Now is the time for global deployment of smart communities – IEA Deputy Executive Director

13 March 2012

Smart communities – cities, towns, neighbourhoods and villages that reduce their energy demand and generate their own power from renewable sources – should play an increasingly important role across the world, the International Energy Agency’s Deputy Executive Director has said.

Speaking in Fukushima City one year on from the Great Tohoku earthquake and subsequent tsunami which led to the destruction of the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant, Ambassador Richard Jones stressed that several demonstration projects have already proven that smart communities are achievable, whether based on new or existing buildings and infrastructure.

He focused on six successful smart community projects which ranged in size from 82 to 10,000 households and took place in the United Kingdom, Denmark Germany and Sweden. Ambassador Jones noted that it is now time for the international community to move from these successful demonstrations projects to global deployment.

“Ladies and gentlemen of the villages and towns of Fukushima prefecture and its neighbours, you can help make this vision a reality,” he said on 2 March. “By using careful planning to rebuild your communities and modern technology and you will make them smarter and more liveable than ever before. As you turn them into models for a new Japan, you will turn the tragedy that has befallen you into a great opportunity for yourselves and the world.”  

A smarter future

A smart community is a very low energy demand community that integrates several energy supply systems – such as wind, solar and other renewable energy sources. Smart communities effectively reduce energy demand by implementing energy efficiency and energy sufficiency measures. Primary energy demand for a building in a smart community is around a third of the energy demand in the average US household and almost a half of the energy demand in the average household in the European Union.

The concept of a smart community is based on reducing the environmental impact of the community. This includes efforts to improve the energy performance of existing and new buildings as well as infrastructure systems – such as power and water plants.

From adversity to opportunity

The day before this speech, the mayor of Minamisoma City, Katsunobu Sakurai, said that Japan must find meaning out of the Fukushima-Daiichi accident by changing the adversity that befell it into an economic, environmental and social opportunity.

The IEA’s Deputy Executive Director welcomed this approach, adding that the only way to find true meaning in such situations is by transcending and overcoming the losses through noble responses.

“Through your actions, including your decision to respond to this unprecedented disaster by rebuilding your communities to be smarter and better than they were before, you have made a clear statement that you will not repeat the mistakes of the past,” he said.

What is energy efficiency?
Something is more energy efficient if it delivers more services for the same energy input, or the same services for less energy input. For example, when a compact florescent light (CFL) bulb uses less energy than an incandescent bulb to produce the same amount of light, the CFL is considered to be more energy efficient.

What is energy sufficiency?
This refers to adapting spending habits so that needs are met, but not exceeded. For example, buying a fridge which is sufficient in size to store all the food consumed in a household as opposed to a fridge which far exceeds the need.