The term Smart city sure does sound futuristic. But what does it mean actually? Some of us may be imagining life with androids as personal assistants, while others may be getting a warm fuzzy feeling thinking about free internet access at any place, any time. But, are we being too objective here? A smart city is about a lot more than just adding a couple more ways to improve our living standards. It is about bringing a better management flow involving key technological, economical and even social changes.
A Change is Necessary
Manage what? Well, frankly we need to manage our resources in order to manage our lives. Depleting fossil fuels, rising energy cost, and rampant climate change – are all connected and it is time that we took responsibility for leading our planet to the brink of natural resource exhaustion. It is time to contribute towards betterment of the eco-system, and not pollution. Developing smart cities can change perspectives on a larger scale, creating and promoting a sustainable environment that cities, states, and countries can follow.
A Smart city is not just about changing a single part of our lives, it comprises of many development ideas, revolving around the theme of sustainability. Smart cities are expected to offer-
• Adequate water supply
• Assured electricity supply
• Sanitation, including solid waste management
• Efficient urban mobility and public transport
• Affordable housing, especially for the poor
• Robust IT connectivity and digitization
• Good governance, especially e-Governance and citizen participation
• Sustainable environment
• Safety and security of citizens, particularly women, children and the elderly
• Health and education
A closer inspection will reveal that this list is deeply connected to ‘how we use energy’. Our conventional energy usage ideas, although progressive, have brought forth issues like increasing CO2 emissions, global warming, and climate change in a harmful manner. Today, worldwide, 68% of our energy comes from fossil fuels (41% coal, 21% gas, 5.5% oil), which is creating an unstable environment. And focusing on energy transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy (especially solar) through smart city development, seems a better decision.
Sustainability has Global Acceptance
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. Europe, North America, Middle-East, and Africa are taking great initiatives to reduce conventional energy consumption, and leaning towards renewable energy solutions to meet energy needs. Not just for homes, countries are also shifting to electric vehicles (powered by solar energy) for transport, accepting renewable energy as a better resource to manage lives and environment.
Smart City, Smarter India
India has also made headway in this pursuit. Solar Cities Mission, launched by MNRE in 2008 was developed with the idea to increase solar installation in cities, making transition to renewable energy easy. The Indian Government, under the leadership of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, had given this initiative a leg up by announcing development of 100 smart cities in India in 2015 (now the number has increased to 109).
So far Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state in the country, will get 13 smart cities. Tamil Nadu will get 12 smart cities, Maharashtra 10, Madhya Pradesh 7, while development work in Gujarat and Karnataka is focused towards creating 6 smart cities each.
The Government of India has announced to fund 500 crores INR (per city) in this development venture and disclosed that they will be accessing investment from National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF) as well as bi-laterals and multilaterals borrowings to make this plan a success.
The Changes About to Come
With infrastructural development, smart cities under the Government of India’s Smart city mission, will bring-
• Penetration of Smart Meters– To be installed in houses which consume more than 200 units of electricity per month. Time of day tariff and net metering to follow these initiatives
• Installation of renewable energy within city (preferably solar)
• Construction of energy efficient (solar panel installed) buildings
• Solar street light and lamp installation
• Boost to electric vehicles– India to have 6-7 million electric vehicles by 2020 under the national electric mobility plan. Smart Solar charging stations to come up like gas stations across the country
• Solar panel equipped public transport systems like– trams, trains are being considered
• More use of affordable storage technologies– Solar combined with Storage technology to become affordable. Houses may start shifting to off-grid with complete electricity solutions
Energy transition can provide better energy management, better transport facilities, and waste management. Also by reducing and ultimately omitting India’s fossil fuel expenses (USD 277.3 billion: India’s 2014 fossil fuel subsidy bill), smart cities can help save up billions that can be used for socio-economic development of the country.
However, for success, we must equally participate in the initiative as the Government. So, we need to make the right decisions and support these initiatives by shifting to an eco-friendly lifestyle.
Pssst… Have great ideas that can make smart cities more efficient? Post a comment here and let the world know your thoughts!!!