The Copenhagen Summit was the first global event where countries came together to address a common cause. This in itself is an enormous achievement – a beacon to illuminate future global policy-making. True, the conference itself may have been a disappointment, but nobody walked away in anger – and the reason for the Summit remains unchanged, and the need for cooperation and support in solving climate change issues continues to be a top priority for all the countries that were involved.
The complex dynamic surrounding the carbon price still needs to be resolved, but it also became clear that maybe smaller steps are necessary, and that now is the time to try and create some wins here, particularly in the area of smart energy.
Smart grids, smart infrastructure, smart buildings, smart transport (including electric vehicles) and smart cities are some of the potential projects that come to mind.
Intuitively most people will perceive these to be positive developments and sound investment. These projects speak to people’s imagination – they can visualise the social and economic benefits of such initiatives. And, even more important, people can take on a direct and immediate role in the process. In fact, that is already happening indirectly – through their massive installation of technology like solar panels people are already making a start in the building of smart neighbourhoods and cities.
It is essential that the development should incorporate strong consumer involvement; these plans need to be created in collaboration with consumers, not just for them. The many smart meter debacles around the globe clearly show that consumer benefits must be paramount.
Users want to be included – but this doesn’t necessarily signify that they are worried solely about cost (although that does remain the number one concern). Many people are prepared to do the right thing for their environment if the government shows good leadership. There was no major outcry from the people about the carbon tax, in spite of the fact that in the end the people will have to pay for it. The outcry is coming from the very short-sighted vested interests.
‘Smart’ in most, if not all, situations will require an intelligent system – one that can measure activities and actions and that can interactively communicate with users, suppliers, devices, etc. Based on the data collected, and on the input provided by users and energy suppliers, such a smart system can automatically carry out the most effective and efficient controls and executions, without minute-to-minute control by the users, etc. However, the users can at any time take control of their local energy management requirements.
As most countries have been building up a formidable body of knowledge and expertise in the field of climate change some of this is now redirected at energy-saving policies; and it is here that the trans-sector approach makes sense. By breaking down the various silos and looking at the synergy that can be unleashed once the various sectors are brought together for a common cause we will be able to make progress.
The new BuddeComm report:Smart Grids – After Copenhagen -Smart Energy 2010-2011 gives an overview of the high-level political situation that has developed after Copenhagen. It covers the complex and important issues that still need to be addressed, and then moves on to explore the opportunities that are now opening up in the area of smart energy.
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