Navigant Research Blog

San Diego Aims to Set the Pace for Smart City Networks

— April 21, 2017

The announcement by the City of San Diego that it will deploy over 3,000 smart sensors as part of an ambitious upgrade to its street lighting system provides evidence that we are on the cusp of a new phase for smart street lighting and city networks.

As part of an upgrade to 14,000 city lights, San Diego will deploy 3,200 of GE’s Current CityIQ sensor nodes to create a multi-application city Internet of Things (IoT) network. The intelligent nodes can support a range of applications, including gunshot detection, smart parking, air quality sensing, and vehicle and pedestrian monitoring. Deployment of the platform and fixtures is expected to begin in July and to be completed before the end of 2018. The upgrade is expected to save the city $2.4 million annually in energy costs.

Platform for Innovation

As well as supporting a number of smart city applications, San Diego is also looking at the network to provide a broader platform for innovation. According to David Graham, San Diego’s deputy chief operating officer, the goal is to allow the community “to put their hands on the heartbeat and nervous system of the city is our way of building a smart city app store.” Delivering on this vision will put San Diego at the leading edge of smart city innovations.

The project fits with broader trends in the smart city market. The benefits of LED lighting are now widely understood by cities and many also recognize the value of providing network connections to those lamp poles (even if local finances and politics can still be a barrier to actual adoption). There is strong evidence that smart street lighting is crossing the chasm to becoming a mainstream technology.

However, the use of street lighting networks as a multi-application platform for smart city development has yet to make that leap. Today, deploying and managing a connected street lighting network is challenging enough for many lighting and public works departments. They need to ensure this upgrade goes smoothly and that significant benefits are provided to the city in terms of cost savings and improved lighting services. In this context, implementing additional sensor applications is not a priority. In addition, the business case for implementing these secondary applications is harder to develop, involves the scoping of new projects, and requires buy-in from a wider range of stakeholders. For these reasons, most cities still see the deployment of additional application on their street lighting network as a pilot project, at best.

Lighting the Way

However, there are signs that these issues are being overcome. San Diego aims to lead the way, but it is not alone. Cities like Copenhagen, which is deploying a street lighting platform from Silver Spring Networks, and Eindhoven, working on an innovative lighting strategy with Philips, are also in the advanced guard—among others. As other cities gain confidence from the experience of these leading adopters, smart street lighting will move into its most exciting phase yet.

For further discussion about some of the most exciting developments in smart cities, please join us for the upcoming free webinar from Navigant Research, Smart Cities and the Energy Transformation, on April 25 at noon EDT. Click here to register.

 

Envision Charlotte: Putting Data at the Heart of Smart City Programs

— March 10, 2017

Established in 2011 as a non-profit, public-private partnership to improve energy efficiency and sustainability in the City of Charlotte in North Carolina, Envision Charlotte has a particular place in the growing list of smart city projects in the United States. The founding project was a collaboration between Duke Energy, Charlotte Center City Partners, and a number of supplier partners, including Cisco, Itron, and Verizon, to make 61 large commercial buildings in downtown Charlotte more energy efficient. Today, the program has expanded to tackle a range of projects and sustainability goals, including energy efficiency, water conservation, and air quality. Moreover, the project is having a direct influence on other US cities through the development of the Envision America program.

I recently had a chance to catch up with Amy Aussieker, the executive director for Envision Charlotte, to discuss progress. Aussieker outlined the four key pillars the program currently focuses on:

  • Energy: The program continues to build on the success of its initial project with the city’s commercial buildings. The aim of that project was to reduce building energy consumption by 20%, and it has so far delivered around $20 million in energy savings. A grant from the US Department of Energy is now enabling the project to be rolled out to an additional 200 buildings. The project also seeded a commercial program from Duke Energy to address the potential for energy savings in offices across its service territories.
  • Water: Improving water efficiency and quality is the next priority for the program. Itron, for example, has deployed smart water meters in 22 downtown buildings that are part of the original energy savings program. The goal is to collect data on water consumption for a year to help shape water management programs and to develop benchmarks for building managers. Envision Charlotte is also working with Charlotte Water, the local water company, as it looks to meet growing pressures on the regional water system.
  • Air quality: A growing area of focus for Envision Charlotte is air pollution. Car and truck usage are the biggest contributors to air quality problems in the city, and projects are being established to encourage people to reduce vehicle miles and use local transit systems. However, there is little data available on local air quality conditions, so it is difficult to monitor the impact of specific interventions. The team is examining how it can create benchmarks to show the effectiveness of different programs.
  • Waste reduction: The fourth pillar of the program is waste reduction. Envision Charlotte is trying to help reduce the 5 million pounds of solid waste sent to landfills by the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County residents and businesses every day. This is another area where the team is looking to collect more data, particularly around recycling rates and how to improve them.

Looking Ahead, Data Is Key

Envision Charlotte is building on its initial successes, looking to scale up proven solutions and identifying new issues to address. The program also continues to extend its links in the community and has developed close ties with the University of North Carolina, which is hoping to develop a smart city center of excellence.

One thing common to all of the program’s initiatives is the importance given to data collection and analysis. Data is seen as key to understanding the root causes of the issues being addressed and to developing solutions that are effective and viable. Using sensors and smart devices to gather that data is not a technical demonstration exercise, but rather, a necessary step to developing effective programs for change. This helps ensure that investments are made in the right projects while also helping to build momentum and ensure successful programs feed enthusiasm for the next project.

The recent announcement of the 2017 Envision America award winners provides further evidence of the Charlotte team’s impact. The program leverages the success of Envision Charlotte to accelerate deployment of innovative technologies in other cities. The aim is for cities to learn from the experience of Charlotte, but also to find their own model fitting local circumstances and priorities. Charlotte is becoming an important node in the growing network of smart cities worldwide that are sharing ideas and developing robust and effective approaches to common city problems.

 

Is the Smart City Market Entering an Acquisition Phase?

— September 19, 2016

Intelligent BuildingIn my last blog, I wrote about how the smart city market is at an important point in its evolution. In that blog, I focused on the changing priorities for smart city projects. Another side to this evolution is the changing market dynamics as suppliers refine their approach to the market and look to extend their capabilities. The most recent Navigant Research Leaderboard Report on smart city suppliers shows the continuing evolution in strategy and offerings among key players in the market.

One important indicator of the maturity of any technology market is the level and focus of merger and acquisition (M&A) activity. It is a sign of the relative immaturity and uncertainty associated with smart cities as a market that there has been little activity in recent years. But there are indications this is changing.

Internet of Things Focus

The acquisition of sensor network company Sensity by telecoms giant Verizon is the latest example—and one of the most significant. Sensity provides sensors and network controls for street lighting systems and has been targeting the emerging market for city platforms. For Verizon, the move marks a step up in its Internet of Things (IoT) and smart cities strategy and gives it the ability to offer a range of city solutions beyond intelligent street lighting, such as traffic management, smart parking, security, and air quality monitoring. It also increases Verizon’s attractiveness as a partner in the complex ecosystem of smart city and IoT suppliers. The alignment with the company’s broader IoT strategy is important to this acquisition, as well. Indeed, the growing focus on IoT capabilities across the technology industry is one of the main reasons why the smart city acquisition picture is changing. Cisco’s $1.4 billion acquisition of IoT platform provider Jasper Technologies in early 2016 can be seen as part of the same pattern. While enhancing their ability to play a bigger role in the IoT space, Verizon and Cisco are also developing strong smart city platforms. Moves from other big players for sensor technology and IoT platform providers are likely to be on the cards.

Analytics Companies

It is not only IoT technologies that are being acquired; analytics companies are also on the shopping list. Urban Engines, a specialist in the use of advanced analytics for the Internet of Moving Things, has announced that it is to become part of Google Maps. Founded by former Google employees, this may be more of a homecoming than an acquisition. However, it suggests that some of the more niche analytics providers in the smart city space will eventually find their home as part of a broader platform offering from bigger players.

Application-Specific Solutions

The third area of the market that we can expect to see more M&A activity is in application-specific solutions. This is an area with a greater history of activity. IBM, for example, has been adding to its roster of government solutions for a number of years in areas like intelligence and social care. But there has been less activity in new application areas. One exception is Silver Springs Networks’ move to strengthen its hand with the acquisition of street lighting software specialist Streetlight.Vision. If acquisition activity is stepping up across the market, the next phase could see more activity in other emerging solution areas such as smart parking and smart waste, for example.

These important developments will add spice to the conversation at Smart Cities Week in Washington, DC next week. I will be attending with other colleagues from Navigant Research and look forward to discussing these and other issues. Let me know if you would like to meet up at the event.

 

Europe’s Energy Transition Megatrends and Tipping Points, Part VI: New Entrants and Converging Industries

— September 6, 2016

SmartCityJan Vrins coauthored this post.

In our initial blog on Europe’s energy transition, we discussed seven megatrends that are fundamentally changing how we produce and use power. This blog discusses how converging industries and new entrants are changing our industry, specifically focusing on smart cities as a key area where this convergence and disruption is occurring at an accelerated pace. Finally, we will discuss what this means for the many market players that want to participate and survive in the Energy Cloud.

Our latest white paper describes how changing customer needs, evolving policy and regulation, and accelerating technology innovation and integration drives a more sophisticated two-way grid platform and a rapidly evolving ecosystem. Smart cities—dynamic, localised platforms that recombine technologies and services around energy, transportation, and data communication—provide fertile testing grounds for the industry incumbents and disruptors going after the nearly $1.3 trillion of forecasted new annual industry revenue by 2030 globally.

What’s Happening?

Europe’s focus on the interdependent goals of creating a low-carbon economy, ensuring energy security, and enabling competitive energy markets make it a test bed for many of the developments associated with the energy transition. This is reflected in the European market’s attraction for players across the energy value chain, including many new entrants who see an opportunity to disrupt the traditional utility industry and take market share away from incumbent utilities.

The role of energy companies, including utilities, network operators, and oil & gas companies, is being transformed by a series of fundamental shifts, including the following:

  • Energy consumption and GDP growth: Although population and GDP growth (at a slower pace) drive growing energy demand, the trend line between GDP and energy consumption growth has been broken in absolute terms in EU countries. Primary energy consumption in the EU countries was almost the same in 2013 as in 1990 according to the European Environment Agency (albeit partly as a result of economic recession). This dynamic puts pressure on all players in the energy sector. Utilities with no or limited customer growth see their overall revenue declining. Utilities that still see customer growth are reporting that demand (and revenue) is not growing at the same pace. This is creating an unsustainable situation: utilities with flat or declining revenue yet growing costs to serve their customers and maintain the grid.
  • Impacts of climate change: In an earlier blog, we discussed the impacts of the growing number of policies and regulations to reduce carbon emissions. It is clear that this impact is being felt, as Europe is on target to meet its 2020 goals for renewable energy and carbon emissions reductions. However, member states now face the challenge of meeting more challenging new targets if they are to make progress towards the grand goal of making Europe a low-carbon economy by 2050. In the meantime, cities and large corporations are not waiting—they are setting their own sustainability targets and investing in programs that reduce their carbon footprint. Power generators, network operators, and energy retailers are all active in this transformation but also face significant, and in many cases unknown, challenges as they try to understand the new demands placed on their businesses and operations.
  • Big power to small energy and the rise of the prosumer: Commercial, industrial, public sector, and residential energy consumers are all becoming more actively engaged in energy management and energy generation. More and more customers are choosing to install distributed energy resources (DER) on their premises. DER solutions include distributed generation, demand response, energy efficiency, distributed storage, microgrids, and EVs. Europe is expected to have the greatest percentage of new DER capacity deployed compared to centralised generation throughout the next decade. New energy retailers are also taking advantage of these changes and the development of smart energy applications and online service models to provide more innovative and lower-cost solutions for customers. These new entrants are further challenging the established position and profitability of the incumbent players.

How Industry Giants Are Responding

As a consequence of these changes, electricity utilities are under pressure. As revenue declines, costs are increasing due to needed investments to provide safe, reliable, and affordable power while also supporting an emerging, cleaner, and more distributed and intelligent grid that is required to provide needed flexibility. Therefore, utilities are looking for new revenue streams and thinking through new business models that will create shareholder value going forward. Oil & gas companies, under additional pressure because of the continued low oil price, are looking for ways to survive by taking out costs, reducing their upstream capital investments, and shutting down unprofitable assets. However, their long-term future also requires them to find new opportunities to grow revenue and shareholder value in new energy businesses.

Both utilities and oil & gas companies are looking to turn the challenges of the energy transition into their advantage through entry into new markets and the delivery of new energy platforms and services. Total’s Chairman and CEO Patrick Pouyanné has stated that the company’s goal “is to be in the top three global solar power companies, expand electricity trading and energy storage and be a leader in biofuels.” Meanwhile, French energy giant, Engie (formerly GDF Suez) has been investing heavily in renewables and storage technologies, developing its energy services business, and establishing its Cities of Tomorrow programme to target the growing smart cities market.

European utilities have also been embracing DER and developing alternative business models to capitalise on new technologies and the changing resource mix. This is especially true in Germany, where there are high levels of DER, and utilities like RWE and E.ON have begun transforming their business into a more capital-light, DER-based model by shedding centralised generation assets and positioning themselves as enablers and integrators of new DER resources. For example, RWE has invested in and formed a rooftop solar partnership with German solar developer Conergy and is white labelling Sonnenbatterie’s behind-the-meter battery systems for solar-equipped German homes. As DER penetration in Europe accelerates, we see more value in moving from generation to distribution and beyond the meter.

Energy market incumbents are developing strategies to position themselves as the leading force in creating the new order. At the same time, other players—from giants in the transport, IT, telecommunications, and engineering sectors to energy service and technology startups—are looking to increase their share of these emerging opportunities. For example, Europe is seeing the emergence of a new class of DER aggregators aiming to take advantage of these new technologies and the utilities’ evolving business models. LichtBlick, Caterva, Next Kraftwerke, and Ampard are just a few of the companies establishing virtual power plant business models to provide additional value from the integration of DER into the European grid. Many other, much larger players also see the potential in brokering the new relationships emerging between energy companies and their end customers.

Cities at the Heart of the Energy Transition

The continuing interest in developing smart cities is closely aligned to the transformation in the energy market and provides an important example of how the energy landscape is evolving. More than any other region, Europe has recognised the importance of smart city developments to its energy transition programme. Cities are examining the sources and efficiency of their energy to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and energy costs. In the process, cities are becoming more ambitious and proactive in setting energy strategy. They are seizing opportunities to work with utilities and other stakeholders to create new urban energy systems. The emerging vision is of a smart city with integrated large- and small-scale energy initiatives, including major infrastructure investments, citywide improvements in energy efficiency, and distributed energy generation.

Across the continent, city leaders have been signing up for ambitious carbon emissions targets and are taking an active role in encouraging utilities and other players to support their strategies. Stockholm and Copenhagen have led the way with plans to become carbon-free cities, and many more cities are now following their path. Frustrated at the slowness of the change they are seeing, some cities are even taking matters into their own hands and looking at re-municipalisation of utilities or the creation of new city energy companies. Hamburg, for example, took back control of the city’s energy in 2014. In the United Kingdom, Bristol and Nottingham have established new city-owned energy companies, and the new Mayor of London has made a strong commitment to a new energy policy for the capital.

Utilities are responding to these challenges by working closely with cities and communities to develop new energy models. Alliander, for example, has been a long-standing supporter and investor in the ambitious Amsterdam Smart City programme. E.ON has been working with smart cities in order to test integration of its smart grid solutions that enable more effective energy management and integration of DER. In Malmo, Sweden, the utility and the city signed an agreement to adapt the entire Hyllie district of Malmo to a climate-friendly energy supply. By 2020, the entire district’s electricity, heating, and cooling will be powered exclusively by renewable resources and energy recovery.

Another aspect of Europe’s urban agenda that is having a strong influence on the energy sector is the focus on sustainable transportation. The European Union has put the triple play of energy, transport, and information and communications technology (ICT) at the heart of its innovation programme for cities. Reducing emissions from transportation is the next critical frontier in the decarbonisation of the European economy—electrification of heat and transport pose the most obvious options for sustainable demand growth in the present market. Europe has arguably the strongest level of utility engagement in developing EV charging services. Utilities and energy companies such as Germany’s RWE, Italy’s Distribuzione, Ireland’s ESB, and the Danish utilities SEAS-NVE, SE, NRGi, EnergiMidt, and Energi Fyn have all funded charging deployments or invested in companies that deploy chargers. For example, Danish company CLEVER is owned by the five largest utilities in Denmark and operates a network of several hundred EV supply equipment (EVSE) stations throughout Denmark; the company is now branching out into other geographic markets. Enel has developed an interoperability platform and is aggressively deploying charging stations, with more than 2,000 deployed across Italy.

So What Does This Mean?

The next decade will see a reshaping of the European energy sector to meet the needs and challenges of a low-carbon economy. We have already seen some of the industry’s largest players moving quickly to expand their capabilities and services to meet these new requirements.  As discussed in Part IV of this series, further diversification and mergers and acquisitions are inevitable as players look to gain a footprint in emerging services and exploit new energy technologies.

Energy companies also need to broaden their partnership network, working with those in the public services, transportation, infrastructure, and ICT sectors to deliver the integrated capabilities needed to make the energy transition a reality. They also need to create new relationships with their customers, as they too become partners as much as end consumers. The industry giants of today are using their resources as some of the biggest companies in the world to engineer this energy transformation and to meet future shareholder interests. They will need to continually reinvent themselves and become broader and more adaptable energy companies able to protect existing revenue streams and seize new opportunities. However, not all bets will pay off. We will inevitably see some wrong turns in this process of adaptation and the eventual winners may well be those who learn quickest from their mistakes.

This blog is the sixth in a series discussing how industry megatrends will play out across Europe as well as at the regional and country levels. Stay tuned for our next blog in this series focusing on customer choice and changing customer demands.

Learn more about our clients, projects, solution offerings, and team in our Navigant Energy Practice Overview.

 

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