Navigant Research Blog

Bristol Claims Top Spot as UK Cities Step Up Innovation Programmes

— November 3, 2017

The UK Smart Cities Index 2017, commissioned by Huawei, provides a timely review of the progress of smart cities in the UK and offers insights for urban innovation projects around the world. Bristol gains the top spot in the new index, a reflection of the city’s continued investment in programmes such as Bristol Is Open and the growing integration between innovation projects with the city’s operations. The city exemplifies the way smart city concepts are gradually being embedded at the heart of city policy. While Bristol edges ahead of London this year, the UK capital is also showing a strong commitment to driving smart city innovation, notably with the recent appointment of a new Chief Digital Officer. Following the two Leaders is a strong group of Contenders led by Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, Milton Keynes, Glasgow, and Nottingham.

Innovation Highlights

The scope of work being done across the UK is highlighted in the report in a series of Innovation Awards that showcase leadership in 10 areas. The first five awards focus on specific areas of city services:

Transportation: Many UK cities are looking at technologies to reduce congestion and transport-related emissions, and Milton Keynes stands out for its range of projects and its close alignment with the city’s broader strategy for growth. Its initiatives include mobility apps, EV and automated vehicles, and a new citywide intelligent traffic light management system.

Health: Supporting aging populations and reducing health inequalities, notably in terms of differences in life expectation between communities, are high priorities. Leeds is a leader among UK cities in exploring the possibilities of more integrated approaches to health and social care, the role of technologies in supporting people throughout their lives, and the importance of data in improving health outcomes.

Energy: As Navigant Research has highlighted, energy is an increasingly important issue for many cities in the UK and elsewhere. Not only is energy policy a key element in any broader sustainability target, it is also closely connected to transport, housing, and health policies. Among several cities driving new energy programmes, Nottingham gains the Innovation Award for its city-owned energy company, foundational energy projects, and new community energy schemes exploring the use of solar and storage solutions.

Education: One of the significant trends identified in the study is the closer relationship developing between local government and the university sector. Among the cities working in new ways with their universities to drive smart city projects are Bristol, Cambridge, and Oxford. But the Innovation Award goes to Newcastle for the role the University of Newcastle has taken in the establishment of Newcastle City Futures and in directing and supporting a range of digital programmes in the city—as well as the establishment of the Science Central facility.

Public Safety: As most UK cities have already deployed extensive closed-circuit TV systems, the focus is now on coordination and the better use of video analysis and other forms of analytics. Glasgow has led the way in the creation of a new city operations centre, the showcase development from its smart city demonstrator award.

Cities are exploring the potential for new technologies in each of these service areas, they also realise the need to join up these programmes through more holistic approaches and the development of common platforms. In my next blog, I will look at the cities leading the way in these areas.

 

What the Shaheen-Portman Bill Signals for Building Efficiency

— May 15, 2015

On April 21, the U.S. House of Representatives passed S.535, otherwise known as the Energy Efficiency Improvement Act of 2015, sponsored by the bipartisan Shaheen-Portman team. In light of the congressional standstill on climate change and comprehensive energy policy as my colleague Ben Freas has previously blogged about, does this action suggestion a sea change in energy policy? Likely not. This bill is primarily about studies and voluntary initiatives, with one important distinction: embedded in Title 3, there is an amendment to the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) that requires investment in energy efficiency building upgrades for all non-ENERGY STAR-rated federally leased spaces. This single element of the law holds the potential to incentivize energy efficiency investments in a large portion of the commercial building stock.

This amendment updates the High-Performance Federal Buildings section of EISA and establishes a lease contingency tied to energy efficiency. As the amendment states, “The space is renovated for all energy efficiency and conservation improvements that would be cost effective over the life of the lease, including improvements in lighting, windows, and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems.” In addition, the buildings must be benchmarked through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager.

Navigant Research published the report Energy Efficient Buildings: Global Outlook in late 2014 and presented the following snapshot on average payback periods for selected energy efficiency measures.

Payback Periods for Select Energy Efficiency Measures: 2014

Casey Blog Chart

 (Source: Navigant Research, Deutsche Bank)

Looking at that menu of retrofit options, this EISA amendment has the potential to drive substantial investment in the commercial building stock. According to the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), the largest public real estate manager, of the 195,578,680 SF under lease in 2015, the average lease term is 11.5 years. This term suggests the efficiency retrofit clause can enable investment in a broad array of measures, including all of the examples in the figure above.

Window of Opportunity

Despite the contention of climate change and the congressional reluctance for private sector mandates, energy efficiency has proven to generate bipartisan support with the potential to influence the real estate industry. As building owners vie for federal leases, this amendment will force the issue of energy efficiency, and in the longer term, this may be an important policy driver for greater investment across the commercial building stock. If efficiency can become a competitive differentiator in real estate, there will be significant underlying climate change benefits without the hurdles that have faced congressional action.

 

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