Pan-industry alliance set to champion smart energy era

As a new report names Bristol and London the leaders of the smart city transition, leading UK energy organisations such as the National Grid and the Renewable Energy Association (REA) have launched a pan-industry campaign to create a smart energy pathway for technology and services.

Smart infrastructure developments across the UK could generate an estimated £13bn for the economy

Smart infrastructure developments across the UK could generate an estimated £13bn for the economy

Energy organisations including RenewableUK, the Solar Trade Association (STA) and Tech UK’s Smart Infrastructure Initiative will be among the groups meeting with energy ministers today to create the Smart Power Industries Alliance (SPIA).

SPIA will seek to drive the decarbonisation of the UK’s economy by equipping households, businesses and communities with more control over energy use. The Alliance has already started work on a range of projects to embed smarter systems in the UK and is supporting the Government’s Smart Systems and Flexibility Plan to upgrade energy systems.

As part of its launch, SPIA is calling on governments to put consumers at the heart of energy policies, facilitate the creation of new markets and services for flexible technologies, incentivise heat, transport and power as part of a whole-system approach, provide consistent regulatory guidance and make smart power central to the Industrial Strategy.

SPIA’s chair Charles Hendry said: “The size & breadth of SPIA reflects consensus across the power sector that the future of energy is smart. This is a long-term change programme, so we will be working together to ensure smart power has cross party support and that it remains at the top of the energy agenda.

“We want to explain the huge environmental, social and economic benefits to the public, and to help ensure these benefits are accessible to all in the new era of smart energy. Many people are already generating their own power and engaging with smart applications, but smart power has the potential to transform all our lives for the better, in ways that are creating real excitement today."

Smart infrastructure developments across the UK could generate an estimated £13bn for the economy. On a wider scope, the rise of technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI), automation, data analytics and the Internet of Things (IoT) could save between $900bn to $1.6trn to the global economy by 2035.

Smart Cities Index

The launch of SPIA coincides with the publication of the 2017 Smart Cities Index by ICT solutions provider Huawei. The index ranks 20 UK cities on their smart cities strategy and execution.

The growth of urbanisation combined with the needs to manage resource consumption, reduce emissions and grow economies has seen numerous UK cities trial and champion smart technology. According to the report, Bristol has leapfrogged London in this area to claim top spot on the rankings.

Leading UK cities are embedding foundations for the development of innovation, the report notes, both in terms of test beds, platforms and through a “trusted ecosystem of partners”. All 20 cities in the study are working with local universities to progress their smart city strategies.

Cities like London are trialling “smart districts” to create interconnections between transport, health, energy and housing to test innovations at scale. Elsewhere, Bristol Is Open is a data sharing platform for IoT solutions and has created an ecosystem of extensive partnerships and established pathways for scaling projects as a result.

“The continuing proliferation of data represents a huge opportunity for the UK,” Huawei’s chairman Lorde Browne of Madingley said. “Those cities harnessing and exchanging data safely and securely have the potential to make enormous advancements in the fields of healthcare, energy, mobility, education and sustainability.”

Milton Keynes was praised for its transport network – the most common area of focus for the cities – while Nottingham is developing new approaches to city energy through community energy projects.

Peterborough was noted as a leader in environmental programmes and circular economy innovations. Peterborough is striving to create the UK’s first circular city by 2050 and has undergone a number of initiatives to help it achieve the vision, such as Share Peterborough, a B2B platform which enables local organisations to maximise the use of resources by exchanging goods and services that are under-utilised or no longer needed.

However, the report notes that the UK Government must play an important role to develop smart cities across the country. Leading cities are still attempting to keep pace with new technologies such as 5G networks, machine learning and automated vehicles and initiatives such as the Future Cities Catapult and Innovate UK are seen as important levers to embed new solutions.

Matt Mace


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