Engineering efficiency: a tour of global smart cities
The most intelligent smart cities successfully integrate secure forms of information and communication technologies into municipal assets: educational facilities, law enforcement departments, utility plants and medical facilities. The goal of any smart city (or aspiring smart city) is to continually utilise technology to improve services; this is often accomplished using sensors integrated with real time monitoring systems, as well as data collected from city residents.
The foreseeable advantages of smart cities
While the prospect of a clean, green, efficient city is certainly attractive, smart cities have both advantages and disadvantages. Barcelona is a prime example of how modern technology can be integrated into city infrastructure with numerous beneficial outcomes. Barcelona’s Ministry of Justice is able to instantly connect with local prisons, police stations, lawyers and hospitals at any time. Sensors in parking lots indicate when spaces are occupied or vacant and this information is displayed in real-time and is also accessible via an app which allows drivers to book spaces in advance. Sensors on bins indicate whether they are empty or full, thus speeding up the process of trash collection. In addition, sensors in the ground at local parks ensure that grass gets just the right amount of water, leading Barcelona to anticipate a decrease of about 25 percent in water used for irrigation.
Singapore is one of the world’s best known smart cities. It gets high marks for offering nearly all government services online and providing a top notch public transportation system. However, it continues to look for ways to improve its standing and offer better services to citizens. One recent development involves rolling out ‘smart boxes’ connected to fiber optic lines to deliver real- time information on air pollutants, heavy rainfall or traffic jams to all citizens. Singapore also continues to put a premium on creating an eco-friendly atmosphere. The city has well over 2,000 certified green buildings and has put laws in place to discourage personal vehicle use.
What are the vulnerabilities of a smart city?
At the same time, a smart city is not guaranteed to be a success story. Critics rightfully note that the technology used to provide faster and better services to citizens is also vulnerable to hacking. What’s more, a hack or breakdown in one sector could easily lead to domino-effect failures in other sectors because of how interconnected utilities and services are. Privacy rights groups are also concerned that the more information a city collects, the higher the odds are of it being misused. While some simply trust the government to use personal information wisely, the truth is that local, state and federal laws are lagging far behind technology in every part of the world. This puts governments in danger of infringing on citizens’ rights or making serious errors in moral judgment simply because there is no precedent for how a particular situation should be handled.
Experts also note that the increased popularity of smart cities is leading some countries to build them from scratch, despite evidence that this may be misguided. Masdar City, which is being built in the deserts of Abu Dhabi, has attracted criticism for being highly impractical. It has been noted that cities built using the latest technology could very well be outdated by the time they are completed — resulting in time and money wasted on a settlement that is not attractive to prospective settlers.
It remains to be seen whether South Korea’s Songdo City will be lauded or lambasted in years to come. The city was constructed in a highly affordable manner and offers citizens full integration with public services. Abundant green spaces make the city a pleasant place to live and a highly modern waste management system means that Songdo needs only seven waste management employees to serve a city with 35,000 residents. However, Songdo also has its drawbacks: its ultra-modern style gives the city a plain appearance that does not take cultural aesthetics and expectations into account. As sociologists have noted, this type of “one size fits all” city can create serious problems, among them an increased crime rate and heightened class divisions.
What does the future hold for smart cities?
It’s safe to say that the popularity of smart cities is increasing exponentially. In most cases, however, governments are opting to work with existing city structures instead of building brand new cities using ultra-modern technologies. In India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has recently set plans in place to transform 100 Indian cities into smart cities by the year 2020. The selected cities would receive well over US $15 million towards development. Existing smart cities like Copenhagen, Vienna, Vancouver, Helsinki and Brisbane are working towards new developments to increase efficiency and make life easier and more comfortable for residents. A number of American cities, including San Francisco — New York, San Antonio, Chicago and Miami — are increasing their use of cutting edge technology to improve traffic, safety and other services. However, the idea of building a smart city from scratch refuses to die, as evidenced by the fact that Google is making plans to build its own municipalities.
Technology’s rapid developments makes it impossible to foresee exactly what smart cities will look or behave like in five or ten years. However, recent trends indicate that smart cities will become both more popular and more abundant. The world’s metropolises will inevitably continue looking for ways to use technology to create a safe, eco-friendly, efficient environment for residents. However, the fact that privacy and hacking concerns have not been addressed at length means that even the world’s smartest cities will remain vulnerable to serious disruption.
Financing rises in digital platforms and renewables projects
Cold Bore is leading a shift in the completions (fracking) industry towards safer, more autonomous operations by providing oil & gas companies with SmartPAD, a centralised fully integrated software and hardware platform designed to collect, analyse, and report data. Better utilisation of this data unlocks operators’ ability to make improvements across all KPIs.
Results from a recent SmartPAD implementation with Hibernia Resources, saw the Permian-based producer able to reduce the duration of their completions program by 15 days (27%), with commensurate reductions in cost and emissions.
Along with this investment from bp ventures, bp will be deploying Cold Bore’s SmartPAD in bpx energy’s US onshore operations. The technology will support bpx’s efforts to continuously improve its operations.
“The oil & gas industry has realised that technological innovation is key to meeting growing calls for reduced emissions and improved returns. Cold Bore is proud to be playing a leadership role in the future of oil & gas operations.” said Brett Chell, Co-founder & President at Cold Bore Technology.
“As we scale to meet incredible demand, we’re excited to have a strong strategic partner in bp, a forward-thinking international energy company, and to play a part in helping bp reach its carbon and operational targets. The future of the oil & gas industry is autonomous operations."
Existing investors include the Rice Investment Group (RIG), a $200M multi-strategy, energy sector investment fund.
Another company in the spotlight last week was Soltage, a leading independent renewable power producer, which has raised a $130M debt facility led by Silicon Valley Bank. The investment will finance a 110MW national portfolio of projects across North Carolina, South Carolina, Maine, Illinois, Virginia and Maryland.
The construction of this portfolio will be staged over the next three quarters, with construction currently underway on ten projects across four states. Customers purchasing electricity from the projects financed through this debt vehicle include Investor Owned Utilities buying power under Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA) contracts, community solar subscribers and corporations purchasing power from the portfolio to meet clean energy goals and lower energy costs.
Silicon Valley Bank is the Sole Coordinating Lead Arranger of the debt facility with three other banks included as lenders. This facility includes an optional $100M expansion feature to finance additional projects beyond the current set of identified projects. This announcement marks the latest development for the Soltage Iris capital vehicle, following Soltage and Harrison Street's $250M commitment in March to deliver 450MW of new solar, solar+storage and standalone storage development across the US.
"Soltage continues to provide stable investment opportunities for capital providers who are looking for bankable approaches to sustainable infrastructure investment," said Sripradha Ilango, Soltage CFO. "We are pleased to continue to bring to market high quality project portfolios that open avenues for corporations, utilities and families to adopt solar power and achieve decarbonisation priorities."
"We are at a critical point where funding domestic infrastructure to bring more clean energy online in the United States is of the utmost importance," said Bret Turner, Market Manager at Silicon Valley Bank. "Our team is proud to work with Soltage to support building these essential zero carbon energy projects in key locations across the country."
This announcement is part of a continued movement of mainstream investors looking to solar and other renewable infrastructure assets for long-term investment opportunities. Soltage has deployed over $1B into clean energy assets across the US since its founding in 2005.
SVOLT Energy Technology Co., a leading EV battery manufacturer, held a B Round Financing Transaction Ceremony in Changzhou, Jiangsu on July 28. Following the completion of A Round Financing of RMB 3.5 billion ($538 million) at the end of February, the company rapidly closed this third round of market-based equity funding, raising a total amount of RMB 10.28 billion ($1.58 billion).
Last month also saw Longroad Energy, a US-based renewable energy developer, owner and operator, complete term financing for Sun Streams 2, its 200 MWdc solar project in Maricopa County, Arizona. Longroad owns 100 percent of the project after acquiring it in early 2021 from First Solar, the original developer.