Our cities are the physical embodiment of the largest and definitely, the most complex social engineering feat we have ever accomplished, symbolizing our social, political, economic, and cultural growth. From the very beginning, cities have been the centre of development, welcoming change, offering opportunities, and spreading (social, economic, political, and now technological) growth throughout the world. With this continued technological growth, the idea of smart cities came to life, adding transparency and perfection to the image we now have for our future cities. Acceleration of innovation in technology has promised the enhanced quality of life through IT interconnectivity, personal and social development. However, a better network of technologies- interacting and facilitating our every need is just the upper layer of what a smart city represents. The inner sanctum of the structure houses the core purpose of the idea: a healthier, cleaner future through Green Energy Generation and Consumption.
Energy Solution: The Core of the Idea
Smart cities should have functioning traffic systems, intelligent logistics, data security, and environmentally compatible buildings. However, if we look closely, we will see that functional integrity of each of these operations is tied tightly to efficient energy supply. Since conventional energy is limited, the smart energy solution to build a bigger, better, cleaner, and sustainable future has to be green energy (solar especially).
Besides linking the city’s requirements to a better (renewable) energy resource, selecting green energy also offers a solution to the rising carbon footprint. City’s consume two-thirds of the world’s energy, spewing approximately 70% of the global greenhouse gases. Additionally with a rising population (7.1 billion global population) within the cities, reducing green gas emissions has to be the primary purpose of any smart development idea. Since cities are the major contributors to carbon emissions, they can be the best place to initiate zero emission energy supply and usage practices.
What Smart Green Energy Cities Can Offer?
To invest in the dream of developing smart cities, we obviously need to have a clear understanding of what it can bring.
Clean Energy Supply And Usage: Promoting and implementing clean energy solutions like solar as a mainstream energy source, will help reduce electricity cuts and reach energy to every corner. Developing nations like Philippines, Morocco, India and those in Africa are still facing energy deficits that result in power cuts and energy unavailability throughout the nations. Even developed countries like UK and Australia are predicted to face energy deficit due to depleting fossil fuel resources. In such scenarios, promoting and implementing solar (renewable) energy can offer a way out of the social and economic bind, that energy deficit has created within the countries. With electricity stream stabilized within cities, quality of life will easily improve, while helping villages around the cities to replicate the process for countrywide betterment.
IT Infrastructure Growth: With a better energy supply, application and usage of technology in daily life would increase, thus offering better connectivity. Interconnectivity is going to be the future. However, it cannot be accomplished without a stable and cheap energy supply. Since fossil fuels are limited, with time their cost will rise, making it too expensive for supporting the technology use and growth. However, solar energy being renewable, will gradually become cheaper (already hit $0.05 in India), allowing innovation and 24×7 connectivity and convenience within smart cities.
Clean Environment: By phasing out fossil fuels and adopting green solar energy, smart cities would be able to reduce the carbon emissions in the environment. Research shows that daily CO2 emission levels (globally) stood at 406.47 ppm (parts per million) until 21st January 2017. By selecting renewable energy, carbon emission in our atmosphere can be reduced considerably, until we reach the envisaged zero emission level. Additionally, green energy utilizing smart cities will save countries from enormous expenditure towards fossil fuel imports and extraction (in 2016, global fossil fuel investment stood at $130bn), and kick back the money for infrastructural growth.
Socio-Economic Growth: Besides bringing improvements in above-explained segments, smart cities will offer a better-developed infrastructure for employment, security, and personal growth. Since our social and economic growth revolves around the energy scenario, change in energy sources will have a countrywide impact, improving lives.
Smart Cities are The Future
Globally, the market size of smart cities is estimated to grow from USD 312.03 billion in 2015 to USD 757.74 billion by 2020. Besides developed countries like the U.S., Japan and Germany, countries in the Middle East, North America, Europe, and Africa are also focusing on renewable energy solutions to lay the foundation for smart city development. Preference towards better transport, saving water, and managing other resources within countries, portray smart cities as the future we dreamt of!
India is Not Far Behind
The Indian Government, under the leadership of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, had initiated development of 100 smart cities in India in 2015 (now the number has increased to 109). The idea to develop smart cities is a decisive one to increase green energy generation and usage within the country.
So far, Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state in the country is mandated to get 13 smart cities, while Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, and Gujarat will get 12, 10, 7, and 6 smart cities each. The Government of India has also made announcements toward offering funds worth INR 500 crores (per city) for the smart city development venture.
Predictions show that within 2050, more than 66% of the global population will be living in cities. Therefore, development of smart cities is not only the right decision, but the only decision authorities should take to build a cleaner, greener, energy rich and sustainable future.