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Commissioner to Energy
Smart City Subforum
21 November 2013
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am very pleased to be here today at the Smart Cities Sub Forum. It is very stimulating to see how this topic attracts so much interest and generates so much initiative. This is also the case in Europe.
You may know that this week, in Barcelona, there is the Smart City World Congress, where more than 7000 people from all over the world participate. After European participants, most of the participants there come from Asia. I think this shows the mutual interest we have in making our cities smarter.
But what is it: a Smart City? There is lots of talk about it, and of course every mayor wants his city to be smart. If you look on the internet for 'the smartest city in the world' you get quite a few results, but with many different cities that are said to be the smartest.
What they have in common is that they make use of the increased availability of data in an intelligent way. Very often they address the way natural resources are used in a city, or the way mobility within a city is being improved with the help of ICT.
In Europe, the European Commission has focused its work around an initiative that is called Smart Cities and Communities, and that focuses on three sectors: energy, transport and ICT.
First and foremost, we want to focus on the needs of a city or a community – and look beyond sectors: how can energy contribute to the challenges that a city faces? This means you automatically look across sectors.
So since 2012 we have gathered mayors, regional governments and companies together to discuss what we can do to make cities smarter. In these discussions we quickly realised that we can talk about a smart city as one that saves energy in buildings, or that uses data to optimise traffic in a city, but that many of these improvements depend on very basic conditions.
These are, for example:
Open data: cities should share the data they have with those companies that can use them to offer innovative services;
But it also means that companies need to ensure that their technologies are open and can interact with other technology: we need Interoperability;
There is no lack of interest in investing in cities, but there is a need to create trust: there is a need, at least in Europe, to spend public money very wisely: local administrations don't want to invest in too risky projects, and innovation is risky. But if you want to become smarter, you need to innovate: at least with that everybody agrees I think!
On the other hand, companies want to invest in innovation if there is a market for it. Maybe in London, or Vienna, or Beijing, one city is a market in itself, and you'll have plenty of interest of investors. But we don't just want to make big cities smart, we want to make all cities and communities smart.
So on the one hand we need to create trust between cities and companies, and on the other hand we need to create a market that is bigger than one city.
I have given up defining what exactly a smart city is. But the only thing I am sure about is that it has to be open and inclusive. That is the basic condition, and it's up to the cities, and the companies, to tell us how they will put that in practice.
That is why we will ask cities and companies to come forward with project proposals that show why they are smart.
So I am not so interested in defining precisely what a Smart City is, but I am interested in triggering investments that make a real difference in people's lives. And of course, as citizen and as a Commissioner who spends public money: I want to trigger as much investments as possible by spending as little as possible myself.
I believe this is possible, because I don't think money is the key issue. The key issue is trust. Money generates interest, and trust generates change. By bringing stakeholders together, and by asking projects to be open, we create trust.
We will focus on projects that address change in the use of energy, the organisation of transport, benefiting from ICT, to ensure that the concepts are worked out into concrete proposals.
For example, in transport we must reduce demand for emission-intensive transport, and move to better integrated, more efficient transport, using cleaner technology and infrastructure for electric vehicles.
In energy, we are looking for development of technically and economically feasible concepts for new buildings and for upgrading of existing buildings and energy infrastructure, and for the development and deployment of smart solutions for lighting, heating, cooling and electricity systems.
I am sure that a city that is smart when it comes to energy or transport, it will also be smart when it comes to how it uses water, or other resources: if the basic conditions are right the city will be smart in many ways – and that is of course how it should be: smartness is not limited to a few sectors only.
It is not a Europe-only question either: otherwise you and I would not be here! All over the world people are looking for ways to make cities smarter.
Of course China is quite special in terms of the speed and scale of urbanization. There are certainly big differences to Europe. But Chinese initiatives such as the “Smart Cities in Practice" programme show that we have the same ambition.
In China almost 200 cities are taking actions to become smart cities. In Europe too we have many cities at different stages working towards becoming smarter. Our approach is similar.
Many of your challenges are similar too - Pollution, waste, congestion, security and sustainability.
I am here because I hope we will be able to learn from each other: if there are solutions that work in China we should see if they can work in Europe – and vice versa.
Therefore I would like to invite Chinese cities to get involved in our initiative in Europe, and I am very happy to hear about today's new cooperation between European and Chinese cities. I hope this marks the beginning of close cooperation, where European and Chinese cities team up to jointly develop projects!
Thank you very much for your attention.