According to various estimates, the world population is expected to grow to nine billion by 2050, and up to eleven billion by 2100. This also means that our energy needs will continue to grow in the coming years and experts estimate that energy consumption will grow at the rate of 0.7% per capita per year. So, there will be more demand for more energy and accommodating the increased demand on the planet in a sustainable way will be a challenge.
Energy infrastructure is the foundation of modern life in cities worldwide. Utilities and cities have a mutual interest in becoming “smarter” and “greener,” but bring different resources to the table. Each group has its own set of unique tools and resources for integrating new energy technologies and strategies into the built environment.
In the past, most city governments and municipalities have not taken it upon themselves to ensure reliable and environmentally sound delivery of energy to their constituents, or to encourage efficient energy use. An increasing number of cities worldwide are beginning to do so now, using their established statutory powers to respond to political expectations regarding environmental quality and economic development.
Energy conservation enjoys one of the lowest priorities among our political class. Energy conservation can win global acclaim but not votes in local elections. There is no political leader in India who has won an election on energy conservation plank. Such being the significance (or lack of it) of energy conservation, it is the sheer personal preference of some leaders which can help the country to achieve much needed energy transition in the country. Of late, it is happening though at much slower pace than one would have hoped for.
A critical aspect of minimizing climate hazard risks is to ensure a reliable energy supply. As part of the energy transition, cities are acting to protect their community social and economic assets through strategies that improve the resilience of building energy systems and structures.
What is of significance is that energy transition is happening at the lowest level too. A case in point is the switch over to LEDs for street lights at the local bodies level. Unless this “Lead by Example” is adopted it would be difficult to reach somewhere near the goal, leave alone achieving it. Municipal governments should also lead by example by using city facilities as important incubators for piloting new sustainable energy technologies and programmes. However, it is well known that local bodies often lack funding and technical resources. However, what cities accomplish represents a priority choice of how they rank specific issues.
Local bodies should view energy transition is as a means to protect limited natural resources and a tool to enhance municipal services, ensure energy security, support local businesses, and foster new avenues for economic growth.
With the falling cost of renewable energy, there are greater incentives for local bodies to implement new programmes and policies to support their local building owners and developers to incorporate locally sourced clean renewable energy systems. Furthermore, there are greater scope and technologies for the local bodies to take a larger role in clean power procurement on behalf of their citizens and local businesses through strategies like green power aggregations and community solar installations.
The Internet of Things (IoT), sensors and new data platforms are the opportunities and avenues available for Municipalities to better manage energy use for things like streetlighting, but also offer opportunities for improving public safety and efficiency of city services. The Central government on its part should ensure that these latest technologies are available to the local bodies and also should enlighten them about the utility of these latest technologies. Then only, the benefits of these technologies will percolate down to the lowest levels, otherwise it will remain in the domain of selected few communities/cities.
Availability of resources will play a major role in achieving the energy transition in an effective and faster way. Most of the Municipalities are lacking the resources to achieve the goals and therefore, their resource constraints should be addressed to through innovative ways of securing the necessary funding for the energy transition. Green bonds, private capital, and new financing models related to tax revenues or purchase agreements will revolutionize how cities procure and use energy.