Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Smart Cities need Smart Chemistry

The European Commission’s High Level Group for Smart Cities and Communities (HLG) has convened for the first time on 14 May in Brussels. The chemical industry was represented on this important policy group by Giorgio Squinzi, CEO of Maipei and recent past president of Cefic. Chemistry-based products and services are key enablers for improving energy efficiency in the urban environment and addressing other Smart Cities issues. SusChem is working hard to maximize chemical innovation in this area and has just published a new report outlining where chemistry can make an immediate impact.

About three-quarters of the EU’s citizens live in or around cities and the trend is for increasing urbanization. Cities are therefore crucial for the social, economic and entrepreneurial development of the EU. From an energy perspective urban areas consume 70% of energy output and account for 75% of the EU's total greenhouse gas emissions.

Policy issues in urban areas represent a microcosm of the general issues facing society, but intensified and accelerated. These issues include reducing energy consumption, encouraging greater use of renewable energy sources, adaptations of transport and other infrastructure such as ICT to meet changing needs whilst improving mobility of the population, amongst other objectives on health and education. And this must be achieved at competitive cost and in an environmentally sustainable manner.

To achieve true ‘smart living’ in the future will require major joint public and private efforts to tackle the significant technical and societal issues. To help address these issues a Smart Cities and Communities European Innovation Partnership (EIP) has been proposed by the European Commission. The initiative is supported by a Smart Cities Stakeholder platform. Cefic will be participating in the Smart Cities Stakeholder Platform Annual Conference that takes place in Budapest on 5 and 6 June.

Truly smart and innovative cities will need to make the best use of Europe's great capacity for research and innovation to improve the urban environment. The HLG consists of a selected group of senior CEOs, mayors and finance experts (see photo below). Their role is to formulate a technological transformation agenda that can be implemented via the new EIP during Horizon 2020. And chemistry has a key role to play.

What are ‘Smart Cities’?
Smart cities go beyond the EU’s “20-20-20” objectives (20% reduction in CO2 emissions, a 20% share of energy from low carbon sources and a 20% reduction in the use of primary energy through energy efficiency measures) for the deployment of cost-effective low carbon technologies with a particular focus on energy, ICT and transport sectors.

Many cities across Europe are already committed to building tomorrow’s cities today - in particular those involved with the Covenant of Mayors organisation to which Cefic and SusChem are affiliated . This group of city authorities is developing a sustainable development framework that will allow them to voluntarily go beyond the 2020 targets.

Chemical innovation
The role of chemical innovation in realizing Smart Cities challenges may not be well recognized but it is a key innovation area. This is highlighted in a new SusChem report: ‘Innovative Chemistry for Energy Efficiency of Buildings in Smart Cities’.

SusChem’s wide stakeholder representation from the chemical sector and associated value chains make it well placed to identify currently available chemistry-enabled products that can make an immediate impact on energy efficiency – in particular in terms of refurbishing the current building stock – at an affordable cost.

The report analyses the nature of Europe’s building stock – comprising some 1.6 million structures in the EU-27 – and concludes that substantial gains in energy efficiency can be gained through refurbishment solutions.

The report highlights five solutions that together represent a Key Innovation area for Smart Cities and Communities:

  • Reflective Indoor Coatings to reduce energy for lighting 
  • High Reflectance and durable outdoor coatings to reduce air conditioning costs 
  • Phase Change Materials (PCM) for temperature control
  • New Insulation foams for significant heating savings
  • Other insulation modules such as Vacuum Insulation

All these solutions are assessed for technical feasibility and impact. What is required to deploy the solutions, the infrastructure required and possible interfaces with other Smart Cities technologies are considered. Financial requirements and possible funding sources are also discussed.

SusChem has a substantial track record with ‘smart living’ projects that connect research and industrial groups along relevant value chains. These include its Smart Energy Home initiative, the Energy Efficient Buildings PPP and the Building UP FP7 project. Chemical research and innovation are essential to achieving smart living and smart cities will benefit from the early and in-depth involvement of the chemicals sector.

For more information on SusChem activities in support of the Smart Cities and Communities initiative, or to discuss potential collaborations in this area, please contact SusChem Coordinator Jacques Komornicki at Cefic. The new SusChem report can be downloaded here.

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