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The technological innovation that’s paving the way to net zero

Image: SSE.

Many of us have heard the term smart city. But in reality, we don’t care if its smart, we just want it to be better, cleaner, safer and, ideally, cheaper. But is this realistic, especially in the Covid-19 age?

Connectivity is key

Actually, yes. Full fibre deployment is already well underway in many cities helping to provide bandwidth required to support greater service interaction and automation. Smart street lighting such as SSE’s Mayflower, is now providing the catalyst for wider Internet of Things (IoT) deployment by creating a wireless communications canopy across many towns and cities.

And then there is the exponential growth in smart apps and services as solution providers wake up to this new emerging market that is seeing anything from assisted living support to smart road gritting made possible.

There will be the 5G revolution, or maybe a post Huawei, evolution, providing high speed and data intensive services such as augmented reality (AR) and autonomous vehicles.

Consider the Zero Carbon Challenge

Real time control of local energy generation and consumption is already playing a vital role in decarbonising our economy. Without it, it would be impossible to increase the level of intermittent wind and solar generation versus controllable coal and gas. However, to support greater decarbonisation, these systems need to do more.

Matching intermittent generation and load is only part of the problem. With electrification of heat and transport, working around available grid capacity will be equally important for any organisation struggling to decarbonise, especially if it wants to avoid significant reinforcement costs. Hence these systems need the ability to control energy assets either to generate market revenues or manage constraints in the underlying network. Additionally, given the demise in renewable subsidies, it is all the more important that the systems can trade output across multiple markets, including Ancillary, Wholesale, Balancing and DSO. This in turn needs advanced trading intelligence to optimise asset portfolios across a range of market opportunities.

SSE’s Energy-as-a-Service platform has been built to address exactly these problems. Additionally, as the name suggests, it will also drive a new approach to energy where SSE will partner with its clients, not only in the supply of power, but also in the deployment and funding of low carbon assets and energy efficiency measures as a combined energy service.

On a wider scale, the control that sits at the core of this Energy-as-a-Service model enables towns and cities to adopt a whole systems approach to energy. Peterborough City Council is a great example of a UK city embracing this technology to address decarbonisation. In conjunction with SSE, it recently announced its Peterborough Integrated Renewables Infrastructure project (PIRI), which will combine a next generation heat network, electricity network and EV infrastructure under one holistic scheme. PIRI will cut energy bills and provide green heat, electricity and transport for local residents, as well as bringing together energy generation, demand and storage - efficiencies not deliverable under traditional energy systems.

Smart Buildings

Technology innovation is also transforming the way we live and work indoors. Significant developments in smart building technologies have, for example, enabled employers to not only improve building energy efficiency, but also focus on their employee well-being. Some of the most exciting technological developments in this space include combinations of occupancy sensors and air purification systems, which can both ensure social distancing and improve air quality by removing harmful airborne substances, helping to ensure a safer return to the office environment as we emerge from Covid-19.

For years, Building Energy Management Systems have been able to offer smart building owners cost reductions by optimising plants and equipment. These platforms ensure that every piece of building equipment is running as efficiently and effectively as possible. Combining this core technology with additional sensors and devices and utilising machine learning and digital twin modelling allows a step change in this capability.

Bringing together the resultant increased benefit certainty with supporting funding models allows the financial pain in delivering these solutions to be moved, assisting businesses as they recover from the pandemic.

Smart Cities Platforms

If we are to successfully achieve net zero by 2050, there must be buy-in from the UK’s towns and cities to become ‘smart’ - this is where smart cities platforms can play a crucial role.

The elevator pitch for smart cities rejoices in how silos are broken down through connectivity and service integration. Yet despite this, procurement for a full fibre rollout continues in isolation from, say procurement for EV charging, heat networks, and so forth. All of which are potential individual components of a smart city, but crucially could be far more effective when integrated.

Smart cities platforms enable the seamless integration of assets, data and processes, storing them all in one place. Once there, these platforms allow towns and cities to view, monitor, analyse and export data, gaining insight into key business indictors and trends. Sensors on streetlights, for example, can provide important data on how busy roads are impacting air quality, driving the case for low emission zones and enabling traffic strategies to improve air quality around high-risk areas, such as schools. SSE’s Smart City Platform provides an IoT enabling framework under which sensors and devices can be connected to third party applications using its App Hub feature, hence maximising data value, innovation and business growth.

Not only this, but data collated within these platforms can be shared with third parties in real time, supporting the development of new technologies and services. This also opens up additional revenue streams for selling data, as well as supporting local economic development of businesses who can utilise the data to develop applications and services.

Stephen Stead's photo

Stephen Stead Director of strategy and digital services at SSE Enterprise

Stephen Stead is director of strategy and digital services at SSE Enterprise’s distributed energy business


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