Smart City Scenarios – spanning the frame of urban future (Part 1)

In order to be prepared for future challenges it is important to get an idea of how future can look like. Based on this idea appropriate strategies can be developed. In order to set up these strategies it is essential to identify future options that are comprised of past experience and future expectations. These future options, the various pictures of the future, are called scenarios.

Limiting the development of urban future into one direction only is not only dangerous but also mistaking the global socio-economic dependencies. The system city consists of various subsystems. The interaction of only a few determinants within a subsystem in the context of urban creation shows the impossibility of a linear, one-dimensional future projection in a complex urban and global setting.

Looking at energy for example: Will energy be generated in a central or decentralized manner? Will it be regenerative, fossil or nuclear? What forms of climate-political regulations will dominate? Will energy consumption be reduced or will it continue to grow? What arrangements in the urban context will e.g. European cities agree on? What is the role of digitalization and connectivity in the context of energy generation, -storage and –consumption? What is the impact on business models – we have seen first hypes die with the subvention of solar energy. In times of low investment rates on savings energy cooperatives seem to develop quite popular. How will the role of traditional stakeholders change? What is the future of traditional energy suppliers? Many cities hold shares in local energy supply. Will they take back over or completely leave the energy supply to third party? What is the role of the citizen? Will so called prosumers – people who not only consume energy, but also produce for their own use and sale – establish extensively? What is the role of IT driven companies like Google. Nest produces thermostats that learn the temperature preferences of its users. The company was bought out by Google in January 2013 for US$3.2 billion as a strategic move to gain access to the growing connected home market. [Forbes 2014/01/13]. Accessing the energy segment as a domain outside the core competency can also be seen with the growing market of e-mobility. On IAA 2013, the world’s leading automotive trade show, BMW launched their new ‘iSeries’. The electric-vehicle can be used as energy-buffer when integrated into the building’s smart grid. This way BMW has an interface to the energy network of an individual household and could diversify into the energy management of private homes or – thinking of fleet management – businesses.

Various stakeholders, e.g. governments, municipalities, technology providers and citizens will take various perspectives when responding to these questions. A similar variety applies for other subsystems or city segments, e.g. mobility or security and even excellerates with the interdependency of these subsystems.

Do Cities lack a clear vision of life beyond election periods?

The goal is set: EU 20-20-20 (until 2020: 20% less CO2 emissions compared to 1990; 20% renewable energy) but so far no one knows how to achieve it….

Today approx. 70% of the global energy production is consumed in cities (nearly 20% for lighting). Before the background of ongoing urbanization there is an imminent challenges to improve efficiencies in energy consumption, increase production from renewable sources; develop the energy grid; balance the energy mix towards renewables; boost energy production on an urban scale; reduce the environmental impact; build zero carbon houses and develop the electric infrastructure.

In order to do so, a clear vision is needed spanning the whole energy value chain within a city. Government leadership needs to play a major role in the implementation of reform agendas. But do cities today really think beyond election periods when it comes to long term needs? Curious for your expertise ….