Micromobility in Smart Cities

Over the past two years, first in the US and then in Europe, two-wheel micromobility in the form of shared electric bikes, scooters, and motorbikes has become ubiquitous. What has made this a success with consumers is the highly convenient combination of electric traction and dockless operation, in stark contrast with non-electric, docked shared bike schemes launched in many cities across the globe, but never reaching high usage rates.

Finding a nearby two-wheel vehicle on the fly via a smartphone app and seamlessly unlocking, using, and paying for it echoes the ease of the car sharing experience commercialised by Uber. Additionally, micromobility benefits from the fashion trend of new last-mile mobility, bridging the gap with public transport, avoiding congestion experienced by four-wheel vehicles, and, most importantly, doing away with the thorny issue of parking in cities worldwide.

However, the advantages of micromobility go beyond people mobility. Two-wheel vehicles have also been massively adopted for transporting food ordered online, with pizza delivery bikes already having become iconic.

The benefits of micromobility are obvious, both in terms of the positive impact on congestion levels and air pollution, challenges with which many cities worldwide have been struggling. Even with a modal share of between 10% and 20%, electric micromobility removes or replaces enough four-wheel vehicles on the road to materially impact traffic flow and air quality.

Walking, scooting and cycling are now more viable alternatives for short journeys. As more citizens begin working from home or cycling to work, public transport becomes a more attractive option for those looking to take longer trips. By focusing on mobility, and developing more sustainable and accessible ways to navigate the city, city developers can turn the Coronavirus crisis into a real opportunity for change.

Smart cities can only be built on smart streets, and when you build to improve the lives of citizens, then everybody wins.

Building a Smart City

Connected thinking

Unity between key municipal departments needs to be the name of the game if any such project is set to truly improve the way residents interact with their cities. This, of course, is easier said than done. Each department of a locality tends to have its own way of tackling problems and enacting change, with individual systems and structures to be navigated. Frequently, these bureaucracies, which may be deeply entrenched, can act as an early roadblock for Smart City projects. The good news is that by clearing out these brakes and blocks in the process of creating a cross-departmental entity, a more effective apparatus for making important future decisions will automatically take shape, leading to efficiency improvements even before the technological assistance of the ‘Smart City’ vision is truly realised.

Many cities across the globe are already looking at how they can group various departments of public works together, rethinking how operations and strategy might intersect in future. Often, this might take the initial form of an overseeing ‘Smart City Department’, which will then report directly to the mayor or an appointed city manager. The job of this department is to oversee the innovation process. Their day-to-day responsibilities will involve consulting with key figures from various city agencies, engaging them in the overarching Smart City project, hearing their issues and challenges, and bringing together relevant stakeholders to reach investment targets necessary to enact change. Any Smart City Department should also have an eye on demonstrating to the general public the benefits of the project, and the impact of the investment made on their behalf.

A growing need for urban commute-friendly vehicles

During peak hours in congested cities, e-bikes can provide a faster, cheaper way from A to B versus sitting in a cab or car in traffic. As urban areas grow ever denser, space will be at a premium – e-bikes take up less space, on the road, and to park. And the climate benefits of a cycling culture are undeniable. Research conducted by the Municipality of Copenhagen found that cyclists reduce CO2 emissions by 20,000 tons a year, on average.

Smart city planners are investing in tech that promotes the health and well-being of their citizens. Urban mobility is one area they are focused on. While all two-wheeled vehicles offers a healthier commute than riding in cars or on rails, e-bikes provide low impact exercise, making them a viable option for those of all ages and fitness levels, even individuals with injuries.

Urban biking often appeals to the fit and fearless, but the addition of an electric motor opens up this mode of transport to a broader population not necessarily in it for the carb burn. An e-bike can be operated strictly on battery power or by pedal power, but optimal energy efficiency is achieved by doing both at the same time. This enables riders to cover a lot more ground in less time, carry heavier loads, and “flatten hills” for considerably greater ease on challenging terrain.

Since e-biking is not as sweat-inducing, it’s a more viable option for those who wear a suit or dress to work. Some employers are taking notice, enticing their staff with special incentives for riding electric bikes to work. Attesting to the physical health advantages of commuting this way, the city of Copenhagen reports that residents who cycle request 1.1 million fewer sick days.

E-bike enthusiasts also cite the mental benefits of this thrill ride, likening it to the feeling of freedom first felt as a child taking to two wheels. Commuters arrive at work or home relaxed, with no need to decompress, a vast difference from their mental state after sitting in a car in city traffic.

Net-Zero Emissions

Shaping a secure and sustainable energy future for all

Energy is at the heart of the global climate dialogue ─ The climate challenge is essentially an energy challenge. With that in mind, policy makers around the world are seeking to reduce climate risks, accelerate the adoption of clean energy technologies, ensure an orderly transition toward clean new energy industries, enable inclusion and fairness, and maintain energy security.

Net zero targets have to quickly turn into real-world action ─ To reach our long-term climate goals, action must start now. Governments need to move fast to implement policies that can put global emissions into sustained decline in the coming years. This requires data-driven analysis and recommendations for effective energy policy-making ─ and to ensure greater transparency and accountability.

Smart Cities – The road to Net Zero

Whilst the warnings are stark that the world is on a non-sustainable path, a net-zero carbon target has been set.

However, targets alone do not drive progress.

Businesses, policy makers and many citizens are waking up to the challenge of accelerating the pace of change required to meet that target and ensure our day-to-day life is healthier, more sustainable, safe and efficient.

To make this work, we understood that the definition of net zero needed to be expanded. Solutions come in myriad form, including accessing green energy from out of state. After all, creating a market for non-CO2-producing energy sources outside the boundaries of one’s own city helps the planet at large. In Cambridge these offsets absolutely count toward netting out a building’s carbon footprint. So daisy-chaining energy production in neighborhoods, and yes, designing homes and buildings with an eye to energy savings so it is ultimately easier to net out the energy use with clean production, need to be strategies too. 

Approaching sustainability as a set of steps and achievable benchmarks can take away some of the daunting magnitude of the task at hand. In Cambridge, for instance, the city started by putting its money where its mouth is. The city is requiring all government buildings — firehouses, police stations and schools, for example — to be net zero by 2025. Next, we’ll tackle the biggest, most energy-sucking buildings, laboratories, with the goal of getting them to net zero by 2030. 

The challenge is big, but it’s not impossible. In Seattle, for example, Amazon’s new downtown headquarters Captures waste heat from a non-Amazon-owned data center on an adjacent block to reduce their own energy consumption. It’s just one company, and an area of only a few blocks, but it’s an important proof-of-concept that points the way forward.

Explore Green

It’s time to make clean energy investment in emerging and developing economies a top global priority.

New report from IEA, in collaboration with World Bank and World Economic Forum, shows concerted international efforts are needed for a sustainable and resilient economic future in developing world.

The world’s energy and climate future increasingly hinges on whether emerging and developing economies are able to successfully transition to cleaner energy systems, calling for a step change in global efforts to mobilise and channel the massive surge in investment that is required, according to a new report by the International Energy Agency.

The special report – carried out in collaboration with the World Bank and the World Economic Forum – sets out a series of actions to enable these countries to overcome the major hurdles they face in attracting the financing to build the clean, modern and resilient energy systems that can power their growing economies for decades to come.

Annual clean energy investment in emerging and developing economies needs to increase by more than seven times – from less than USD 150 billion last year to over $1 trillion by 2030 to put the world on track to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, according to the report, Financing Clean Energy Transitions in Emerging and Developing Economies. Unless much stronger action is taken, energy-related carbon dioxide emissions from these economies – which are mostly in Asia, Africa and Latin America – are set to grow by 5 billion tonnes over the next two decades.

Increasing energy efficiency is a critical part of the race to net zero.

One of the key pillars for reaching net-zero emissions is using energy more efficiently.

We explore how the global energy sector can reach net-zero emissions by 2050. In the pathway it lays out – the Net-Zero Emissions by 2050 (NZE) Scenario – global energy demand in 2050 is around 8% lower than today but will need to serve an economy more than twice as big and a population with 2 billion more people.

That means each unit of energy will have to achieve more than it does today in terms of heating, cooling, cooking, moving people or things or powering a factory. Improving energy efficiency is a central foundation of a pathway that both meets the needs of a growing and increasingly wealthy global population, and achieves net-zero emissions by 2050.

Final energy demand in the NZE Scenario is well within the range of comparable 1.5 °C scenarios1 from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), with many IPCC scenarios requiring similar or more ambitious energy efficiency improvements than the NZE Scenario. Total final energy consumption in 2050 in the IPCC scenarios ranges from 300 exajoules (EJ) to 550 EJ, compared with around 410 EJ in 2020. The NZE Scenario has final energy consumption of 340 EJ in 2050.