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  • The Blurred Lines of Energy, Transport & Technology Infrastructure

    By Simon Williams / 25 July 2017 / Comments

    Earlier this year the Scottish government announced its first draft Scottish Energy Strategy which sets out a vision that by 2050 it will have a “modern, integrated energy system that delivers reliable, low carbon energy at affordable prices to consumers in all parts of Scotland.”

    As part of this strategy, the Scottish government will put a plan in place to support the full range of renewable electricity generation technologies to “meet both domestic electricity demand and to provide economic opportunities for Scotland.” The Scottish government will also look at the development and use of emerging energy sources and technologies – like hydrogen, for transport in a bid to move away from petrol.

    There is a growing global demand for energy and an increased need for renewable energy such as wind, solar and biomass to tackle current climate change. The technology and resources are available to produce a large percentage of our electricity from renewable energy sources which leaves the need for intelligent transport infrastructure links that make use of digital and telecommunication technologies that benefit all.

    To set ourselves on the path to decarbonisation, governments need to start relying less on gas and coal and move towards greater use of electricity or hydrogen produced from low-carbon sources. For emerging economies seeking to invest in smart cities, this could likely be a less difficult path to take then an established economy with existing infrastructure in place.

    Developing economies such as India and China is where we will likely see more integrated systems. The is because over the next 20 years, these two countries will struggle to cope with energy demands through renewable energy sources alone and will need to consider alternative technologies and smarter transport solutions to reap economic benefits. Emerging markets will likely feature heavily as the new stomping ground for infra players as they seek to create smart cities that are cost effective, active and effectively interlink energy, transport and technology.

    Low-carbon transport and electrification

    If we want set a course to a greener future, a shift towards low carbon transport must be made viable and attractive to businesses. In order for cities to operate effectively in a changing climate, cases need to be made for adapting to aligned systems. It will not only increase the competitiveness of countries and boost economies but also assist in reducing global greenhouse gas emissions. Of course, economies considering a shift to electric transport will also need to consider the impact on existing power grids, something that established economies may well already be prepared for.

    The transport and storage of oil, natural gas and coal via usual methods like rail, sea and pipelines are being closely examined; along with the distribution systems for when these resources are converted to heat or electricity. Similarly, renewable energy produces electric power and the next step in the process is to consider distribution and managing the variability and intermittency of renewables. These areas all require an ongoing evolution of management, regulation and operation.

    Global energy demand

    In emerging economies, governments seeking to invest in their future must spend money on smart transport infrastructure in order to:

    • Relieve congestion
    • Create jobs
    • Boost trade and productivity

    For established economies, further investment in smart transport would result in:

    • Higher rate of return
    • Scaled up productivity
    • Supporting long-term economic plans

    Investing in smart grid technologies is becoming more than a discussion for many cities and governments, with North America and parts of Asia showing the most activity.

    Infrastructure incorporating energy, transport and technology all comprise vast systems and require equal attention. But imagine the possibility of creating a correlated sustainable solution incorporating all three, for greater economic development, tackling climate change and competitiveness. While the lines of these three infrastructure sectors have been blurring for years, there is a growing realisation that more needs to be done to align and governments will need to consider a new way of thinking, planning new structures and essentially throwing their weight behind projects and strategies. As we all know when it comes to policy decisions in established markets, the infrastructure community could well be waiting a long time, witnessing successive governments before this new trend really takes off. However, the important thing to remember is that a discussion is being had, the first step to creating stronger policies.

    In the meantime there are ways to move things forward if governments are willing. This could include encouraging more unsolicited proposals from the private sector or providing means for direct sourcing opportunities.

    Over the next few years, it is anticipated that more developed economies will look at new ways to align the three sectors to improve investment decisions. Emerging economies will need to address growing demands on each of the three sectors so perhaps not having an established system will make it easier to plan for a more integrated approach.

    The good news is that governments are recognising the need for a new approach when it comes to infrastructure objectives. It will of course be challenging to plan a strategy that takes into account low carbon transport, the growing demand for smarter technological solutions and energy. But as long as governments show willingness to adapt, we could see much more innovative and exciting infrastructure agendas in the future.

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