The Rise of the Smart City

Senior Editor
KATHLEEN DAVIS

The smart grid concept powers up imaginations around the world—and not just inside the T&D industry. The cultural phenomenon of smart grid touches everyone from presidents to preschoolers. There are articles and documentaries on the subject. There are entire magazines and conferences on the topic. But, why stop there? Why stop with just the confined concept of a smart grid?

A smart grid is just the beginning; it’s the infrastructure on which modern urban centers can build brighter futures. Renewables can be more easily integrated—both small and large, distributed and structural. Consumers can manage energy systems via the Internet, as can businesses. Data can flow two ways, rather than just one, allowing for use, interpretation and change at every point on the system. A smart city doesn’t just have a better power grid with smart grid technology; it has a better municipal backbone—one that can fully support aspects beyond electricity, such as transportation and water distribution.

Amsterdam leads the way in developing a smart city. Rather than leaving the power company to find the half-dozen ways the utility can utilize a smarter grid, Amsterdam saw more potential for this game-changing technology. The city brought together businesses, officials and citizens to dream up the perfect power system from every angle, with benefits that flow past the power utility and into every home.

Amsterdam’s Climate Street project alone has reorganized industry thinking about how to approach the smart grid. Climate Street dramatically changes a few blocks in the city; it’s a test bed of what can be possible with the integration of energy management systems, solar panels, water management and trash disposal. At Climate Street, all of these items work together harmoniously, guided by smart grid technology. That technology easily juggles pulling solar energy with distributing data—all to run items on time and efficiently.

Other cities around Europe have stopped thinking of the smart grid as a technology push and started thinking of smart grid in relation to urban living. Amsterdam is certainly not the only smart city on the horizon: Stockholm and Lyon are frontrunners as well. Additionally, here in the U.S., there’s a similar push in Boulder, Colo. In China, the City of Yangzhou is moving in the smart city direction. And, in the Middle East, there’s brilliant city planning using grid technology within the Masdar project.

This June, the POWERGRID Europe conference will feature a session on smart cities with speakers from Amsterdam, Stockholm and Masdar to enlighten attendees on this latest step forward in T&D. No longer is smart grid the future. The smart grid is now; it’s moving into our lives daily. It’s already evident in the bits and pieces of our power infrastructure.

The future lies in building on that infrastructure. The future is smart cities: Using intelligent grid technology holistically in connection with city planning. Smart cities are a way to use smart grid technology completely, to wring from that technology every single bit of benefit. If we can understand and utilize the bigger picture of smart cities, we can create greener, more efficient municipalities.

 

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