Recommendations for future smart cities

Navigant Research has issued a whitepaper discussing the energy landscape in emerging smart cities.

The report, Navigating the Urban Energy Transformation, highlights how city leaders are using emerging and innovative energy technologies and business solutions in building sustainable and carbon-free economies.

The shift to clean, distributed, intelligent and mobile energy systems is essential in helping city leaders achieve carbon emissions and energy security goals.

The paper highlights opportunities and challenges associated with new energy technologies.

Smart city recommendations

Navigant forecasts the global urban population to reach 5 billion people by 2030.

For cities to be able to manage smart city and energy infrastructure in line with growing population, Navigant Research recommends:

City and regional government leaders, regulators, planners, and other policymakers to consider:

  1. Developing clear, actionable climate plans that can realise the potential of local climate action.
  2. Promote flexibility and adaptability within the urban energy systems. This includes establishing frameworks to promote service innovation to meet city goals for sustainability, reduced energy costs, and emissions reduction.
  3. Work with partners to ensure the necessary investment in clean and connected infrastructure including communications networks, digital platforms, electric vehicle (EV) charging and alternative fuel networks, and next-generation heating and cooling systems.
  4. Align short-term pilot and innovation projects to longer-term city priorities, with a focus on the development of scalable solutions with viable business cases.
  5. Create next-generation open data platforms and data hubs to enable all stakeholders to share information and apply innovative data analytics to city challenges.

For utilities and other energy firms, key considerations include:

  1. Engagement with local smart or future city stakeholder groups and leadership teams, and active participation in the development of low carbon city strategies.
  2. Delivering benefits for all communities. Utilities have a unique connection to all city residents, which provides a strong basis for furthering community goals as well as helping improve and redefine customer relationships.
  3. Creating platforms for the delivery of new energy services that can also be a launchpad for innovative urban service offerings.
  4. Developing partnerships with technology providers.
  5. Playing a role in the creation of new urban data systems. Energy data is a valuable element in any city data platform, and energy players should be proactive players in shaping new data exchanges and markets.
  6. Establishing themselves as key orchestrators of new urban energy platforms and the ecosystems they support. Playing a central role in these new networks is key to the development of new services and business lines in the city of the future.

Energy trends

Navigant Research characterises the current transformation in the energy sector “as the emergence of the Energy Cloud”, driven by new technologies and the shift to renewable and distributed energy sources. Energy systems are transitioning from one way controlled networks to decentralised systems due to:

  • Distributed energy resources
  • Multiple inputs and users, supporting two-way energy flows
  • Digitalisation of the electric-mechanical infrastructure: smart grid and behind the meter energy management systems
  • Flexible, dynamic, and resilient
  • Complex market structures and transactions
  • Regulation changing rapidly around renewables, distributed generation (solar, microgrid, storage), net metering etc.


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