Smart Cities; how is energy crucial to the development of smart cities?
Built Environment Networking are the UK’s leading provider of networking events within the construction and property industry – bringing together public and private sector leaders to connect and collaborate with a view of driving regeneration, development and economic growth.
Leading energy firm E.ON are our National Smart Cities Energy Partner which sees them attend our events up and down the country. From Aberdeen to Plymouth our events visit every major town and city within the UK and you’re likely to see Darren Gardner, Strategic Account Manager at E.ON, if you attend one of our conference. We talk exclusively with Darren around E.ON’s partnership with Built Environment Networking, the future of energy, and what projects they’d love to get involved with:
1. What does the term ‘Smart Cities’ mean to you, and how is energy crucial to this?
Our vision is to improve people’s lives and we try to do this by helping cities be safe, smart and sustainable. A smart city for us is about somewhere using its resources wisely to ensure positive social, economic and environmental impacts. Without energy a city cannot do anything so it’s crucial to all aspects of city life. We believe our solutions such as onsite renewable generation and storage, smart grids, street lighting and electric vehicle charging points are essential to helping a city manage its resources well. But when combined with other technologies such as telecoms we can really transform a city. One crucial area to crack though is data sharing, if we can understand how a city behaves and performs we can really understand its problems and identify solutions to help address these needs be them across energy, water, broadband.
2. As you talk to city officials and senior leaders at our events, what are the common challenges cities are facing?
Everybody wants a smart city, but not many people know what a smart city is. A smart city will vary from city to city depending on the problem(s) it’s facing. So, for a city that has mobility issues a smart city will be about ticketing and timetables, seamless mobility allowing people to travel to work on a train, pick up a bike or an electric car from the station and go to work before returning home – all on the same ticket. If a city is trying to fix health related issues the solution will be very different. Some common challenges though seem to be:
· Housing (lack of new and affordable housing, as well as the poor condition of existing housing particularly in the private rented market).
· Transport (particularly in relation to traffic congestion, the rise in electric vehicle demand and the emissions from the vehicles causing health problems due to poor air quality).
· Energy is rarely a top priority as it usually goes unnoticed, but it’s a key component of most aspects of modern life.’ The challenge is to create a local, low carbon energy system that is competitive on price, and ensures that vital infrastructure such as hospitals and schools can still run, as well as our homes and businesses. Many parts of the UK that we work in are facing major electricity network constraints that prevent sustainable development and economic growth.
· Connectivity and broadband particularly through integrating these solutions with street lighting and EV charging points. And if we can do all of that whilst creating jobs and encouraging local SME deployment that’s a lot of the challenges being met.
3. With the built environment in mind, e.g. a university campus, what challenges do your customers have in running their estate efficiently and how do you address these?
University campuses, business parks etc. are “quasi towns” and they face similar problems to those of big cities. We really believe that campuses can serve to be smart city Demonstrators for cities to learn from. On a day-to-day basis the conversations we have with estates directors are related to helping existing buildings become more energy efficient. We do this by installing a range of technologies from Building Management Systems, LED lighting and solar PV. We help our customers create the business case, finance and funding and we even guarantee the savings via our Energy Performance Contract. More and more campuses are also looking to convert their grey fleet vehicles to electric, and with demand for EVs from the public increasing, estates teams are now installing more and more EV charging points. We’re providing funding for up to 10,000 charging points in Europe to help them with this.
4. With demand for electric vehicles rising, how will cities need to change to meet this demand and do we have enough power?
This is a great opportunity for cities. EV drivers will work, shop and visit where there is EV infrastructure. At a basic cities will need more EV charging points in car parks, on street parking, in workplaces and homes. More complex though is whether the network can cope with increase in demand for electricity. So cities, and energy companies like us need to do lots of work with the network companies to ensure there is capacity. We can help cities though by building smart grids that include renewable energy, storage and time of use tariffs.
5. How do you see energy and electric vehicles integrating with other utilities such as water and telecoms in the future?
Cities we talk to are asking for Multi Utility Service Companies (MUSCo) whereby a solution is delivered for a city by a partnership of companies across energy, water, telecoms and tech companies. We see the possibilities of integrating other utilities in our solutions e.g. providing city wide WiFi through our EV charging points or street lighting columns.
6. How are you using technology and innovation to improve the built environment whether that is a building or a whole city?
We have integrated a range of solutions such as solar PV, wind, battery storage, heat pumps and smart controls to enable 160 homes in the village of Simris to operate off grid and/or provide extra capacity to the national grid. As well as reducing energy bills this has improved resilience and decreased carbon emissions. We also own Blackburn Meadows in Sheffield. It’s a Biomass Fuelled CHP plant generating 29MWe and up to 25MWth. The heat we generate supplies local businesses through our own district heating network, including Sheffield Arena and Sheffield Forgemasters. We burn recycled waste wood to generate heat and power, and to reduce our environmental impact even further, the waste wood biomass is sourced from a 50-mile radius. We are also leading the way with our 10MW battery storage system. In 2016 National Grid awarded us one of the first contracts to support grid stability with an innovative battery solution, allowing us to help shape the future energy market.
7. The energy industry has undergone some major transformations. How is E.ON transitioning from the old energy world to a new model which is customer focused and digital?
Customer solutions are at the heart of our ambitious new strategy across the UK, Europe and around the world, ensuring our customers at home, in business or across entire communities and cities, are well placed to take advantage of the economic opportunities presented by the switch to a low carbon economy. From our city-wide partnership to help deliver a zero emission Berlin by 2050 to our flexible CHP and e-mobility solutions for businesses in Britain or our deployment of cutting-edge smart home systems in Malmö, we have many live examples of where we are already sharing experiences with our customers and working together now to create a better tomorrow.
8. If you could do one project in the next 12 months what type would it be?
A smart city demonstrator that integrate heat, power and transport solutions with other utilities such as water and telecoms. We’d like to explore partnerships with a University campus or science park to showcase how our smart solutions can emulate on a larger city scale. Built Environment Networking events help us meet those potential clients.
9. What are the benefits of E.ON being the National Smart Cities Partner with Built Environment Networking?
The partnership allows us to meet Chief Executives and Directors of Estates as well as Transport, Energy and Procurement Managers. That’s primarily who we’re looking to meet through our partnership with Built Environment Networking and it’s great to have those present at the events. We’ve met some great contacts whilst learning lots about what’s going on in other industries. And it’s also made the job even more fun! If somebody is interested in energy or transport we’re happy to speak to them!
E.ON are the National Smart Cities Partner. To find out more about our partnership opportunities CLICK HERE.