf tools. Research projects also prefer self-built models (Neves et al. 2016), such as agent-based modelling. Based on this principle, the DyRES simulation platform can be used to model groups of households, devices and equipment via individual consumers making independent decisions.

DyRES simulation platform

The DyRES simulation platform takes account of the operating environment, including legislation, the energy market and weather conditions, as well as consumers’ behaviour and opportunities for flexible response, the increase in small-scale production,
and buildings’ characteristics and life cycles.

From simulation to practice − the consumer lies at the heart of new solution design

VTT participated in the Energy Efficiency 2.0 in Building seminar at Heureka on 22 May 2017. The seminar presentations included the experiences of Salusfin and S-Voima in implementing demand response. Even more importantly, the seminar brought together a comprehensive set of players needed to take demand response, and smart solutions in general, from paper into practice on an increasing scale. In addition to steering mechanisms, this requires input from researchers, constructors and building technology experts.  The seminar’s varied audience was asked what measures were needed to support the implementation of home automation. The result was probably a surprise to some: instead of technical methods, the audience regarded consumer training and communications as the key tools for this.

DyRES poll

The seminar audience regarded training and communications as the key tools in promoting demand response. Other favoured options included influencing building code and introducing usage-based pricing.

The survey results indicate that it is important to understand the whole: demand response as such and as a technology has no absolute value. Instead, its value stems from its role in the energy system and its ability to create added value for the user. For this reason, the DyRES simulation platform not only focuses on demand response, but combines it with decentralised production and the entire energy market – both at building and area level. To take full advantage of this tool’s potential, we need to bear the needs of consumers in mind. A good example of this is the Human Thermal Model (HTM) method developed earlier by VTT for assessing the individual thermal comfort experienced by different user groups. Data obtained from this method can also be used in the DyRES platform. If the consumer’s living comfort improves while peak power energy production output is reduced, consumers will find it rational to participate in demand response, including in the long term. To avoid burdening residents, demand response must be an automatic feature embedded in apartments. If the technology and its supply to customers is simple, its use can be increased through awareness building.

DyRES sign

Instead of technology, the implementation of demand response and other smart energy solutions starts with consumer needs, such as comfortable living, which in turn creates wellbeing. Communication will play a key role in increasing consumer awareness on the use of, and the added value brought by, demand response. The supply of smart solutions to consumers as an integrated part of home energy systems will enable a change in behaviour.

Demand response includes several elements − building technology and automation, regional planning, the use of technology at consumer level − all of which need to be taken into account in order to take full advantage of demand response’s potential. DyRES provides a platform that enables all the pieces to be put together.

Read more:  www.vttresearch.com/services/low-carbon-energy/ 

Elina Hakkarainen VTTElina Hakkarainen, Research Scientist
Twitter: @e_Hakkarainen

Tomi Thomasson VTT

Tomi Thomasson, Research Scientist

Mikko Jegoroff VTTMikko Jegoroff, Research Scientist

Vision – zero energy telecommunications

Could the technical solutions used in telecommunications be developed to the point where ‘zero energy’ is achieved? Here’s Key Account Manager Tapio Rauma’s answer. Tapio Rauma VTT

Much room for technical development remains, despite the long history of electric communications.

Decades elapsed between the first version of the telegraph and the first phone call, in which the inventor of the telephone, Graham Bell, uttered the famous words, “Mister Watson, come here, I need you,” to his assistant Thomas Watson.

It now seems that 4G barely had time to settle in before 5G began hitting the streets. The development cycle of just under ten analogue and digital telephone systems has been completed in about the time that separated the telegraph from the first phone call. In the same period, the transmission of data has shifted continuously from cable-based, electromagnetic signals to wireless radio traffic.

Wireless communication is not ultimately wireless. Even pocket devices only work independently for a limited time; to be recharged, they need to be connected to the power grid for hours at a time, at regular intervals. So much for being wireless.

Base stations, which mobile devices connect to via radio signals, also depend on the power grid. While a base station can already communicate wirelessly, it cannot work without electricity cables. Given the need for base stations and other systems to control network components, electricity is becoming even more important.

Because of large energy needs

A range of evaluations have been performed of electricity consumption by, and carbon dioxide emissions from, telecommunications systems. Naturally, such assessments tend to link telecommunications to ICT systems as a whole. The carbon footprint of ICT devices remains under 5% of the total, but their share is growing continually. It is generally believed that power consumption will continue to double in cycles of around five years.

The electricity bill of European telecommunication network operators accounts for around 20% of their overall cost budget (OPEX). Finnish operators use over 0.5 TWh per year, which is equal to the annual production of Kemijoki’s largest hydropower plant and around 1.5 months of production by the type of nuclear reactor used in Loviisa.

You get what you order

The energy consumption of telecommunications has not yet been properly optimised. Resources have been allocated to achieve huge data transmission capacity; naturally, every effort has been made to succeed in this, which has required faster computing components, equipped with multi-core processors, in smaller and smaller casings. This has resulted in greater power consumption and greater, electricity-guzzling cooling needs due to problems with overheating. In addition, the move to higher frequencies requires a denser base-station network, increasing the number of electricity-consuming base stations.

What’s the solution?

Ten years ago, the construction industry had reached the point where a detached house, well constructed based on the technology of its time, was gorging on heating energy by current standards. It is now possible to build very low-energy buildings using conventional methods, due to improvements in building materials, regulations and, above all, greater public awareness of energy issues. With more investment in the issue, buildings can even produce energy. This means plus-energy construction.

The advent of plus-energy buildings has been made possible by a number of technical improvements and tools. These include the development of windows, qualitative and quantitative improvements in insulation, more-efficient heating technologies like the introduction of heat pump technology, and a range of new energy sources – such as solar and wind power – integrated into buildings.

But could the technical solutions used in telecommunications be developed to the point where ‘zero energy’ is achieved? The answer is, of course, yes. For example, the power consumption of devices could be reduced using electronics that consume less energy than now. Together with energy harvesting (solar, wind and vibrations etc.) and fuel cells, advanced battery technology is moving us into the age of telecommunications without power cables. The software used in devices has not been optimised at all. Additionally, rising cooling needs have led to the construction of better coolers instead of more efficient hardware and software.

Zero energy telecommunications should be viewed as a situation in which telecommunications devices function optimally in terms of energy consumption, and for long stretches without external energy sources. The term ‘energy autonomous device’ will become more and more familiar. Development is now happening on several fronts.

To quote very freely from J.F.Kennedy’s famous speech on the lunar missions: “We choose to study this not because it is easy, but because it is very hard. This is a challenge big enough for us to get our teeth into.”

Tapio Rauma, Key Account Manager
Twitter: @TapioRauma

Major changes ahead for district heating

Many of us live in apartments that are warmed by district heating. In our daily lives, it doesn’t necessarily occur to us how effortlessly our apartments are warmed and that breaks in heating are rare, brief and barely affect our comfort. Radiators and thermostatic radiator valves, which we don’t even need to touch to maintain a pleasant indoor temperature, are all that remind us of heating. However, district heating will most likely undergo major changes over the next decade.

satu_rinat

District heating has a long history. The world’s first systems were implemented at the end of the 1800s. In Finland, the distribution of district heating began in places such as Helsinki and Espoo in the 1950s. Most district heating is still produced by either combined heat and power plants, or separate heating plants. However, the trend is shifting from the current third-generation district heating towards fourth-generation district heating systems. The long-term trend has seen improvements in the energy efficiency of district heating and a fall in water temperature levels during the transition to the next generation.

District heating is more and more often being produced from renewable energy sources and various types of waste heat, which would otherwise remain unused. For example, several data centres have recently been built whose facilities generate a great deal of heat. Waste heat of this kind is already being used as a source of district heating. In the sample calculations for the EFEU research project, carbon dioxide emissions were reduced by half, while a fifth of the district heating produced for the studied area comprised waste heat from the data centre.

Towards changing markets

The district heating markets are also changing. An open, two-way district heating network means one that both distributes district heating to consumers and enables customers or individual heat producers to sell their surplus or other generated heat to the network. This could mean a major increase in the share of, say, solar power or large thermal heat pumps in district heat production. In the EFEU project, it was observed that, since solar and geothermal heat saw the biggest increase during the twenty-year study period, the need for centrally produced heat fell by 34%.

In an open district heating production structure, the operators will also change. Someone must take responsibility for the trade in heat and the related production and demand management. It must be decided under what terms and with what technical solutions trade can be made possible, how demand during peak consumption can be met in all circumstances and how investments will be made.

As the temperature levels of district heating water fall, household heating systems will have to be upgraded. The latest systems are so-called low-temperature systems, whose radiators – for example – are bigger than the current ones. Changes can be implemented during other renovations, which makes them cheaper than when done separately. A building’s heating distribution system would then be ready for either the person’s own renewable energy system, or for the new network – freedom to choose is a blessing.

In the future, network operators may also encourage customers (by using tariffs, for example) to prepare for connection to a low-temperature network. For network operators, lowering the network temperature will open up new markets, such as the possibility to buy and utilise cheap waste heat. In addition, energy-renovated buildings previously disconnected from the network in an ‘old district heating network’ area could reconnect, or new buildings with their own heat production could be connected for the first time. In practice, however, changes in buildings’ systems will occur in stages and only in new district heating areas to begin with.

EFEU research project

Energy system scenarios were created via the Efficient Energy Use (EFEU) programme coordinated by CLIC Innovation Ltd. The scenarios involved research on increasing the use of solar heat and geothermal heat pumps, industrial waste heat recovery, and the impact on energy and emissions of small-scale producers selling heat to consumers. These options were explored in a case study of the Central Uusimaa district heating network.

The publication, ”Visions for future energy efficient district energy systems”, is available online at: http://www.vtt.fi/inf/pdf/technology/2016/T277.pdf

The report sets out visions of the energy systems of the future and the current status of systems connectible to district heating in Finland. The publication describes the challenges, needs and scenarios related to future business activities and services.

Satu Paiho, Senior Scientist

Rinat Abdurafikov, Research Scientist

Theme energy: The world of IoT comes home

VTT arranged the “Growth from the energy transition” seminar in Helsinki on 13 September 2016. During the event, VTT’s extensive know-how in the energy sector – the related research findings, scenarios and visions – was showcased. Together with our partners, we also pondered the energy revolution and growth prospects in Finland. The seminar themes are explored in more detail in our energy-themed blog series.

A wide range of visions have been presented and produced on the future of energy consumption in homes. One of the most familiar is the idea of the energy-flexible home. In addition, houses can be energy self-sufficient or, where appropriate, even generate energy for others.

The new technologies currently being tried and tested will provide the consumers of the future with the opportunity to consider various new, alternative types of energy production. As an example, let’s take the illustration in the picture of how a home of the future, with printed and energy-sensitive surfaces, might look. The wall surfaces and decorations could be energy-generating, in accordance with the situation. A table cloth, wall decoration, wallpaper or a computer’s surface could generate energy from ambient light. According to this vision, the design of living environments built around incoming light will gain a stronger foothold.

tuikka_futurehome

Future home.

In addition to gathering ambient energy, such a home could be smart and gather information on its surroundings and its own functions, communicating such information to cloud services or other devices. In this case, part of a home or office could be the subject of negotiated flexibility based on an agreed electricity contract, within the limits of the operational possibilities. The flexible use of energy is therefore dependent upon a definition according to the situation in question.

Consumer information and new services

In addition to energy systems, domestic appliances could ‘tell’ other devices about their own situation and ‘converse’ with each other. At the moment, it looks as though a platform economy is forming in which the so-called Internet of Things has a huge number and variety of actors at different levels. All manufacturers of home appliances and consumer electronics, and makers of sauna stoves or electricity meter readers, seem to be reaching out to consumers. Consumer information and its combination with other data appears to be the key to the new services. The impact of flexible energy consumption could be difficult to calculate in the absence of connected-up data. The greatest potential is thought to lie in the change in business models and new business opportunities. A wide range of estimates have also been made on the sums of money that the forthcoming IoT and platforms will involve worldwide.

Despite the great difficulty in estimating these sums, the change can be viewed as an opportunity in general. To ensure business continuity, it is important to identify the elements involved in such change. Legislation and various initiatives, technological transitions and standards will have an impact on activities in the long term.

For example, legislation can be used to define certain data as important to society and to rule that it must be open by law. What would the impact on business activities be if data generated by energy meters was defined as important to society and therefore open? This would avoid a closed system and data could be combined with other data, creating added value. There would undoubtedly be a major impact on business. Such situations are familiar in another context. Services related to payment services, in particular, are changing. The new Payment Services Directive will oblige banks to open up their own databases to third parties. External service vendors will gain access to a bank’s payment transactions. On behalf of customers, service vendors will be able to manage payments mainly online and through mobile channels. In fact, payments concern all services and both banks and other actors are now being consulted on the services to which payments can be connected. It is quite possible that this change will also cover energy solutions.

The role of the consumer is highlighted in the digital society. Consumers are interested in data related to their own activities and are becoming more interested in data and activities defined just for them. Digitalisation brings the service vendor closer to the consumer – the better digital services serve the consumer, the more certain it is that they will be used. Based on an integrated picture of household consumption and production, digital services can increasingly free consumers from vendor dependency. From the consumer’s perspective, the more flexibly and easily services work, the more attractive they are. Easy and clear switching between power supply agreements, comparison of terms and conditions, and integration of financial transactions with other services are already increasing consumer awareness of the alternatives and mobility on the energy markets.

To whom does data belong?

The transition will be based on a range of factors – such as regulations – and their combinations. To whom does data created by the internet, lamps, sauna stoves or televisions in households belong? This subject is so important that the European Commission has drawn attention to the matter by considering the rights to data within business chains. Another similar, but further advanced, regulation is the General Data Protection Regulation or the GDPR, which will define people’s right to their own data when it enters into force in 2018.

Secondly, standards are important when wondering what kinds of data communication layers to create. There are a number of initiatives and VTT is involved in several standards organisations and ventures. Thirdly, the technological revolution is unlikely to happen in isolation, but will require a suitable setting within the business environment. Although block chain technology is a new technical term, the passion surrounding it seems to have spread beyond the IT community. The term becomes more familiar when associated with the concept of virtual money and the word ‘bitcoin’. In this case, the interesting thing is that no single operator has centralised control over the data.  It is said that transparency and decentralization make this approach trustworthy. Examples are merely illustrative right now, but a moment may arrive when an electrical device can securely report energy quantities to a block chain.  The vision could consist of IoT devices making agreements with each other and engaging in regulated commerce in situations involving energy flexibility.

Tuomo Tuikka, Research Manager
Twitter: @tttuomo

Energy efficiency is the key component of sustainable development in cities

miimu_airaksinen

The UN Habitat New Urban Agenda was released a few weeks in Quito, Equador. The task to write a new urban agenda has not been easy, given that pre-conditions and interests are different in different UN countries. At the same time, there is an urgent need to act in favour of sustainable development in cities.

The striking fact is that urban settlements covers roughly 2.7% of the surface area of the globe, but consume 70% of resources and hence produces 75% of CO2 emissions. Moreover, we face many challenges if we are to transform our cities into healthy, safe and comfortable living and working areas.

Starting from these pre-conditions, the New Urban Agenda for the first time highlights the importance of energy. As is well-known, energy production is the main source of CO2 emissions and air quality problems in cities. Energy is needed in cities for transport, heating, cooling, lighting as well as for water and sanitary systems. We also need energy to run equipment and appliances. To transform ourselves into low carbon society, we need to de-carbonise our energy production, but also, very importantly, we need to use energy more efficiently. Energy that does not need to be produced is the most environmental friendly. Energy efficiency is not only beneficial in preventing pollution but is also a key component for resilient cities. Energy efficiency entails reducing overall demand and more importantly reducing peak demand. In combination with smart technologies, demand can be controlled based on self-learning and adaptive algorithms to reduce and shift the demand even more efficiently without compromising users’ well-being, but rather in ways that can also further enhance well-being.

Smart cities and efficient resources

In addition to energy, the concept of smart cities was for the first time raised onto the agenda. The concept of smart cities is quite unique, since it is applicable both to industrialised cities/districts and to developing economies. The benefit of smart cities is that by using easy-to-install and adaptable sensors and self-learning control algorithms, existing infrastructure can be made more efficient. Moreover, new methods allow for generating urban services more efficiently in developing countries, without heavy and costly infrastructure requirements. Good examples for this are the implementation of renewable energy sources for cities and communities. In addition, smart communications enable citizen engagement and ownership within their own living areas, which evidently improves the perceived living quality and attractiveness of the area.

Smart systems enable us to use our resources more efficiently. This can be done by using and combining data from different sources. Currently, in modern buildings, there are typically over 20 000 data points, and hence in cities there exists an unimaginable amount of data; it is evident that no-one has the capacity to process all the data. We need, therefore, smart self-learning and predictive systems to make the most of the data available. One of the leading principles in smart cities is to enrich data to create meaningful information that supports our decision-making and helps in making our everyday lives run smoothly and that helps us to achieve environmental sustainability. More importantly, this saves time for the most important things in our lives.

Miimu Airaksinen
Research Professor
UN Habitat Policy Unit 9

Miimu Airaksinen was nominated in 2015 as an expert for the United Nations Policy Unit 9 on Urban Services and Technology to prepare the UN urbanization strategy.

Twitter: @MiimuAiraksinen