I recently participated in a panel discussion on smart cities during Open Innovations, an international forum held each year in Moscow.
Vladimir Yakushev, the Ministry of Construction, Housing and Utilities of the Russian Federation and other key global figures from the energy industry and the smart cities landscape, participated in the event. My contribution highlighted the important role of International Standards to guarantee the functionality of smart cities and how smart grids can address future energy challenges.
No electricity – no smart city
We are all familiar with the notion of smart cities and smart communities. What is less obvious is that all of them depend on electricity and hardware such as computers, sensors or displays to move people and things, collect data, exchange and share information.
Electric power allows a city to function and provide services to ensure the safety, security, comfort and well-being of its citizens. Without electricity, it is simply not possible to build an efficient urban infrastructure.
Cities are giant systems with countless subsystems. An adequate and efficient supply of electricity is the bedrock of all city systems from clean public transportation and smart mobility, to lighting, water management, financial and administrative transactions, safety and waste management. All these can be seen as separate parts but they only work together well if they are properly interrelated.
The IEC provides the majority of the International Standards needed to safely interconnect and automate much of the city infrastructure that uses electricity and contains electronics. They cover all forms of energy generation and distribution.
The IEC has recently started to examine the operation of smart cities as a whole which has resulted in the establishment of a group dedicated to the standardisation in this area. With a system approach, it is possible to apply a holistic, iterative discovery process to the problems that need to be resolved.
It allows for the integration of engineering as well as social and human aspects to bring about solutions that are adaptable, elegant and effective.
International Standards necessary to resolve energy challenges
The demand for energy is growing fast, and for electricity even faster. Current energy production methods are unsustainable in terms of resources and the environment.
The IEC believes that smart electrification and smart grids will be one of the most significant factors to address the energy challenge. The IEC is in a unique position with its global scope, technical competency and ability to bring together all relevant stakeholders.
We serve as a technical facilitator, enabling the preparation of system architectures in all areas where a common lead is needed for the global roll-out of technology-based solutions. In the area of energy, the IEC can help provide solutions to increase the energy efficiency of electrical and electronic systems and products, ensure their safety and guarantee their environmental soundness.
Bringing renewable energy into smart cities
The use of renewable energy in cities of the future will require a rethinking of the way we currently understand energy and electricity distribution. Incorporating renewable energy sources in the electric grid, alongside traditional energy sources, will require greater flexibility.
The reduction of cost of energy from renewable sources as well as the increased efficiency of power storage and supply units is among the key drivers of rethinking the energy distribution.
The dominance of alternating current (AC) over direct current (DC), especially in the “last mile” of the public power distribution network where low voltage is required has begun to be questioned. Many renewable energy sources generate direct current which is also the mode in which operate almost all electronic devices as well as an increasing number of appliances.
LVDC (low voltage direct current) is attracting broad interest today as it could reduce infrastructure and operation costs. The IEC is following closely these new trends and scoping the need for standardisation.