By Scott Tew
Urbanization and the notion of smart cities have been emerging topics for some time now. This is no surprise, given that urban residents accounted for 54 percent of the total global population in 2015, and are expected to grow to 60 percent by 2030, according to the World Health Organization.
In order to accommodate this urban population growth, cities will continue to face increasing challenges, including congested transportation and housing and the need to reliably supply sufficient energy to meet growing demands.
Smart cities are large urban areas that are unique due to their exceptional connectivity and technology surrounding critical infrastructure and systems. These technology advancements, such as advanced sensors to monitor traffic and smart grids and lighting, will certainly help cities of the future meet urbanization challenges. But resiliency must also be a priority for creating sustainable growth, and energy efficiency plays a key role in the resiliency equation.
With this in mind, here’s why we need to pay more attention to energy efficiency and resiliency when discussing how cities will meet ongoing urbanization and climate-related challenges.
Just as resiliency reduces a city’s vulnerability in times of extreme risk, a resilient city will also find itself better equipped to handle increasing demands resulting from growing urban populations.
Moreover, taking a city’s ability to deal with the stresses associated with population growth – demands on food, water, space and energy – into account for sustainable growth is also important when preparing for a long-term surge in urbanization. For example, incorporating energy efficiency strategies into planning efforts can minimize stress on the grid and improve overall grid reliability.
Using the SDGs to unite conversations between government and businesses is a great start to help advance energy efficient and resilient urban environments. At the same time, these conversations are largely uncharted territories. Keeping the SDG objectives in mind during these conversations can undoubtedly serve as a missing link between strategic planning for cities of the future and preparing for increased urbanization.
However, it is also important to remember that these conversations are fluid and ever-evolving – especially as innovation progresses, providing new and exciting strategies. Ten years ago, automation technologies to help control energy usage were not commonplace, yet today they are widely leveraged.
Not only do energy efficient solutions support resiliency as it relates to severe weather events, but these solutions can also offer ways to better manage uncertain or changing energy supply and demand. For example, certain solutions can allow energy to be stored and automatically utilized during off peak hours. This ultimately allows for better energy management and efficiencies that avoid excess usage.
As urbanization continues to increase, cities need to be able to respond to growing energy demands. As such, embracing these types of energy reduction and efficiency strategies will help improve grid reliability, and hopefully even reduce costs down in a times of extreme stress.
By achieving resiliency and sustainable growth, cities of the future will be fit to handle both anticipated and unexpected environmental, social and economic stresses.
Image credit: Pexels
Scott Tew is the founder and leader of the Center for Energy Efficiency & Sustainability at Ingersoll Rand (CEES), which supports all of the company’s strategic brands – Club Car, Ingersoll Rand, Trane and Thermo King – and is responsible for forward-looking sustainability initiatives. Since the CEES was formed in 2010, Ingersoll Rand has successfully met or exceeded its long-term goals in energy use and waste reduction, while embedding sustainability in all parts of the product development process. Tew's efforts have led to the development of world-class initiatives, including the creation of a green product portfolio, personalized employee engagement programs, and unique research on unmet needs in the green space. Tew manages all sustainability-related public transparency, advocacy, reporting and goal setting initiatives for the company.