IMAGE: Li Yuan Photography

The evolving nature of European smart cities: from smart energy to sustainability

The nature of smart cities in Europe today is one of constant adaptation and evolution.

September 19, 2022


By Schuyler Cowan

Communications Officer, ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability

“In a smart city everything and everyone is talking to each other all the time,” says Carina Aschan, Umeå’s (Sweden) Coordinator for the H2020 project RUGGEDISED. Alongside lighthouse cities Glasgow (Scotland) and Rotterdam (The Netherlands), Umeå has spent six years developing innovative solutions to accelerate the smart city model across Europe. The RUGGEDISED cities’ steps toward sustainable, smart energy management helped secure their selection as part of the EU Mission for 100 Climate Neutral and Smart Cities by 2030 - an organic continuation of their smart city journey.


Now, as they transition from smart city innovators to climate-neutral pioneers, these three cities are able to share their experience to support others hoping to follow in their footsteps. In fact, the replication of their smart solutions has already begun in fellow project cities Parma (Italy) (also selected for the Cities Mission), Brno (Czech Republic) and Gdańsk (Poland).


IMAGE: Li Yuan Photography

Cooperation is key


Parma’s smart city vision to accelerate sustainable innovation for its citizens is boosted by its collaboration with project peers:


“By joining [RUGGEDISED], the city of Parma took a step forward in terms of the permanent involvement of stakeholders and local companies…thanks to the project activities, through workshops and round tables, local governance has been created that supports all activities…”


Successful collaboration between the cities offers a model for peers to consult: not just in terms of the technical design and implementation of solutions, but also in terms of international cooperation.


“The partners that are working together in RUGGEDISED have a special relationship with each other and so many new cooperation projects with new shared solutions have come out of this. It is thanks to RUGGEDISED that we have realised how important it is to keep doing this together,” shares Aschan.





Smart solutions means smarter citizens


In Glasgow, the Wheatley Group - the owner of a high-rise block - seeks to give residents more control with the installation of smart energy metres in every apartment. Including citizens through participatory solutions is an essential part of any smart city, as fellow city Gdańsk confirms:


“Making [our] citizenship smart, informing and involving inhabitants in participatory political decisions… providing them with the opportunity to be proactive and also to become the bearers of ideas,” these are the characteristics of a smart city and smart citizenry.


Glasgow’s smart metres have been shown to reduce total energy use by up to 30% and have cut back individual energy bills by up to £300 in recent years. The success of the solution has led to plans for the smart metres to be upscaled in at least 10,500 households across Glasgow.






Smart and sustainable


Becoming a smart city and a sustainable one are two sides of the same coin. As Glasgow, Rotterdam and Umeå’s solutions demonstrate, approaches to energy management and emissions reduction need to be flexible, cooperative and holistic. But, no matter how efficient the planning and implementation, there is one thing that Aschan encourages ambitious European towns and cities to remember: “A city will never reach the final stage of being smart: it is an ongoing process.”

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