Smart cities need smart grids

2011-05-03 - The United Nations recently revealed that the world's population was evenly split between urban and rural areas for the first time in history, and that urban growth will accelerate in the decades ahead until the number of people living in cities nearly doubles (from 3.3 billion in 2007 to 6.4 billion in 2050) by mid-century.

This kind of growth will severely strain city services and infrastructure, and is a major driver of the 'smart city' concept, which envisions an array of computing technologies making critical infrastructure components and services in cities more intelligent, interconnected and efficient.

For example, a utility would only deliver electricity and water that is needed, reducing waste wherever possible. To accomplish this, existing utility infrastructure will have to be interconnected and even more efficient, offering innovative new ways to produce, conserve, deliver and manage essential ingredients of city life like water, gas, and electricity.

The evolution of power

“The biggest changes will occur in the computing power needed to manage all the energy networks in an integrated way, and the electrical components needed to keep them running,” said Jochen Kreusel, ABB’s Head of Smart Grids. "Power networks are evolving in the direction of automation, intelligence and interactivity – attributes which will make them far more efficient, reliable and flexible."

The challenge of making far-reaching changes to the power grid is high on the agendas of regulators and government leaders at almost every level. For example, at this year’s Hannover Messe, ABB ‘s role in European smart grid projects garnered explicit interest from European Commissioner for Energy, Guenther Oettinger, during his visit there.


Power networks are evolving in the direction of automation, intelligence and interactivity – attributes which will make them far more efficient, reliable and flexible

Earlier this year, ABB signed a memorandum of understanding with the city of Genoa, Italy (pop. 600,000) to develop smart grid infrastructure as the port city seeks funding from the European Community under the Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET Plan).

Genoa is one of the country’s major economic centers and has a strategic advantage due to its proximity to the primary manufacturing centers of Central Europe. Genoa’s port is an ideal southern gateway for trade to and from Europe and the natural hub for Asian trade.

Towards energy efficiency and lower emissions

The realization and integration of smart, flexible power grids, intelligent building systems and intelligent means of transportation will allow Genoa to make a transformation towards energy efficiency and less CO2 emissions in order to join the ranks of the Europe’s most sustainable cities. The city aims to reduce CO2 emissions 23 percent by 2020.

If successful, Genoa will join the portfolio of smart grid research and commercial projects ABB is involved in to date, including:
  • a joint development project with the Nordic utility Fortum to design and install a large-scale smart grid in the Royal Seaport area of Stockholm; the goal is to entirely eliminate the use of fossil fuels within the area (10,000 homes, 30,000 office spaces) by 2030
  • a joint development with T-Systems, a Deutsche Telekom subsidiary specializing in information and communications technology, to create a smart grid for the German city of Friedrichshafen
  • a joint development with Helsingin Energia to design and install a smart grid in the new Kalasatama district (18,000 people, 10,000 office spaces) in the heart of Helsinki.
    With the largest portfolio of products and technologies for smart grid development ABB is playing a fundamental role in the evolution of power systems. In addition to its vast selection of intelligent electronic hardware, ABB’s software portfolio has expanded significantly with the acquisitions of Ventyx, Insert Key Solutions and Obvient Software. These complement our energy management offerings and place ABB in a strong competitive position to support the approaching evolution of intelligent and efficient cities.

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      Jochen Kreusel
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