Urban areas represent one of the biggest challenges to the realisation of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and, as the UN expects that 68% of the world’s population will live in towns and cities by 2050, the severity of this challenge is set to grow significantly.
As such, an array of smart city projects are underway, aimed primarily at maximising the efficiency of infrastructure, cutting pollution and facilitating the sustainable growth of cities around the world. The European Innovation Partnership on Smart Cities and Communities Marketplace (EIP-SCC) is a platform from the European Commission (EC) tasked with pooling resources for effective smart city solutions’ deployment across the continent, as well as bringing together businesses that can both assist and benefit from their input.
Among the plethora of initiatives under the EIP-SCC’s banner, 14 ‘Lighthouse Projects’ funded by the EC seek to converge cities, citizens, industries and enterprises to develop, demonstrate and implement smart and sustainable solutions for urban environments. Triangulum, a three-pronged project focused on demonstrating, disseminating and replicating smart city solutions with funding of €30mn, is one such project. Equipped with Manchester, UK, Eindhoven, the Netherlands, and Stavanger, Norway as its own Lighthouse (wayfinding) cities, Triangulum projects conducted among these cities provide workable examples to metropolises around the rest of the world. Of these, three are identified as ‘follower’ cities within the Triangulum ecosystem: Leipzig, Germany, Sabadell, Spain, and Prague, Czech Republic. Tianjin, China, is listed as its non-European ‘observer’.
The project, stretching over the past five years, is now winding down to its conclusion, with each of the participating cities releasing results of their endeavours. Offering a prime example of the work that Triangulum has facilitated, German engineering giant Siemens, has released the results of its participation in Manchester where the key issues being addressed included ICT, mobility and energy. Siemens partnered with Manchester City Council, Triangulum’s lead organisation in the city, Manchester University (UoM) and Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) to assess energy consumption, how to cut costs and emissions, and how to boost the use of renewable energy sources through Manchester’s Oxford Road Corridor.
Siemens upgraded the building energy management system at Manchester Art Gallery this year, ensuring a stable interior climate that both ensures priceless artefacts are conserved effectively from an environmental perspective and optimises energy usage based on predictive analytics. At MMU’s Birley campus, Siemens has installed a 400kWh lithium-ion battery to integrate with rooftop solar panels at the site. In combination with pre-existing Combined Heat Power, the system is capable of powering 900 student rooms and a sizeable academic building, managed by Siemens’ microgrid controller.
Perhaps most pivotally, Siemens assisted with the installation of a cloud-based energy management platform which serves as a virtual power plant for three sites around the city, significantly optimising energy management at the Central Library, Manchester City Council’s town hall extension, and various buildings at UoM. In its press release, Siemens said this system has optimised energy consumption, cut CO2 emissions and reduced the combined sites’ reliance on the grid. Should the system be implemented across the city, it is expected that 57,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year could be cut (the equivalent, Siemens says, of taking 12,000 ICE-based vehicles off the road every year).
At the 2018 Energy Awards, Siemens, Manchester City Council, UoM and MMU won the Public Building Energy Project of the Year award for their collective work under Triangulum.
“We are immensely proud to have participated in Manchester’s smart city vision and have learned and demonstrated, in equal measures, that with the right blend of investment, technologies, governance and citizen engagement, cities can evolve to be eco-efficient and fit-for-the-future,” said Juergen Maier, CEO Siemens UK, reflecting on the end of the project in Siemens’ press release.
“Triangulum has shown a blueprint for low-carbon, cost-efficient smart cities. Manchester and Siemens have proven it is achievable, repeatable and scalable. Now to meet the carbon neutrality targets set by many cities around the world – these projects need to be rolled out at city and regionally-wide scale to have a significant impact on energy consumption and carbon emissions.”
Martine Tommis, Manchester Triangulum Coordinator at Manchester City Council added: “Working with Siemens as part of the Triangulum project has been a really exciting contribution to supporting our journey to meet our ambitious target of becoming a zero-carbon city by 2038.
“It is essential to innovate and create a much smarter, more efficient city, which is why we will continue to support the development of new energy systems and eliminate the need to use fossil fuels. The project is a tribute to what partnerships can achieve for our city.”
City dwellers around the world are certainly set to bear witness to the distribution of such technologies on a far wider scale in the years to come, and the positive impacts on air quality, traffic management, and more will perhaps be the most telling factors to the cursory observer that progress is being made.
Manchester’s Mayor, Andy Burnham MP, has committed Greater Manchester to carbon neutrality by 2038.