« Smart neighbourhoods » for urban energy efficiency

electric cars, energy efficiency, smart building, smart grid, smart meters, Smart neighbourhoods, solar energy

Photo© adeupa de Brest

As natural resources are getting more and more expensive, local authorities reshape urban planning and set up “smart neighbourhoods”. Making energy management a top priority, these small-scale initiatives now cover only limited areas but are expected to progressively spread nationwide.

Efficient energy management

Smart neighbourhoods are based on a model of efficient energy management and monitoring. Eco-neighbourhoods are designed to develop over time, involving the measurement of different kinds of energy consumption, the creation of renewable energy sources (such as wind power or solar energy) and the building of storage facilities. At the same time, pooling is expected to avoid usage spikes, which can cause blackouts, and to implement efficient consumption in households, businesses, housing, street lighting… A Smart Grid system, covering all buildings and housing units, is designed to enable a better consumption management by citizens, thus placing them at the core of the process. Smart grids are based on smart meters, which consist of an interface between public electricity networks and the private power grids on which buildings depend.

In the same context, communities are committed to promoting the use of electric cars, as well as the power management that goes with it. Setting up “smart neighbourhoods” thus involves different fields of expertise, from construction and telecommunication to energy and transportation.

In France, the first smart neighbourhood project, IssyGrid®, was launched in May 2011 in the business district Seine-Ouest in Issy-les-Moulineaux. It caters to the energy needs of 10,000 workers and 4,500 inhabitants, lowering their carbon footprint and reducing their energy bills.

More « positive energy buildings » for energy efficiency

Smart neighbourhoods will also involve an overhaul of every building. Only “smart buildings” can yield optimal energy use, namely high energy efficiency buildings including a sensible management of energy consumption, production and storage facilities. Their development depends not only on construction and insulation techniques, but also on the setting up of Smart Grids aimed at monitoring the whole system.

The purpose is to create so-called positive energy buildings, i.e. which are self-sufficient, energy efficient and environment-friendly, including keeping water quality under control and a sound waste treatment, as well as an adequate management of the energy they produce and use. Their implementation serves a long-term goal: creating sustainable and self-sufficient cities through the relocation of energy production closer to consumer areas.

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