B4E, the Business for Environment Global Summit, is the world's leading international conference for dialogue and business-driven action for the environment. The summit addresses the most urgent environmental challenges facing the world today. Important topics on the agenda include resource efficiency, renewable energies, new business models and climate policy and strategies. CEOs and senior executives join leaders from government, international agencies, NGOs and media to discuss environmental issues, forge partnerships and explore innovative solutions for a greener future.
Kevin leads Navigant's Customer and Markets team globally for the Energy Practice. The engineers, economists, and social scientists on the team deliver a wide range of demand-side solutions and analysis for utilities, government entities, investors, and manufacturers. Kevin is the former CEO for Summit Blue Consulting, and prior to this was VP of Research at ESource. He has over 25 years’ experience covering energy efficiency and demand side management technologies.
Jan leads Navigant's Global Energy practice and has extensive management consulting experience in the energy sector and a history of growing businesses in diverse, global markets. He has more than 20 years' experience working with clients, advising executive leaders on developing and operationalising their strategies to improve customer service, and increase revenue while decreasing costs.
As Director of Sustainability & Innovation, Dax works on all things net positive and disruptive to progress Kingfisher's sustainability ambitions across the international group. His responsibilities involve developing the sustainability strategy and policy framework across all environmental and social issues. Previously, he led WWF-UK’s work with business for just over a decade, winning support for conservation and accelerating shifts towards a green economy.
The “city of tomorrow” has been an object of fascination throughout history for artists, futurists and architects.
As the centre of rapid change, cities are commonly used to imagine how society will be influenced by new technologies. The design archetypes are numerous: the floating city; the bubble city; the space city; the vertical city; and, more recently in the era of environmental awareness, the eco city.
While helpful as a way to expand the limits of design and technology, most visions for the city of the future have not emerged. The failure of eco cities is the latest example.
A decade ago, the Chinese government and international architects partnered to execute ambitious plans for zero-waste communities run entirely on renewable energy. But many of the projects never materialized because of technical delays, exorbitant costs and lack of demand.
“Some of the eco cities were too utopian or overambitious in terms of how quickly technology can change or get integrated,” said Constantine Kontokosta, director of academics at the New York University Center for Urban Science and Progress, who followed the projects closely.
“What’s been forgotten in the discussions around smart cities is the understanding of social dynamics and how important they are to how cities function,” he said.The failures, said Kontokosta, stemmed from designing giant cities from scratch – a chronic problem in China that has plagued all kinds of new community development projects.
Today, another term has come to dominate urban futurism: the connected city.
Interchangeably referred to as the “networked city” or the “smart city,” the connected urban environment is less about redesigning gigantic futuristic cities from the ground-up, and more about creating intelligence from the inside-out.
Experts believe it’s the most accurate way to describe how cities are evolving alongside technology. And it’s actually being implemented by some of the biggest companies in the world – not just imagined by dreamers.
“The best success we’ve seen is where data is used to support city goals and objectives to make a community run better,” said Kontokosta.
We may not have cities in the clouds. But the urban environment is now enveloped in a broad spectrum of high-resolution data and networking technologies – from GPS to smart meters to building management systems – creating a virtual cloud suited for new applications.
The big challenge today, says Mark Fox, a smart cities expert with the University of Toronto, is how to manage all that information.
“There’s already huge amounts of data, and we are only just developing the capacity to analyze it to understand how a city is performing,” said Fox, who is a senior fellow at the Global Cities Institute at U of T.
Creating simpler, elegant systems designed to monitor the urban environment requires something very complicated: a standard way of assessing that data.
Fox and his colleagues at U of T have been developing an international standardized methodology for gauging performance in 17 areas, including sustainability, energy, education and basic city services. Without a common set of metrics, cities and companies will have a hard time understanding their performance, said Fox.
“We need very specific definitions,” he said. “We need to imagine a world when all the information about cities is published in a common way. We need to automate city analysis.”
The project is called the Global City Indicators Facility. It includes a network of 250 cities around the world and has resulted in the first ISO standard for cities to measure social, environmental and economic performance. The organization is working with Toronto to adopt the methodology for assessing smart city pilots.
Assuming the standard is adopted by more cities, software providers and hardware producers, the bigger challenge will be how to effectively use it to provide better services in the urban environment. And on that front, Fox is adamant we need a “citizen-centric” approach.
“Traditionally, cities have taken a city-centered view of how they offer services,” said Fox. But with a growing range of third parties connecting streetlights, energy and water infrastructure, and transportation systems, cities need to view themselves as brokers of information, not the only service provider in town.
What does that mean, exactly?
This human-centric approach has spawned a whole new field of research called urban informatics. It applies computer science, social science, physics and statistical analysis to understanding how to make cities more efficient and livable – with the goal of understanding how people interact with the urban environment.
“Although we’ve been talking about smart cities for a long time, the field [of urban informatics] is still quite new and many of the techniques are just now being applied in an urban context,” said Kontokosta, who teaches urban informatics and consults on projects.
The $20-billlion Hudson Yards project is the largest in U.S. history. It’s also set to become the world’s first fully instrumented community outfitted with “future-proofed” communications systems, as well as sensors and meters to monitor traffic, air pollution, water, energy consumption and pedestrian movement. The neighborhood will also host a 13.2-megawatt cogeneration power plant, a microgrid connecting homes and businesses, and a vacuum-tube system to collect and sort waste streams.One such project is in New York City’s Hudson Yards, a 28-acre mixed-use redevelopment project started in 2012, and planned for completion by 2019. Sleek, energy-efficient skyscrapers and retail centres will modernize the landscape, but it’s the guts of the project that will truly futurize the neighbourhood.
Urban informatics researchers at New York University will analyze the community. The project is designed to fine-tune building performance, transportation flows and emergency operations. But the bigger opportunity, said Kontakosta, is in understanding the complex connections between noise and air pollution and education levels, or building design and occupant behaviour.
“This will really help us truly understand how an urban neighborhood functions at a granular level,” said Kontakosta. “The social sciences element is all very new.”
While there is much learning and experimentation still to come, the influence is being felt. Under this people-first premise, cities around the world – from Rio de Janeiro to Vancouver – are implementing new systems connecting streetlights, water infrastructure, buildings and transportation systems into a cohesive, controllable whole designed to better serve citizens.
“We’re seeing projects in the thousands, across governments and the private sector,” said Rob Bernard, the general manager for cities and sustainability at Microsoft. “Cities are figuring out how to turn citizens into human sensors for improving their services and infrastructure.”
Progress is still incremental, not revolutionary. But it’s clear that the “city of the tomorrow” is arriving today.
This article originally appeared on Corporate Knights and is republished with permission.
Brussels, Belgium – The ‘2015 Energy Productivity and Economic Prosperity Index’ launched recently reveals the huge potential for societies to raise economic performance and extend significant environmental and social benefits through improved energy productivity. The Index, authored by The Lisbon Council, Ecofys and Quintel Intelligence and commissioned by Royal Philips (AEX: PHI, NYSE: PHG), is the first global report to rank countries by their energy productivity – based on their economic output per unit of energy consumed. The report warns that the current rate of energy productivity improvement – around 1.3% worldwide each year – is too slow to keep pace with the rising energy demand.
The report finds that most energy productivity gains will need to come from improvements to residential and non-residential buildings. A simple illustration of energy productivity is boiling an egg, where only 2% of the energy consumed goes into producing the boiled egg. Similarly, nearly 98% of all energy we use in the process of production is being wasted. Just by increasing the use of technology today, such as energy-efficient appliances, LED lighting and insulation, European households could reduce their energy bills by a third. Furthermore, overall energy consumption in the EU could be cut by 35% by more than doubling the rate of the region’s energy productivity improvement from close to 1.5% to 3% per year by 2030.
“Within the range of energy efficiency opportunities, LED lighting is a key contributor in addressing the soaring energy demand of the future as it already can deliver a 500% energy productivity improvement in average households. And by connecting LED lighting to sensors, apps and controls, even greater efficiencies may be realized. It is dramatically changing the way people experience and interact with light at home, at work and in their cities”, said Harry Verhaar, Head of Global Public and Government Affairs at Philips Lighting. According to the High-Energy Productivity Growth Scenario presented in the report, nearly 12 European households could be lit with a 1000 KWh of electricity, which is roughly what it takes to light two households today.
Miguel Arias Cañete, European Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy, added: “Energy efficiency is a powerful instrument for job creation with great potential for stimulating economic growth and EU competitiveness. Energy productivity provides us with an excellent framework to harness underutilized resources. I welcome the publication of this report. It will help us in coming years in using innovation to drive efficiency and improving Europe’s performance in this key area.”
The report urges policymakers to set more ambitious targets to improve energy productivity. It demonstrates that high levels of energy efficiency will contribute to global economic growth: doubling energy productivity could create more than 6 million jobs globally by 2020 and reduce the global fossil fuel bill by more than EUR 2 trillion by 2030. To achieve this, further progress in the world’s six largest economies – the US, Russia, China, Japan, India and the EU – is most important as they account for 60% of global GDP and 65% of global energy demand.
“World leaders are convinced that energy is the golden thread connecting economic growth, increased social equity and a healthy environment, but we still need to enforce more ambitious goals to improve energy productivity”, said Kandeh Yumkella, UN Under-Secretary-General and CEO of Sustainable Energy for All. “This report helps to focus minds on these goals and their benefits. Doubling of the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency by 2030 is our shared objective, underpinned by the Global Energy Efficiency Accelerator Platform launched by the UN last year.”
Global energy productivity highlights:
The Index ranks countries by the amount of GDP they produce for every unit of energy they consume. This differs from energy efficiency which means using less energy to deliver the same service.
Hong Kong topped the list with an energy productivity of EUR 456 billion of GDP per exajoule (one quintillion – 1018 – joules) consumed. Cuba came second, boasting EUR 365 billion GDP per exajoule. Columbia, Singapore and Switzerland made up the top five.
The United Kingdom is ranked 26th, behind countries such as Sri Lanka, Dominican Republic, Gabon, Philippines, and Albania. Other leading nations trailed further behind with Germany placed 35th, the Netherlands 40th, Japan 51st, France 56th and India 72nd.
The United States, which has pledged to double its energy productivity by 2030, comes 87th. China placed 111th and Russia 114th– both countries with energy productivity well below the world average of EUR 143 billion.
 The 2015 Energy Productivity and Economic Prosperity Index is an effort to gauge the efficiency and effectiveness with which energy resources are being used worldwide. Energy productivity is defined as the volume of services or products that can be generated per unit of energy. It is not the same as energy efficiency, which measures the inverse – i.e. how much energy is needed to produce a given level of output (See International Energy Agency, Key World Energy Statistics 2014, Paris)
This article originally appeared on Philips and is republished with permission.
Earlier last week the B4E Climate Summit was held in London. The President of COP20, Peruvian Minister for the Environment Manuel Pulgar-Vidal Otalora, asked over 100 sustainability and business professionals what corporates, government and society needed to do to become Net Positive.
Simple. Just put more back than you take, right?
If WWF’s latest Living Planet report is an indicator, with over half the world’s animals disappearing since the 1970’s, as a society we are falling way short of net positive biodiversity outcomes.
But can a business define what it means to be net positive or even neutral? How about specifically on carbon, water, or forests? How can they measure and report their impact on both their direct and indirect water use, for example? It seems it is not that easy to describe the point at which you are water neutral.
Net positivism was discussed throughout the day, after it was seeded by the morning’s panel of business and NGO leaders. Where is the neutral line, how far is net positive financially viable and who should regulate this?
Businesses could be encouraged to introduce their own method of measuring and controlling rather than waiting for regulations. Mark Kenber, CEO of the Climate Group, pointed to organisations that are introducing their own carbon pricing as an example of where business can lead and take action ahead of regulation. It was suggested that with ambition, deeper research, analysis and collaboration we can attempt to quantify what it means to be net positive. But what then?
Collaboration was another key focus throughout most discussions. Amongst all the great ideas for businesses to become net positive, there seemed to be a consensus that corporates, civil society, governments and ‘citizens’ needed to work together to research and implement solutions for creating a restorative economy.
I asked David Nussbaum, WWF-UK Chief Executive, where he thought business could start. 'Every business should be asking themselves what they can do to restore nature that has been lost. We need more disruptive thinking, well beyond 'business as usual', and innovative partnerships that drive change at scale'.
Many of the solutions discussed on the day are being written up to be sent to Lima in December. We have twelve months until COP21. Will Net Positive be on the table as a way of framing the debate or is that too ambitious?
In any case, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal might tell you not to go to Paris. His closing remark to the morning’s introduction highlighted his ambition for COP20 and beyond. “Don’t come to Lima, unless you want to change the world”.
Dean Cambridge, WWF-UK
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