Fifty years ago, only a third of the world’s population lived in cities, while today this figure stands at more than half. According to the latest estimates, by 2100 more than eight out of ten people will live in huge urban agglomerations, the so-called Megacities. This prospect has inspired a panel discussion on Energy and material flows in megacities, organised by Enel Foundation at the international conference Ecology at the Interface, which is currently being held in Rome. Over 700 participants from 50 countries and about 25 national scientific companies and international federations that promote ecological research accepted the invitation from the European Ecological Federation (E.E.F.) and the Italian Society of Ecology (S.It.E.) to discuss the challenges facing cities and our social model in the near future.
Enel Foundation representatives Angelo Facchini and Renata Mele participated in the panel, as well as professors Chris Kennedy and Iain Stewart from the University of Toronto and James Keirstead from Imperial College London.
Angelo Facchini opened his speech stating that, ‘Reducing the pressure of the global urban system on the environment is key to supporting urban growth in the coming decades’. He then went on to analyse in detail the different solutions to urban sustainability proposed by the academic and institutional world (the World Bank, OECD, and UNEP among others).
Chris Kennedy focused on the possibility of creating a low-emission energy system in megacities, while Iain Stewart compared the so-called urban metabolism of 27 megacities, emphasising different aspects such as the efficient use of resources. In this context, James Keirstead described the urban metabolism in London.
Finally, Renata Mele analysed the role of utilities in the urbanisation of the twenty-first century: ‘Urbanisation is a major driver of change in today’s society, along with economic globalisation, the fight for resources and energy access for all as well as combatting climate change. Companies such as Enel that have several years of experience and are constantly able to innovate, can make a significant contribution to the planning and construction of electric cities, as a solution to sustainable urban development’.
The event closed with the presentation of the book Cities in the 21st century, which will be published in February 2016. ‘Utilities play a key role in the development of sustainable cities. Smart cities use digital technology to help reduce costs and consumption, by engaging more efficiently and actively with its citizens’, stated Enel’s CEO Francesco Starace in the preface. The book offers a collection of reflections on current urbanisation processes and on future developments, offering a global overview of the socio-economic power of urban networks which are composed of ecosystems, smart grids, digital infrastructures, governance and inequality.