These 5 global cities are leading the charge to a renewable future

These 5 global cities are leading the charge to a renewable future

WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM (WEF)’s Charlotte Edmond, Senior Writer, Formative Content, wondering whether these 5 global cities are leading the charge to a renewable future, came up with this snapshot picture of today’s urban context in which much of human life takes place.

The Image above of Keit Trysh is for illustration and is of Dubai.

These 5 global cities are leading the charge to a renewable future

Cityscape of Seoul, South Korea.
Among the steps being taken to achieve a renewable future are energy-efficient buildings and cycling/walking schemes.Image: Unsplash/Sava Bobov
  • A billion people live in a city with renewable energy targets or policies.
  • Cities contribute three-quarters of CO2 emissions from final energy use.
  • New report highlights some ways cities around the world are getting greener.

A billion people lived in a city with a renewable energy target or policy in 2020.

Around the world, national and local governments are waking up to the potential of renewables as a way to create clean, liveable cities. More than half of the world’s population lives in a city, and cities contribute around three-quarters of the carbon dioxide emissions from global final energy use.

As urbanization continues apace, cities have an important role to play in helping curb greenhouse gas emissions and achieve Paris climate agreement objectives to limit global warming.

In a new report, REN21, a global body of scientists, governments, NGOs and industry, has highlighted some of the cities leading the way. Here are five of the most effective and innovative projects from around the world.

What is the World Economic Forum doing to ensure smart cities?

Cities represent humanity’s greatest achievements – and greatest challenges. From inequality to air pollution, poorly designed cities are feeling the strain as 68% of humanity is predicted to live in urban areas by 2050.

The World Economic Forum supports a number of projects designed to make cities cleaner, greener and more inclusive.

The World Economic Forum announced on June 28, 2019 that it was been selected to act as the secretariat for the G20 Global Smart Cities Alliance.

Led by the World Economic Forum, the G20 Global Smart Cities Alliance on Technology Governance is the largest global initiative of its kind, with its 16 founding partners representing more than 200,000 cities and local governments, companies, start-ups, research institutions and non-profit organizations.

Together, the Alliance is testing and implementing global norms and policy standards to help ensure that data collected in public places is used safely and ethically.

Read more about our impact on smart cities.

One billion people live in a city with a renewable energy target and/ or policy.
Renewable city targets.Image: Renewables in Cities 2021 Global Status Report, REN21

Adelaide, Australia

Adelaide’s municipal operations have been powered entirely by renewable energy since July 2020. The city gets energy from wind and solar farms as part of a long-term commitment to reach carbon neutrality by 2025.

Among the steps being taken to achieve this are energy-efficient buildings, initiatives to promote cycling and walking, and schemes to support the uptake of hybrid and electric vehicles.

The city has also invested in energy storage technologies, including the Hornsdale Power Reserve. It is one of the world’s largest lithium-ion batteries, and allows for greater use of a variety of renewable energy sources.

Adelaide is also investigating the opportunity to harness biogas from wastewater treatment plants as an additional energy source.

834 cities worldwide have renewable energy targets.
Cities around the world have set renewable targets.Image: Renewables in Cities 2021 Global Status Report, REN21

Seoul, Republic of Korea

Seoul has a strategy to reach carbon neutrality by 2050 built around five key areas – buildings, mobility, forestry, clean energy, and waste management. On the path to 2050 it has two interim goals – achieving 40% emission reduction by 2030 and 70% reduction by 2040 (compared with 2005 levels).

The city also has measures in place to cut back its reliance on nuclear energy by adding solar capacity. One of the key challenges is finding sufficient space to install photovoltaic (PV) panels. To tackle this, it is identifying new installation sites on urban infrastructure, and providing subsidies for PV panels integrated into buildings.

Cocody, Ivory Coast

In 2017, Cocody released a plan to reduce carbon emissions by 70% by 2030. The city faces a particular struggle to achieve this because of rising energy demand driven by rapid urban development and economic growth.

The city has put in place a reforestation and carbon sequestration programme, under which more green spaces will be created and 2 million mangrove trees will be planted or restored.

Other initiatives include using solar energy to power large public buildings, installing solar lamp posts and traffic lights, and supplying households with PV power kits.

Older cars are gradually being removed from the roads and others are being fitted with catalytic exhaust systems to reduce pollution.

Number of renewable energy targets by target year.
The plan moving forward.Image: Renewables in Cities 2021 Global Status Report, REN21

Malmö, Sweden

Malmö has made a name for itself as a sustainable city. The Western Harbour District has operated on 100% renewable energy since 2012, while the industrial area of Augustenborg has solar thermal panels connected to a central heating system.

The city plans to run entirely on renewables by 2030, up from around 43% in 2020.

Construction is under way on a geothermal deep-heat plant, which is expected to be operational in 2022. By 2028 it is hoping to have five of these geothermal plants.

Cape Town, South Africa

Coal is the dominant energy source in South Africa by some margin. The government wants to increase the share of renewable energy from around 8% in 2016 to 40% by 2030.

Emissions from transport are also a major problem for the city. It is exploring the use of biofuels in transport, and has run a pilot programme with locally made electric buses.

A surge of PV panel installations in the past decade means Cape Town had the highest concentration of registered rooftop solar PV systems nationwide in 2019. The city is also targeting greater use of solar-powered water heating systems in low-income areas.

Renewable energy provision at scale is also an option being seriously considered.

Building an eco-friendly environment for the MENA region’s mobility sector

Building an eco-friendly environment for the MENA region’s mobility sector

Crewless vehicles are becoming key to future intelligent city logistics, says middle east logistics arguing that building an eco-friendly environment for the MENA region’s mobility sector is reasonable to fit in with all those intelligent urban developments. So here we are.

Building an eco-friendly environment for the MENA region’s mobility sector

Unmanned vehicles are becoming key to future smart city logistics

Bell has developed new technology such as the Autonomous Pod Transport (APT). The APT is an autonomous UAV designed to perform multiple missions, including package delivery, critical medical transport and disaster relief.

As society becomes more conscious of the effects of climate change, cities worldwide are looking at alternative methods to power their urban areas. Population growth, coupled with the demand for resources, forces authorities to look into smarter, greener and more sustainable alternatives for their communities.

The influx of new technology has helped facilitate this, increasing the conversations around methods to save time, reduce costs and maximise energy to power the cities of the future. Prompted by the Internet of Things (IoT), the potential to create intelligent, eco-friendly cities remains hugely untapped.

Countries in the Middle East and Africa are realising smart cities’ potential and their overall benefit to their societies. From investments in alternative forms of mobility to discussions on renewable energy, countries have started putting together strategies to envision an eco-friendly world. For instance, in 2018, South Africa raised over $53 billion to invest in renewable energy, while other countries in the continent increased their investments to $7.4 billion.

The Middle East has seen a similar approach. The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia launched Vision 2021 and Vision 2030 National Agendas to explore methods that move away from fossil fuels and diversify their energy mix while also developing projects like NEOM, a sustainable ecosystem for living and working.

With the groundwork already being laid for these environments across the globe, one key element in developing these green cities is mobility and, in particular, the movement of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in urban areas. While still in its infancy, UAVs can provide solutions to numerous industries that face challenges with pollution, congestion and traffic safety. These electrically powered aerial vehicles offer an opportunity to utilise more renewable energy sources such as wind, solar or hydro-power to help fuel air travel of the future.

Present-day unmanned vehicles have a longer operational duration and require less maintenance than earlier models. These aircraft can be deployed in various terrains thanks to improved technology and used in multiple ways.

Advances in propulsion and guidance technologies are also helping make UAVs a reality. Already, in some parts of Africa, UAVs are being used to deliver blood, vaccines and other medical supplies to rural areas for people who require immediate medical attention.

In the UAE, the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) has issued a framework of rules to govern urban air mobility (UAM) to create conditions for safe, secure, and efficient flights close to populated urban areas. With these regulations, the country is set to become the first in the world to monitor the entire UAV ecosystem from take-off to landing.

With this in mind, the Bell team has been developing technology that offers convenient, safe and environmentally beneficial ways to move people, goods and information. Building on its 85 years of innovation in the aerospace sector, Bell has developed new technology such as the Autonomous Pod Transport (APT). The APT is an autonomous UAV designed to perform multiple missions, including package delivery, critical medical transport and disaster relief.

APT provides the logistics industry with a low-emission option for last-mile and hard-to-reach deliveries, helping decarbonise the supply chain. APT offers a solution for third-party logistics companies who emitted 13.8 million metric tons of CO2 in (year) while delivering 5.1 billion packages by ground or air, according to a 2019 report.

Furthermore, APT offers a solution to conserve energy through its unique tailsitter design and can carry heavier payloads up to 110 Ibs (50 kgs), speeds up to 90 kts (167 km/h) and a range of up to 35 miles (56 km). This means the APT offers a whole new level of mission capability for the entire supply chain.

In its continuing determination to improve conventional rotorcraft flight, Bell is exploring electrically powered technologies that promise to reduce fuel consumption and noise pollution. Electrically Distributed Anti-Torque (EDAT), a bold new initiative led by Light Commercial Aircraft Program Manager Eric Sinusas, comprises four small fans within a tail rotor shroud in an offset two-by-two pattern.

Each of the rotors contains four blades, powered by four separate motors, with the electrical energy provided through generators driven by the turbine engines. Replacing the traditional tail rotor, EDAT provides stabilising and steering functions in a more environmentally friendly manner, benefiting pilots and passengers and those on the ground.

Through its technological innovation, Bell is helping pave the way to an eco-friendlier environment. And the possibilities of using such technologies will contribute to and support green initiatives across the world.

Read more in middle east logistics Supply Chain

Debunking Construction Integration Technology Myths

Debunking Construction Integration Technology Myths

Advanced Project Management & System Integration Project Management & System Integration elaborated on the current trends in the construction industry concerning its necessary but vital digitalisation. They came up with what is so apparent, i.e. deconstruct that heavy concrete slab of traditions and day-to-day routines that weighs on the industry. It is all about debunking Construction integration technology myths because Digital integration would otherwise be inefficient.

March 26, 2021

Few construction industry leaders would say they oppose data integration. Most acknowledge that combining different data types and formats into a central location allows access to complete, current and accurate information to help them make fact-based decisions instead of acting on hunches. So why doesn’t every engineering and construction (E&C) firm have a warehouse of integrated data? The culprit is often misinformation created by myths about data integration. We will debunk three of the biggest myths about costs, downtime, and complexity below.


Myth #1: Data integration cannot be achieved without high costs

This myth was once true, and some vendors still do quote integration approaches that are not feasible for many E&C firm budgets. But today, integration solutions once available only to enterprises atop the ENR 500 are now available to small and mid-sized firms. Recent breakthroughs in virtualization, iPaaS, and cloud computing have contributed to their lower costs and broader availability.

Virtualization

As defined by Tech Target, data virtualization is an approach to data management that allows an application to retrieve and manipulate data without requiring technical details, like data format or its physical location. As this technology has matured, it has driven total integration costs down.

Integration Platform as a Solution (iPaaS)

Gartner defines iPaaS as a suite of cloud services enabling development, execution, and governance of integration flows connecting any combination of on-prem and cloud-based processes, services, applications, and data within individual or across multiple organizations.

iPaaS is ideal for E&C firms. Collaborating and sharing information across multidisciplinary teams including owners, architects, consultants, engineers, contractors, subcontractors, and suppliers using different systems is the cornerstone of E&C work.

Construction organizations typically collaborate with teams across multiple cloud platforms, so when considering iPaaS, look for a cloud-agnostic solution. Some solutions offer packages with varying costs based on the number and/or complexity of flows (data sources) needed. Custom email alerts may also prove helpful, for example, if an error occurs or if a batch is completed.

Cloud Computing

Collecting servers in a single room or rack is no longer necessary. Geographic isolation of data sources is actually a business continuity / disaster recovery best practice. Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud were growing in popularity even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The sharp increase of remote work and video conferencing accelerated their growth.

E&C firms are deploying more hybrid-cloud and multi-cloud arrangements. Essentially, hybrid cloud refers to the combination of private and public cloud infrastructure, and some or many from an organization’s own data center. Multi-cloud configurations use multiple cloud providers to meet different technical or business requirements. The reason cloud computing, sometimes referred to as infrastructure as a service (IaaS), is so popular is that it allows for fast scalability, broad availability, and low total cost of ownership vs. managing everything in company-owned data centers.


Myth #2: Data integration requires significant downtime

Even during off-peak times, E&C firms want to avoid downtime. Today’s data integration solutions offer rapid time to value with development-cycle times reduced by as much as 33%. Some solutions may be able to eliminate workday downtime with only brief downtime on evenings and weekends.

Containerization, enabling developers to create predictable environments isolated from other applications, is also used by some solutions. With containerization, consistency is guaranteed regardless of where an application is deployed. Containers only use about 60 lines of code so they can be developed and deployed quickly to minimize downtime.


Myth #3: Managing a data warehouse is complicated

What is involved with keeping a data integration platform running?

The short answer is that it depends, but there are solutions that do not require a high degree of information technology (IT) overhead. Look for solutions that include intuitive dashboards to monitor and troubleshoot integrations, the ability to quickly review flows, rerun flows on demand, or view error details, if any.

If using iPaaS, consider a solution that includes a dedicated client-success (CS) manager. The CS manager puts an iPaaS subject-matter expert on your company team, instantly adding value while eliminating the learning curve for an existing team member to become proficient. And unlike a consulting relationship where the expert stays for a while to train your team but then leaves, a client-success manager is always available to create or troubleshoot flows.

Today’s construction and engineering world requires unprecedented external collaboration, with multiple parties outside your organization at every building, site, and external site. The mobile information, in turn, reduces data centralization, creating a greater urgency to adopt a data integration solution.

Want to learn more? Gaea Global Technologies, Inc. has decades of experience with construction and engineering solutions. Nexus, Gaea’s integration-platform-as-a-service (iPaaS) solution, was designed to automate construction processes across applications.

To learn more, visit https://nexus-platform.com/.

What to Consider When Comparing Energy Prices?

What to Consider When Comparing Energy Prices?

This is a good question that one should ask oneself before making any switch.  Needless to say, when comparing energy prices, the lower you can get your energy costs, the better. But is there anything else that consumers need to consider? What to consider when comparing Energy prices? 

Many in the MENA region, and all over the world, are looking for ways to save money on their energy bills. Indeed, many readers may have already invested in the means to develop their own clean energy to reduce their reliance on energy from the grid. But even if you’ve invested in solar panels or domestic wind turbines, you can still make substantial savings by switching energy suppliers regularly.

Here, we’ll look at some of the things you should keep in mind when comparing energy prices.

How often should I compare energy prices?

The good folks at Switch-Plan know a thing or two about helping consumers to compare energy prices. They help energy consumers in the UK and throughout Europe to save a small fortune on their energy bills every year. The Switch-Plan team recommends comparing energy prices and getting a new tariff every 12-18 months. This ensures that you get great value for money, while also helping to keep the energy market competitive.

Of course, when comparing energy prices, the cheaper a plan you can get, the better. But be wary of false economies.

As well as keeping an eye out for low prices, you should also consider…

How renewable is your energy?

Many eco-conscious energy consumers today prefer to get their energy from 100% renewable sources such as wind, solar or hydropower. The good news is that these green energy plans are often just as cheap (or cheaper) than plans that use fossil fuels. There are even energy tariffs that use 100% carbon-neutral gas. This may be carbon-offset or sourced from farm or animal waste (biomethane).

How flexible is your contract?

There are lots of different types of energy plans. Broadly speaking, however, they fall into two categories: fixed-rate and variable. Fixed-rate energy plans keep your energy spending rates locked in for a fixed period (usually 12-24 months). Variable-rate plans rise and fall along with the wholesale cost of energy. So your bills could go up or down at any time (although your supplier will need to provide at least 30 days’ notice).

It’s up to you to decide whether you value predictability or flexibility more.

How good is your prospective supplier’s customer service?

We all want great energy prices. But they can be poor compensation if we have to deal with substandard customer service. Make sure that you use relevant local resources to see how energy suppliers measure up in terms of their customer service. There’s more to a supplier than low prices. Make sure the lived experiences of real customers match the bold claims made on the supplier’s website!

Will you be charged a fee if you switch?

Finally, most (but not all) fixed-term energy contracts require customers to pay an early exit fee if they switch suppliers before their contract has ended. This may be offset by the savings you make from switching. However, it’s a good idea to check for early exit fees so that you can make a better-informed decision.

Smart cities built with smart materials

Smart cities built with smart materials

ScienceMag’s article on how Smart cities built with smart materials by Rebecca Napolitano,  Wesley Reinhart, Juan Pablo Gevaudan could well be the palliative solution to the built environment’s inherent sustainability problematics. Per this wise counsel of the authors, smart technological usage is one of the many more imaginative ways to use innovative and vital materials to alleviate any fallout from the increasing urbanisation.

The picture above is for illustration and is of ZDNet elaborating on Why are Gulf nations investing heavily in smart cities? The proposed article could well be a reply.

Smart cities built with smart materials

Smart cities built with smart materials

Light and heat sensors on a building at the University of Southern Denmark adjust shutters to optimize indoor conditions.PHOTO: HUFTON+CROW/VIEW PICTURES/UNIVERSAL IMAGES GROUP/GETTY IMAGES

The Smart City Index (1) defines a smart city as “an urban setting that applies technology to enhance the benefits and diminish the shortcomings of urbanization for its citizens.” The top-ranked city, Singapore, has addressed urban challenges with information technology since 2014 through its Smart Nation Initiative (2). The influence of technology is reflected in the city’s open platform for sharing energy data, crowd-sourced location data for smart navigation, and even online forums for citizen participation in policy-making (2). The smart city concept requires the acquisition of massive amounts of data in real time, and large networks of smart devices must spread the burden of communication and processing evenly across the network to prevent information overload at its center. Opportunities to solve this challenge have recently emerged through the development of increasingly “smart materials” that can sense, process, and respond to environmental stimuli without centralized resources.

A recent market analysis predicted that the number of connected devices, sensors, and actuators that constitute the Internet of Things (IoT) will reach more than 46 billion in 2021, driven largely by reduction in hardware costs to as little as $1 per device (3). Inexpensive connected sensing devices measuring strain, temperature, and humidity (4), as well as the enhancement of indirect sensing methods that use computer vision and crowd-sourcing (5), provide vast amounts of data to quantify the built environment (6). The ability to continuously monitor the physical state of infrastructure with high resolution in time and space has exciting implications for sustainability and equity. Quantitative, data-driven decision-making can enable predictive maintenance in place of conventional intuition-based workflow, although such automated systems can also learn to replicate human biases (7).

However, efficient decision-making based on these data streams becomes limited by the burden of transmitting and processing the raw, unprioritized data. As the number of connected devices rises, smart cities have shifted from a hierarchical network architecture based on cloud computing to a more decentralized information ecosystem. In this so-called “fog computing” model, data processing is performed at the edge of the network to avoid costly communication with a central cloud server (8). Alternatively, “mist computing” represents an even more extreme paradigm in which data processing is handled by microprocessors attached directly to the sensors and actuators. One advantage of mist computing is a reduced burden on communications systems by constraining information to a “need-to-know basis.” This approach has an added sustainability benefit because communication among IoT devices accounts for as much as five times the power consumption necessary for the computation itself (9).

Smart cities built with smart materials

Managing structural data Infrastructure decision-making can benefit from distributed sensor data if data can be processed efficiently. Data management can benefit from “need-to-know” processing strategies, as illustrated for the construction of a subway system, where tunneling can create ground-surface subsidence that can undermine an overlying building. At the city scale, analysis of these data can lead to decisions to mitigate subsidence impact, such as stopping tunneling or adding underlying support.

GRAPHIC: V. ALTOUNIAN/SCIENCE

Orthogonal to these advances in IoT technology, multifunctional and responsive materials have been designed to substantially alter their shape or properties in response to external stimuli. When taken to the extreme, this concept results in “living materials,” which use biological organisms (10) as highly efficient chemical machines for sensing and responding to their environment. Such materials are engineered to sense and regulate their state at the microscopic scale to effect macroscopic structural or functional changes. A common function of smart or living materials is self-healing to improve the service life of a larger structure in support of its sustainability. For example, bacteria-triggered self-healing represents one of the most popularized concepts in living cementitious materials. Extensive research has been conducted on the use of extremophiles and engineered bacteria to imbue materials with the self-sensing capacity needed to trigger these self-healing properties (10).

In effect, these smart and living materials participate in an extreme version of the mist-computing model for structural health monitoring. Chemical gradients in the cement are detected, interpreted, and acted upon by means of incredibly low-power sensing and response mechanisms without increasing the communication and processing burden on the built environment. This latter point is critical because the electronic sensing and transmission of millimeter-scale chemical gradients across an entire smart city would absolutely overwhelm digital data processing systems. Information at this small scale is also irrelevant to decisions being made for an entire city block, so restricting it to an appropriate level reduces the cognitive load on stakeholders such as building managers and government policymakers (see the figure). This approach is analogous to how the human nervous system coordinates the contraction of many millions of cells through a hierarchy of control structures, rather than by consciously addressing individual muscle fibers.

Smart materials can also process data without the assistance of active biological matter. A fascinating example of computation in material substrates is the recent demonstration of photonic “metamaterials” (internally structured materials) that can solve complex mathematical equations (11). These devices exploit diffractive optics to leverage material microstructure into passive, all-optical transformations. A complementary idea is that of “mechanologic,” in which a mechanical metamaterial deforms in a preprogrammed way to combine computation and actuation (12). Given the rapid advancements in design and fabrication of these extraordinary materials, a next generation of smart materials may emerge with programmed thermal, optical, and mechanical responses acting as a self-sensing, self-actuating smart façade, or as a solar tracker to improve the efficiency of photovoltaic energy harvesting (13).

With connected sensors being deployed to provide real-time structural health monitoring of critical infrastructure [e.g., bridges, dams, residential and commercial buildings, and even temporary structures (14)], managing the flood of data is more important than ever to prevent smart cities from suffering “analysis paralysis.” Smart and living materials may push data processing to previously unimagined extremes, with the literal foundations of the built environment acting as analog-computing substrates. This approach should offer pronounced advantages for sustainability, including increased longevity of infrastructure, reduced waste from the proliferation of electronic sensors, and reduced power consumption from communications. Moreover, the current challenge to implementation of mist-computing infrastructures is tied to their complexity and size, which are too great to manage by centralized systems (15). Thus, autonomous smart materials present a compelling tool in achieving robust and sustainable structural health monitoring in smart cities of the future.

References and Notes:
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Acknowledgments: Thanks to Z. Ounaies for inspiring this research collaborations.

This is an article distributed under the terms of the Science Journals Default License.