Engerati’s round-up: Smart cities take shape around energy and water

As the new IoT technologies come to market the next natural step up is smart communities and smart cities, writes Jonathan Spencer Jones, content analyst at Engerati.

With energy and water fundamental to lives and economies they are a natural foundation to build out other applications ranging from related ones such as smart streetlighting and transportation to others as disparate as local government and healthcare. It’s about making people’s lives more efficient and informed, says Itron’s Russ Vanos. In an exclusive interview with Engerati he gives insights from the company’s experiences in such projects. [Smart Cities Take Shape Around Energy And Water]

Renewable energy adoption

For the last couple of years, the decision to invest in renewable energy instead of fossil fuels has been more about environmental responsibility and less about financial viability. However, it is fast becoming clear that there has been a paradigm shift.

While fossil fuels prices are plummeting, the profitability of renewables is growing. Oil companies such as Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell cut jobs and curb capital spending to cope with prices that have fallen two-thirds in 18 months. But on the other side of the coin, six major renewable investment funds yield between 5.5% and 7% – attractive returns in the current market. [Oil Money Flows to Renewables]

Consumer engagement

We have written on Engerati frequently of the need for power companies to build brand loyalty as part of the customer engagement process. But few companies are actually considering what their brand is and whether it is appropriate for the 21st century utility, given the transformation in the sector. Enel has become probably the first utility to decide a rebranding was necessary and it has adopted ‘Open Power’ as its platform for future growth. [Enel Goes Open Power]

With competition between companies and even different generation types the order of the day in many markets expect to hear a lot more about energy branding.

Weather forecasts and utilities’ infrastructure planning

Weather forecasting is notoriously unreliable but with the growth of solar and wind increasingly more is coming to hang on it. On one side it can help utilities plan their generation activities. On the other it can assist energy trading activities. In an interview Robert Boucher, Product Director, Energy Services at the Weather Company – recently acquired by IBM – points to the need for models marrying weather data with industry data such as turbine efficiency to gain “an edge” in this market. [Here come the Meteorologists! Business Critical Forecasting for Renewables] Trading is becoming more complex and accuracy is crucial.

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Nicholas Nhede is an experienced energy sector writer based in Clarion Event's Cape Town office. He has been writing for Smart Energy International’s print and online media platforms since 2015, on topics including metering, smart grids, renewable energy, the Internet of Things, distributed energy resources and smart cities. Originally from Zimbabwe, Nicholas holds a diploma in Journalism and Communication Studies. Nicholas has a passion for how technology can be used to accelerate the energy transition and combat climate change.