Why green-energy systems are needed for smart cities

Cities are growing in size and resilience, but they require a stronger, smarter, and greener energy infrastructure to fully thrive. National economies, creativity, culture, and opportunity are all fueled by cities. Despite this, many cities are experiencing difficulties. Public utilities and services (housing, water, wastewater, energy, and transportation) are put under strain when more people move in. In many regions of the world, traffic congestion, pollution, and inexpensive housing are major concerns.

But cities are rising to the challenge. Many are committed to the goal of the Paris Agreement and becoming climate-neutral by 2050. To do this, they need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions significantly, and they need a strong power infrastructure that can deliver vast amounts of renewable energy reliably.

To slow and stop climate change, the world must reduce harmful emissions to zero. This can be accomplished by revolutionizing energy systems, generating only sustainable and renewable energy. In addition, electricity grids need to be sustainable and more reliable, i.e., capable of combining different renewables in the best possible way and more resiliently.

Next-generation energy solutions

We all need to be a part of the fight against climate change. One of the first steps is to save energy. It is insufficient for governments and nations to implement energy-conversion programs that gradually shift away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy sources.

The year 2022 will be critical for green development and the fight against climate change. The transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy will accelerate in the next year, with a strong demand for long-life energy-storage systems and an advanced Semiconductor ecosystem for the next generation of power solutions.

The moment has come to replace fossil fuels with carbon-neutral energy supplied by renewable sources such as wind, solar, and hydroelectric power, which will help to combat global warming. The next several years will be critical for the planet’s existence. It is now more crucial than ever to transition to green energy. Technology provides all of the tools needed to adopt renewable energy, but the question is how will we utilize it and how will we cut waste and consumption.

Emission-free transportation is the key

Low- and zero-carbon transportation is key to any city’s strategy to become carbon-neutral. Today, this increasingly means transitioning from the internal combustion engine to electric vehicles (EVs) — cars and buses, as well as electrically powered streetcars and trains.

Transportation is a key part for any city to be successful. Electric mobility embodies many smart-city expectations: smart cars, trucks, buses, and trains that run ON zero-emission energy — all sustainable, green, and open-source.

“More than 100 million EVs are expected to be on the road by 2030, and urban bus activity is forecast to increase by 50% over the next 10 years,” said André Burdet, head of product management and strategy at Hitachi Energy Ltd. “Urban buses in particular are responsible for a quarter of all carbon dioxide emitted in the transportation sector. Clearly, electric vehicles and buses powered by renewable energy are a must to make city air cleaner.”

It is estimated that over 500 TWh of electricity will be needed to power these EVs, potentially saving CO2 emissions. Even so, it’s expected that EVs will require about 10% of global energy, so new smart systems for efficient energy management will be needed — that is, an adapted and digitally enhanced grid infrastructure that can accommodate large volumes of renewable energy and reliably bring it to a wide range of consumers.

“Addressing these challenges will require strong cooperation between experienced stakeholders, ranging from technology providers, energy suppliers, and vehicle manufacturers to transportation operators and urban planners,” said Burdet.

A smart grid should have the ability to balance greater variability in supply and demand while still being able to support all forms of storage systems — including EVs. The smart-mobility solution enables operators to efficiently scale up their operations and is expected to contribute to sustainable society for millions living in urban areas to accelerate the future of smart mobility.

Hitachi ABB Power Grids released a grid-to-plug EV charging system for public transit and commercial vehicle fleets in mid-2020 as part of its commitment to the electrification of urban transportation, which the business considers a game-changer.

The device, Grid-eMotion Fleet, is an all-in-one solution that links to any form of power network (AC, DC, low, or medium voltage), as well as any sort of charger, to give electric fleet operability. It includes a containerized high-power charging system and substation, as well as energy-management and fleet-management technologies, all of which are contained inside a small footprint for quick depot deployment, according to Burdet.

Grid-eMotion Fleet is suitably designed to offer flexibility of connection to the utility grid and ensure compliance with power-quality requirements. Chargers are available from 500- to 600-kW power, combined in cabinets to facilitate maintenance. Charging points are designed to ensure full interoperability with current and future EV fleets charged in DC via plug or pantograph.

Why green-energy systems are needed for smart cities

Figure 1: Grid-eMotion Fleet (Source: Hitachi Energy)

Open-source platforms

The use of open-source platforms will hasten the transition to a new technological paradigm. We live in a world that is “immersed” in untapped energy, and despite our best efforts, we are still attempting to find out how to make the most of it. The sun is the only source of energy that is completely safe. The 4-billion-year–old star that heats and illuminates our planet and controls the life cycles of all living things on Earth is also a limitless source of energy. New business models, design tools, and market regulation that can promote investment must all be prioritized.

Only by investing in research will it be possible to continue to reduce energy costs, improve the performance of energy systems, and invest in systems that integrate renewable energy sources. Innovation must also play its part: It is vital to develop new technologies that will help the world move away from coal in a reasonable timeframe.

In all of this, the term “open source” indicates a commitment to sharing knowledge, thus encouraging free redistribution and access to design and implementation of solutions. Open source is one of the big points to consider in accelerating changes in the technology paradigm to deliver a 100% green-energy transition.

The goal of an open-source energy system is to reduce overall costs by lowering development expenses and making system connections easier. This will enable system integrators to deliver solutions faster with scalable and modular plug-and-play components. In an ideal world, solutions would be implemented quicker, while flexibly tailored to changing business models.

Growing and supporting renewable energy through a truly collaborative open-source initiative is the objective of LF Energy. LF Energy is a nonprofit, vendor-neutral initiative from The Linux Foundation with an action plan to modernize electrical systems worldwide through open frameworks, reference architectures, and a support ecosystem of complementary projects.

“Our mission is to accelerate the energy transition by hosting, building, facilitating, and enabling the distributive computing paradigm as it relates to distributed energy resources,” said Shuli Goodman, executive director of LF Energy. “That is everything from control infrastructure to the foundations for new markets, micro-transactions, the edge devices, the whole thing.”

The best open-source energy systems have no negative environmental consequences and have exceptionally cheap equipment maintenance and operating expenses.


Access to energy, particularly in rural areas, can support economic development, local business and job creation, health services, education, women’s empowerment, environmental protection, climate-change mitigation, food conservation, and clean-water access. Three different strategies contribute to this goal — grid extension, microgrids, and solar home systems — each with a specific field of applicability.

Microgrids are electricity systems that make full use of digital metering (smart meters) and smart technologies (smart grid, smart community, and smart city). The basic elements to be considered are:

  • The electrical generation (renewable and distributed energy, as well as traditional)
  • The electrical loads (residential, commercial, and industrial)
  • Storage systems (although not always present) and an electrical network (mainly low-Voltage) to connect the various elements between them and with the medium-voltage macrogrid

Controlling a network from a centralized location differs significantly from controlling a network from a spread location. “Imagine the difference between controlling a binary switch, which is on-off, and managing something like the internet, where we have to constantly move loads and resources to suit demand patterns,” Goodman explained.

Microgrids can be connected to the electrical grid and work in sync with it, but they can also be detached and run independently, depending on physical and economic factors. All of this may be encouraged and made more controlled owing to emerging artificial-intelligence–based technologies, making the integration of the most sustainable microgrids and the traditional electric grid even more manageable and efficient.

Why green-energy systems are needed for smart cities

Figure 2: Microgrid electricity systems take advantage of digital metering, smart technologies, and renewable energy to better manage power supply and demand. (Source: Shutterstock)

What else?

Electric mobility is a crucial driver of the energy revolution, and it is predicted to boost demand for renewable-energy–generated power. As a result, the demand for power-system flexibility is rapidly increasing. As the smart grid and renewable energy become more prevalent, energy storage will become increasingly important in the sector. Many technologies will find a place for backup applications as energy-storage prices decline.

Because Earth’s resources are limited, we must all contribute by living in a linked world. We must all work together to integrate and engage. Technology, nature, and society all need to be intertwined. All of this necessitates innovation, which is defined as the ability to learn to do something better than the day before. If you can innovate, you can go to an issue, confront it, and then repair it, and no matter what the problems are in five years, we’ll be ready for future climate-change challenges.