Smart green cities for Africa
Many African nations are at or approaching key decision points in social and economic plans. Choices made now will affect lives in decades to come. Unburdened by legacy infrastructure, African nations can skip outdated technologies and move straight to models based on Smart Green Cities. This is happening already, with various projects across the continent aiming towards safe, reliable, and environmentally and economically sustainable development.
Huge economic growth in Africa is driving soaring demand for resources such as power, water and waste management. Yet countries need to look beyond their immediate needs and consider how these needs will evolve over the next few decades. With the UN predicting that 70% of the global population will live in cities by 2050, the demand for urbanised energy is only set to increase. Therefore future development of cities needs to be environmentally friendly and human-centred.
What is a Smart Green City?
A Smart Green City is designed to maximise liveability and standard of living for all residents—both economically and environmentally. A Smart Green City can be defined by many factors, including:
- Green, public and open spaces
- Sustainable economy
- Clear air and water
- IT and telecoms
- Climate change resilience
- Sustainable energy
Underpinning any vision of a Smart Green City is the smart power system: an energy infrastructure that can meet rapid increase in demand for power in a sustainable way. This means an intelligent mix of renewable energy sources—such as wind, solar, marine, biomass, geothermal and hydroelectric—plays an essential part. As connections between national grids increase, more African nations will be able to take advantage of the huge variety of renewable energy sources across the continent, reducing current reliance on imported and expensive fossil fuels.
These smart power systems require ICT to be integrated into networks and end-user appliances. This helps efficient energy use and enables smoothing out demand peaks, ensuring there is always enough energy to go around. Examples include smart grids, smart metering and demand-response capabilities—switching off at peak times and on when demand is low.
Today, in South Africa, Eskom must use load shedding to handle peaks in power demand, as the current infrastructure cannot cope. A smart power system would address these problems. The first step toward a smarter power system to use smart meters. Recently, in Ghana, Nigeria and Angola smart meters have been implemented into power grids. These meters can show users how much energy costs at different times, encouraging energy to be used at cheaper off-peak times. This goes some way toward addressing the immediate problem of reliability in grid networks, whilst also thinking ahead to a more sustainable and renewable energy future.
Smart meters can also be used to combat some of the effects of increased urbanisation on energy networks—namely illegal connections. It was estimated in 2010 that one third of all South Africa’s electricity was lost to illicit users—a revenue loss of around USD 630 million. At grid-level, smart metering allows the flow of electricity in a network to be monitored in real-time. This enables operators to pinpoint where any losses or thefts are occurring. Down at user-level, smart meters can detect any attempts of tampering or bypass and resolve questions of how to get money from illicit users by requiring payment in advance.
DNV GL Smart Green Cities projects
DNV GL is committed to a more reliable and renewable energy future, realising this vision through current Smart Green City projects all over the world.
In Europe, PowerMatching City is one of the leading smart grid and smart city test beds. A feasibility study for a solar photovoltaic power plant in Egypt with an estimated capacity of 20MW was also a Smart Green City project. Across the Atlantic Ocean in Brazil, DNV GL developed a smart grid roadmap for automation, protection and measurement in smart grids. And in the USA, in partnership with AECOM, DNV GL is currently developing a greenhouse gas reduction implementation plan for the New York City government.
Smart Green Cities and smart power grids are the key to a safer, smarter and greener future. For more information, download our Smart Green Cities for Africa paper.