Governments will have to provide long-term sustained support for renewable energy, smart grid and other future city initiatives for them to be successful, according to a new report from Lux Research, a global company providing intelligence on emerging technologies.
Lux focused on eight urban development models in brownfield cities like Barcelona, Spain and Amsterdam in the Netherlands that are retrofitting old structures and grids with new technologies and greenfield cities like Masdar City in the United Arab Emirates that are building sustainably from the ground up.
While there are a lot of elements to future cities from the way governments are structured to how medical records are kept, Lux focused on energy distribution and consumption, said Lux analyst and report author Ryan Castilloux.
“We didn’t focus on renewables, but they came up in our research,” he said.
And there is a place for solar photovoltaics, other solar technologies and other renewable energy technologies in future cities.
“This is evidenced by the slew of innovative startups, SMEs and industry juggernauts that are positioning themselves to capitalize on this shift,” Castilloux said. “Utilities are also looking to renewable forms of decentralized power generation to help them curb grid strain while adding capacity”
Castilloux lives in Amsterdam, one of the locations he studied, and has been amazed by some of the retrofits the historic city is undertaking to cut back on greenhouse gas emissions—like allowing cargo ships to plug into the grid so they can turn their engines off—to promoting energy efficiency upgrades and renewable energy or solar installations on residential and commercial buildings.
The cities that Castilloux studied are increasingly adding renewable energy generation capacity and are constantly looking to innovative new ways to reduce consumption and employ distributed renewable energy generation.
“From wind to water to solar and biomass—our future cities will increasingly harvest from the near-infinite supply of energy around us,” Castilloux said. “Renewable energy and associated technologies will pervade Future Cities, but this will not happen without strong support from governments”
While companies are increasingly entering the field and prices are falling and becoming more competitive, they are still too high to appeal to investors without help from government subsidies and support.
“Incentives, feed-in-tariffs, tax-breaks, rebates, and other financial mechanisms will be critical in driving early adoption of technologies priced above the market’s willingness to pay,” Castilloux said. “Ratcheting down these incentives too soon will dig early graves for some.”