Urbanisation Can be Good for the Environment
By Soo Pow Leong, Malaysia Country President, Schneider Electric
To derive environmental advantages from urbanisation, city planners and governments are considering running a city as a multinational company by gathering key data, utilising information effectively, and having a clear long-term strategy. The Prime Minister’s Office in Malaysia achieved 40% of energy savings after adopting our Building Automation and Energy Monitoring System.
Urbanisation in Asia
Environmental sustainability must be addressed in order to build urban resilience, as well as mitigate and adapt to climate change. This is one of the most crucial concerns in Asia, being one of the world’s most climate vulnerable regions and a growing emitter of greenhouse gases in its own right, accounting for more than 40 per cent of the total. The region is urbanising at a more rapid rate than any other region in the world – by 2050, some 64 per cent of Asia will become urban.
Meanwhile, with estimates suggesting that cities are responsible for 75 per cent of global CO2 emissions – transport and buildings being among the largest contributors – it is not surprising that many Asian governments and the private sector are coming together to rethink how the urbanisation megatrend can be leveraged to further, rather than to hinder, sustainable development.
To derive environmental advantages from urbanisation, city planners and governments are considering running a city as a multinational company by gathering key data, utilising information effectively, and having a clear long-term strategy.
This is why the private sector is essential – it contributes its various industry expertise and by working with municipalities and partners, it ensures that city leaders have all of the things in place to run a city like an MNC. This might involve tracking, managing, and forecasting sustainability metrics such as carbon, water and waste, optimising the performance of building infrastructure, and developing long-term sustainability plans to address priorities, needs, and issues.
Asian cities to-date are actively evolving and innovating in using smart technologies to achieve the goals of sustainability, liveability, and responsiveness. Their efforts can be seen in three key areas – buildings, water and energy.
According to the UN Environment Programme, energy consumed by buildings has grown to around 40% of total consumption worldwide. At the same time, studies have shown that only a quarter of a building’s costs are associated with capital expenses. The remaining three-quarters go toward operating a building over its lifecycle. To make matters worse, the energy use in buildings is only going to rise – the International Energy Agency predicts energy demand will increase by 50% by 2050.
Integrated building management solutions are an excellent way to enable smart, sustainable ecosystems inside and outside of buildings, regardless the age of the buildings.
For instance, the Prime Minister’s Office in Malaysia achieved 40% of energy savings after adopting our Building Automation and Energy Monitoring System. This retrofitting project simultaneously helps Malaysia meet their Copenhagen promise to reduce 40% carbon emissions by 2020.
In many Asian cities, the combination of population growth and a sharp increase in demand for energy and manufacturing has major repercussions on water as a resource. The World Bank forecasts a global deficit of 40 per cent between anticipated demand and available water resources by 2030.
Smart water solutions such as improving water management systems and networks, preventing and reducing leaks, and optimising processing are critical to address this challenge. When implemented in East Water’s water pipe network – Thailand’s most advanced, efficient and complete water pipeline at approximately 400km long – such solutions reduced water loss in the pipeline from 20 per cent to 3 per cent, and reduced energy consumption by 5 per cent.
Energy demand in Asia is expected to double in the next 15 years, with the growth in demand largely concentrated in cities. As fossil fuels remain the main source of Asian cities’ power, generating electricity in a sustainable way poses a great challenge.
Thankfully, the growth in alternative sources of energy has created new opportunities for governments and companies in Asia to integrate renewable energy sources such as solar and wind with smarter upgrade projects across the region.
One such example is the San Lorenzo Wind Farm in the Philippines. It adopted an end-to-end solution that protects the wind farm from many system faults and ensures reliable production all-year round, with the capability to generate over 120 GWh of electricity annually and sustaining the energy demands of 48,000 households.
Smart grid solutions are also transforming the power industry. By letting businesses know how much power they are using and the costs in real-time, businesses have the necessary tools to measure and reduce energy consumption. Companies are leveraging on Internet of Things (IoT) and smart grids to build more efficient energy infrastructure in cities. When electrical systems of buildings are connected to smart grids, the grids detect power usage and divert power to places where it is needed most.
As urbanisation rapidly transforms the face of Asia and the lives of its citizens, everyone from policy makers to companies and residents have an important role to play in ensuring that the benefits that urban expansion brings is efficient, inclusive and sustainable – that life is on for everyone, everywhere at every moment.