The World Bank’s latest open data numbers show that the world’s urban population represents 54 percent of the total 7.44 billion world population, while the World Health Organization (WHO) projects global urban population to grow 1.63 percent per year between 2020 and 2025. Cities and large megalopolis are facing the challenge of absorbing these increases and the surge in power consumption that comes with it.
Regulators and Smart Cities
“The Smart City concept is moving forward, integrating elements such as sustainable mobility, using mobility as a public service rather than a privately owned commodity, decreasing a city’s environmental impact and energy consumption and bringing IoT solutions and applications to the mainstream,” said Jorge Yepes, Regulatory Manager of the Public Enterprises of Medellin (EPM), Colombia on the second day of the WFER conference in Cancun.
As these trends evolve and grow, so must regulators, cautiously yet decidedly setting the boundaries of free market operations and government intervention, Yepes said. “The role of the state in modern, capitalist, open market economies is to essentially correct market flaws. It must provide seamless platforms of operation for the market, establish rules where economic activity requires it and supervise market evolution.”
With social media, citizens now have a platform through which they can express their opinions, protest and demand better services, not only to government officials and regulators but also to service providers. All three must remain vigilant as to what their clients or constituents want, beyond quality service, continuous supply or fair prices, Yepes explained. “We must go one step further. Smart Cities, for instance, foster circular economies—manage solid waste and reintegrate them in productive cycles—which in turn requires the development of an integral vision for the city’s sustainable growth.”
Working with Communities
The global shift toward renewable energy and decreasing CO2 emissions has opened the door toward new technologies and more efficient power producing and consumption processes that directly impact the communities they are intended for. “People need a reliable and safe energy supply service. The regulator needs to make sure to implement these policies in a way that it does not cause service disruption. Innovations sprouting from that needs to grow organically, with the communities,” said Diane X. Burman, Commissioner of the New York State Public Service Commission.
Burman does not believe regulation is a one-size-fits-all process but rather requires adaptation based on the needs present, highlighting the importance of the interaction with communities in that particular regard. “Regulators must work adopting a facilitating perspective. Align resources, maximize them—workforce, technical information, financing requirements, feasibility. Provide the tools and open data for the community to decide what is best for it, shed light on the pros and cons and set the framework,” Burman said.
The Key Role of Municipalities in Energy Solutions at City Level
“Municipalities and states, in partnership, play a significant role. The former is at the frontlines of infrastructure, and all the nuts and bolts and issues needed to be resolved when talking about deployment of electric vehicles, charging infrastructure, permitting for home batteries or anything of the sort,” said Chris Lee, Member of the Hawaii House of Representatives from the 51st district. Lee considers municipalities to be the first gateway any project developer would need to cross.
Hawaii’s House of Representatives member is convinced things get done faster and better when working as a community when the federal government partners up with the regulators, private players and interested parties to achieve something. “While it is difficult to distill the city’s specific role, states and cities share infrastructure responsibility, which can be exploited positively,” Lee said.