Committed To Net Zero: How Cities Are Aiming For Carbon Neutrality

District and municipal technologies such as smart street lighting can help cities to achieve net-zero carbon emissions for a more sustainable future.
 

By 2050, nearly 70 percent of the world’s population will live in urban areas, making cities the critical factor in the fight against climate change. As local governments aim to curb their cities’ carbon emissions and boost their sustainability, they can tap on a wide variety of existing and emerging technologies to green their infrastructure.

With street lighting accounting for a significant proportion of cities’ energy consumption, for example, more of them are installing energy-efficient LED systems and intelligent software to optimise their usage. With smart and centralised control systems, officials can save electricity by brightening or dimming sets of lights in response to daylight and weather conditions, road usage and other criteria, or program them to do so automatically with input from sensors.

District energy systems also require much less electricity for heating and cooling compared to conventional air-conditioning and heating systems. Such district-level systems consist of networks of underground pipes that pump hot or cold water to many buildings in an estate, district or city. They can incorporate larger sources of heating and cooling, including waste heat from power stations, that cannot be used by a single building.

In Singapore, a district cooling system in the Marina Bay District has slashed its customers’ energy usage by more than 40 percent compared to traditional air-conditioning systems. The United Nations has also estimated that cities can cut their primary energy consumption for heating and cooling by up to 50 percent if they switch to district energy systems.

Looking beyond electricity savings, cities can improve their water management by making use of permeable paving materials, such as porous concrete and asphalt, for their streets and sidewalks. With such materials, rainwater can seep through the surface and recharge cities’ groundwater or aquifers for longer-term use, or be directed to water retention tanks for more immediate reuse. Porous roads and pavements also decrease the risk of floods.

Furthermore, cities can construct public infrastructure such as outdoor amphitheatres, parks and plazas to double as water retaining features during storms, to prevent drainage systems from being overwhelmed even as downpours become more intense due to climate change. Many cities have built sunken plazas that serve as basketball courts, playgrounds and other public amenities during dry days, and as rainwater retention tanks during heavy rain.

Even at the neighbourhood level, building owners can partner on microgrids, solar panels and other renewable energy-related solutions to increase their access to and use of clean energy.

An ongoing microgrid project between the Singapore Institute of Technology and utility SP Group, for instance, will integrate rooftop solar panels on the school’s buildings, supply power to the campus and eliminate emissions equivalent to removing 2,000 vehicles from roads.

As of April 2021, over 700 cities worldwide have pledged to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, underscoring the growing sense of urgency to limit climate change and its potentially catastrophic effects. At BEX Asia 2021, which will be held virtually from September 6 to 10 and complemented with a three-week complimentary technical webinar from September 1 to 16, attendees can learn how they, too, can contribute to the net zero goal.

 

To find out more about BEX Asia 2021 and register for the event, click here

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