Posted by: Marie Fossum
Together with climate change, urbanisation is one of the key drivers of the global sustainable development. According to the World Health Organisation, WHO, for the first time in history the majority of the world’s population is living in cities. When in 1990, less than 40% of the global population lived in urban areas, in 2010 the amount was more than half. Urbanisation is about to accelerate: by the year 2030, already 60% and in 2050, as much as 70% of the world’s population lives in cities. Therefore it is crucial to think about how we plan and organise the urban areas of tomorrow.
Fortum together with Forum Virium Helsinki, KONE, Nokia and Tekes organised a Smart City event in Helsinki in the end of April this year. The event was targeted at key decision-makers from cities and the private sector, offering state-of-the-art Smart City case studies, and Smart City insights and visions.
Smart cities enable better life
Smart city is The Thing, the way to create sustainable and better life, as Tuuli Kaskinen from Demos Helsinki stated it clearly in her presentation. The ultimate challenge for smart cities is to reduce emissions by 90% by the year 2050. It cannot be done without new energy solutions and technologies.
I share the same idea with John Tolva, the former CTO of the city of Chicago, one of the key speakers of the seminar: “To make a community smart is by ensuring full participation of all residents and businesses in the digital economy.” As examples, small scale energy production and open district heating networks are the inhabitants’ access to the energy market and renewable energy production, while charging of electric vehicles is a way to manage the surplus power that solar panels are generating.
New business concepts
New urban areas are needed and in the greater Helsinki region they are being built, for example, in Kalasatama, Finnoo and Jätkäsaari and in Stockholm, the Royal Seaport. Yet, smart and open energy solutions for buildings are not a clear concept, albeit, they should be. Development of legislation and regulation should support new business concepts. For example, to ensure that when the energy balance of a building is defined, both the energy produced by that building, but consumed by its neighbour, can be taken into account. At the moment this is not the case; only energy produced and consumed by the same building is taken into account. The current parameters, like the mandatory buy-back and price control, are not the most efficient way of doing the trick.
Fortum actively promotes open energy networks for both electricity and heat, so that consumers can become also producers i.e. so-called “prosumers”. We offer new products and services for consumers that help them better control their energy consumption and thereby also costs, not to mention participation in climate change mitigation.
I moderated the industry panel of the seminar. All the participants, including me, stated that demos are definitely needed to prove new innovative technology. Without pilots and failures, it is not possible to get long-lasting solutions. But we need to move forward soon – preferably in the very near future – from pilots to volume installations and get going. And slow legislation and regulation should not become bottlenecks of the development of smart living.
Vice president, Solar business