Hildagarde McCarville (Dalkia): ‘The smart cities of the future will be those that embrace the concept of less is more’

Interview with Hildagarde McCarville (CEO Dalkia Netherlands): "We have no choice but to re focus our efforts on how we can generate and consume energy, water and waste in an efficient and sustainable manner. This is not merely an academic or political matter". 1. For Dalkia, as European leader in...

McCarvikke, Hildagarde

Interview with Hildagarde McCarville (CEO Dalkia Netherlands):

We have no choice but to re focus our efforts on how we can generate and consume energy, water and waste in an efficient and sustainable manner. This is not merely an academic or political matter“.


1. For Dalkia, as European leader in energy services, how important are the ‘smart cities’ development? What are the chances? What are the obstacles?

The world’s population has grown significantly from 2bn people in 1950 to 7bn today, and this trend will continue. In the last 10 years 500m people have been lifted out of poverty in China as a result of the continued growth of the economy, and people are living longer. This population increase combined with increased industrialisation means that our reserves of fossil fuels are depleting whilst Co2 levels are rising.

In parallel, a higher percentage of the world’s population now live in urban areas with this figure projected to reach 75% by 2050. All these trends combined means that the concept of smart cities and the requirement for sustainable urban areas is here and now. We have no choice but to re focus our efforts on how we can generate and consume energy, water and waste in an efficient and sustainable manner. This is not merely an academic or political matter.

Today, Dalkia is working with many of our clients in order to help them achieve their strategic targets of making their city or town attractive and sustainable. Cities are living things too, they will fade or grow depending upon their ability to attract and keep people who chose to live, work and raise their families in these cities. The same applies for large industrial or multinational organisations and support infrastructure such as hospitals and educational institutions. Obstacles are surmountable once all parties are open to finding solutions, but in general they relate to required changes in legislation and or policy.
Also critical is the need for education and buy in of the citizens.  Users need to become more conscious of their real energy needs and use.

2. What are in your opinion the energy innovations of the future? Do you to think cities could profit much more from ‘smart energy solutions’.

The energy innovation of the future is not so much a product or solution but is more a new business model in relation to the production and consumption of energy. Instead of mass producing energy it will be about the smarter generation of energy but at a more regional level and on an as needed basis. It will focus on matching supply with demand, similar to what has happened within the ICT sector.

Gone are the days of large privately owned asset estates, instead we are moving towards the use of cloud computing and people only paying for what they use when they use it. How cities will benefit from this, is that they will be able to advertise themselves as being more sustainable, forward thinking, society conscious. This in turn will attract like minded individuals and companies, which in turn will increase the GDP per capita.

An example of this is a project that we worked on for the city of Barcelona, where we worked with the municipality itself to design a district heating scheme that used waste cooling and local biomass to rejuvenate a city district, attract new industry and in parallel provide competitive energy prices, thus resulting in a more evenly distribution of the benefits and profits arising.

3. The cooperation between private en public sector are crucial in a smart city. What are your recommendations?
With the most successful projects we have worked on the following principles have applied:

1. the needs of the citizens and other stakeholders (such as the municipality, large local employers and businesses) have been clearly understood and identified
2. an openness exists with the various parties to explore various options and open dialogue exists – private public partnerships are not to be feared but embraced
3. the focus is reaching the objective set and progress is tracked against these agreed objectives regularly
4. the projects being implemented make business sense.
5. the various initiatives are rolled out or implemented in a phased and sustainable manner which in turn builds up momentum and trust in the process.
6. communicate, communicate, communicate

4. How important is measuring – specially when it comes to energy – in the smart city?
A lot of projects are aimed on creating awareness and social responsibility among the citizens. (See this interesting art energy project in Helsinki http://designresearch.aalto.fi/projects/lih/)

5.What are for you the nicest examples of smart applications?
See above example in relation to the city of Barcelona.  In total once fully operational, the saving will equate to 1% of the total electrical consumption of the city and 13,400 tonnes of Co2 avoided annually.
Another example would be the city of Montlucon, where through working with the municipality and its citizens we have been able to reduce the annual energy consumption of 96 buildings ranging from schools to offices and in turn the amount of Co2 generated.  In total 180+ optimising actions have been implemented resulting in average annual energy savings of over 17% (3% directly attributable to energy consumption behaviour) and Co2 emissions being reduced by 550 tonnes per year.

6. What about the future? Where will the ‘smart city’ be in 2023?
I believe that the most attractive and fastest growing cities in 2023 will be those that embrace the need to create sustainable intelligent communities where the citizens, employers and the government work together constructively to produce regional energy that can be either consumed or supplied to local networks, using local resources and consumed on an as needs basis.  The smart cities of the future will be those that embrace the concept of less is more.

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