Cities currently produce more than 80 percent of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP), consume 75 percent of the world's primary energy and produce 60 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, while more than half of the world population lives in large urban areas, a number that is expected to increase to 70 percent by 2050. Urbanisation is strongly linked to social and economic development, and according to Enel President Patrizia Grieco "the challenge of creating a more sustainable environment is tied to the development of cities, which have became a hub of environmental issues and the improvement of quality of life".
Grieco spoke about the impact of urban environments on overall global development at the recent Smart Cities, Technology and Sustainability. The Expo Challenge seminar, which was organised by the Aspen Institute and held in Milan.
The current sustainable development model is tied to the creation of a new urban setting that according to the Enel President will be "a fertile ground for science, technology, culture and innovation."
Grieco explained that the goal should be to 'create an urban environment that integrates infrastructure, services and technology in order to create smart cities that are designed to save energy and resources, support a new transport model, optimise the flow of people and information through the use of digital technology' that have an impact on all aspects of daily life.
Innovation will be key to reaching this goal, and one such example is the Smart City project that Enel is building for Expo 2015 in Milan. "Digital meters, network automation, e-mobility, integration of renewable energy, energy storage, efficient street lighting and consumption regulation and control systems are some of the elements that will shape the energy management framework of smart cities and which Enel will present at Expo 2015," added Grieco. "Visitors will get the chance to understand the importance of these technologies, as well as the need to make them part of our daily lives, in order to ensure a more sustainable future both in cities and for the entire planet".
Technology alone, Grieco concluded, will not be sufficient to address the challenges of Smart Cities, saying that a "Copernican revolution" will be necessary in urban areas. The development of a smart urban model "depends on a radical change in the behaviour of individuals, who need to be more aware of the fact that energy is a precious resource that should be used responsibly and with maximum efficiency in order to protect the environment".
The city of the future, as the humanists once said, should once again become people-friendly place that are in harmony with both technology and the environment.