In the current global economic and ecological crisis, Europe has to undergo a far-reaching revolution.
From an economic perspective, Europe has a strong dependence on energy and resource imports from foreign countries. The rise in gas and oil prices and shortages of resources are evidence of an unsustainable dependence. From an ecological perspective, climate change is a global threat and Europe has set ambitious targets for carbon emission reductions as well as re-use and recycling of resources.
One of the pivotal stakeholders in this revolution are cities; most of Europe’s population lives in cities (50%) with most of our resources being consumed in cities (75%) and most of the carbon emissions are being generated in cities (80%). Every city in Europe needs to develop a sustainability plan with medium to long term activities to meet the 2020 and 2050 targets that Europe has set; goals of reducing energy consumption and carbon emissions by 20% by 2020 and 80-95% by 2050 of 1990 emission levels.
Cities are however not homogeneous urban areas. They are complex systems of systems with diverse neighbourhoods built up and evolving over many decades and centuries.
However on a more granular level – the district level – similar energy consumption and emission characteristics emerge when comparing districts from different cities:
- Building quality based on construction of districts during certain periods, e.g. the 1960’s.
- Societal challenges of unemployment, fuel poverty, crime, etc.
- The legacy issue: layers of technologies designed and deployed in different decades, supporting energy distribution.
Therefore, any initiative to improve the energy efficiency in urban areas should take into consideration that 20% of the European Energy consumptions could only be reduced if the proposed solution is applicable to retrofit existing Districts or Neighbourhoods. Within current economic climate, there is now a big social need and economic opportunity
to bring innovative ICT solutions to cities and districts, caused by the pressure and so cioeconomic argument to reduce and manage their energy consumption in real time in a number of directions (e.g. smart metering, smart grid, smart lighting, electric cars and their charging stations). But the fact is that there are no clear rules on how to undertake these upgrades: which one or which combination of retrofitting actions would bring the biggest profit to citizens and city authorities? The manner of how ICT can help the district to be completely interconnected within itself and within the wider city scope is having a bird view of whatever is happening in a certain area of the city in every moment and in a uniform and coherent way.