Smart Cities & Smart Grids Empower Urban Energy Transitions

Empowering Urban Energy Transitions: Smart Cities and Smart Grids Was Presented at the G7 Climate, Energy and Environment Ministerial Meeting
The latest IEA report says governments can help cities deliver innovative and people-centred solutions to drive clean energy transitions in urban areas

The latest report commissioned by the International Energy Agency (IEA) for the General 7 (G7) shows how urban planning, digitalisation and grid investment can help cities manage the impacts of climate change and growing energy demand.

Empowering Urban Energy Transitions: Smart Cities and Smart Grids is the third report of the IEA’s Digital Demand-Driven Electricity Networks Initiative (3DEN). It was put forward at the G7 Climate, Energy and Environment Ministerial Meeting in Turin last week to showcase how innovations in smart cities and smart grids are crucial to a secure and positive energy future.

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The main crux of the report details a large range of innovative projects and initiatives to improve power systems in cities around the world, as well as providing insights on emerging best practices.

Empowering Urban Energy Transitions: Smart Cities and Smart Grids

As well as emphasising the urgent need for cities to elevate their efforts in energy efficiency and sustainability to meet the targets outlined at COP28 in Dubai, the IEA lays out how although some cities have committed to reducing carbon emissions, many more must follow suit

As it stands, cities are responsible for a significant portion of global energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, a trend expected to increase as urban populations and cities themselves grow. With this expansion comes new challenges accelerated by climate change — as almost 10% of the increase in global emissions since 2015 can be attributed to urbanisation, the current statistics of cities being accountable for 75% of global energy consumption and 70% of greenhouse gas emissions is undoubtedly set to rise. 

The IEA has always been steadfast in its commitment to smart cities being integral to a carbon-neutral future. Its Executive Director Fatih Birol said at the Italian Presidency in Naples in 2021: “A new global energy economy is emerging. We already have many of the technologies we need to reach net-zero and we know innovation can help finish the job. 

Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the IEA

“International cooperation is key to succeed.”

The IEA predicts as cities grow, urban growth by 2050 is anticipated to be equivalent to the land area of Germany, Italy and Japan combined. This makes heat in these densely populated areas surge, and, as a direct result, cooling accounts for more than 70% of peak electricity demand, placing a strain on electricity distribution infrastructure.

What the G7 will do off the back of the IEA’s report

Shining a spotlight on the role of G7 countries in fostering innovation and encouraging international collaboration, the IEA has put forward to the super geographic body to play its part in enabling environments at the city level for scalable pilot projects. It also notes that integrated urban and power system planning – together with improved data sharing – are crucial to maintain electricity security and prioritise people in clean energy transitions. 

There are four main themes for the G7 to consider from the IEA’s report to best enable secure clean energy transitions in cities.

They are:
  • Placing people at the centre of policy making in order to build for the future
  • Supporting data-driven integrated planning to ensure that grids are fit for purpose
  • Addressing specific areas of focus to create a supportive environment
  • Pursuing the benefits of fostering strengthened international co-operation

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