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Smart, Green Cities – resilient beats in a changing planet

The number of extreme events associated with climate change is increasing. As a result, our cities better develop a resilience strategy to be prepared for these events, especially those in more vulnerable areas such as coastal regions. City planners and developers need to consider how best to site and build infrastructure to limit the risks. And all cities will require action plans to cope with, and limit, long-term damage in the face of any disruption to major infrastructure. DNV GL regards the changes that cities need to make to grow, while being resilient to climate events and reducing greenhouse gases, as one of the biggest challenges for the future.

Addressing the challenge

While cities only occupy 2% of the Earth’s surface, they account for 70% of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGE). However, cities function much more efficiently than suburban environments because of their density, so they also offer the fastest route to greenhouse gas reduction. This can be, for example, through sustainable city regeneration projects, and broad energy-efficiency and clean transport initiatives. A growing number of cities are setting their own targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, often with more ambitious figures than their own countries.

Building smart green cities

Investing in infrastructure is crucial for ensuring cities continue to run effectively and efficiently, whilst remaining resilient to climate change events and a growing population.
There needs to be a balance between more housing and more businesses with the growing societal demand for a smoothly functioning infrastructure for energy, transport, water and waste. This is a complex challenge as the systems related to them are intrinsically linked.

A holistic approach and innovative strategies are required to prioritise development and minimise planning and construction time, and to do so whilst reducing carbon emissions. In addition, close cooperation between local government, local companies and international businesses can result in more dedicated planning strategies and improve the city’s attractiveness for investment from the private sector.

DNV GL has undertaken significant work related to smart, green cities. We work closely with clients to help them address how the industry should control and use distributed energy. Together, we develop energy frameworks, effective business models and future-proof energy infrastructure.

Involving the citizens

In a strange way, the smart, green city will only be successful when it does not have any noticeable impact on everyday life. It’s one of the underlying factors we observe in our current projects like Power Matching City. In an ideal smart city, all problems with infrastructure would be resolved timely, e.g. in energy networks, allowing for safe and reliable access throughout the city. That should also contribute to a cleaner and healthier environment. The real change will be the way citizens will interact with the infrastructure as more digitized information will become available to them. This will promote more use of smart energy solutions like remote control of their heating system, and energy exchange within their community.

DNV GL believes that smart cities will flourish more quickly if they have a low dependence on imported energy and a free market environment. Some European countries and U.S states already fall into this category. The support of bottom-up initiatives and open access to data and markets will be important success factors.

Adapting to the future

There are many different parameters to measure what makes a city smart and green. Cities all over the world are at various stages in becoming ‘green’ and ‘smart’. Many cities have defined targets on GHGE reduction and some are already working towards these goals. To achieve their goals cities will have to become more adaptable to changes in a variety of crucial aspects such as type of business, extreme weather events, and opportunities and challenges of communication technologies.

Ultimately, citizens will determine how the heart beats in our smart, green cities of the future. Already we are each in a position to actively promote a more sustainable culture. For example, through ‘bottom-up’ local energy corporations, we can even make our own small contribution to the energy transition. For our cities to be smart, they must be adaptive to changes and make smart use of citizens, and make sure they can live and work in a healthy environment. In this way the hearts of our smart, green cities will beat with a resilient rhythm.

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