End of the European ESMARTCITY project: new insights and opportunities

In 2018, Capenergies marked its commitment to building smart cities for the future through its involvement in the European ESMARTCITY project. This project has revolved around two years of collaborative experimentation to analyse the impact and use of energy-efficient technologies as levers for green growth and sustainable development in the cities of six Mediterranean countries in Europe. In July 2020, the final meeting to wrap up the project gathered more than one hundred Smart City players from all over Europe; it provided everyone with the opportunity to reflect on the collective learning process initiated by ESMARTCITY.

ESMARTCITY: Fast-tracking the energy transition for smart cities of the future

By around 2050, two thirds of the population will be living in cities, using more than 70% of the global energy produced and emitting just as much greenhouse gas. It is vital that we rethink our vision of cities to protect the remaining natural resources, the environment and thus the quality of life of those living in these cities, including in the context of a pandemic. The smart city concept promotes sustainable living based on innovative technologies that benefit its inhabitants and the community as a whole; it is a solution designed to counter the increasing urbanisation of regions and poorly optimised citizen relationship management.

As smart city projects emerge across the globe, France also has the responsibility to prepare the future of its cities. To meet these new demands and in parallel to actions led under the FLEXGRID, programme, Capenergies chose to join the ESMARTCITY project as a way to support cooperation between French cities and companies adhering to the Smart City concept, by promoting the development of more intelligent, sustainable Mediterranean cities. In concrete terms, the experiments involved testing innovative technologies and services to improve the energy efficiency of buildings and public lighting in six Mediterranean countries of Europe, i.e. Greece, Spain, Italy, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Portugal and France.

Buildings are the main structures that shape cities. By refurbishing and upgrading buildings using Smart-City technologies, their energy efficiency can be improved, which makes them easier and cheaper to run and service. Schools, offices, stadiums, pools and libraries were transformed into ‘living’ laboratories, incorporating the experience of users and exploiting the surrounding intelligence set-ups (multi-sensors) for a total budget of about €78,000, which was recovered in under 4 years.

In much the same way, more than 60% energy savings were achieved at four pilot sites by investing almost €68,000 in smart LED lights combined with light and motion sensors, making it possible to vary the brightness of the lights depending on the hour of the day, for the better of the city, its services and its citizens. With more than 260 million street lamps worldwide, public lighting can be likened to the central nerve system of a city, offering the potential for massive optimisation and upgrading, specifically through the integration of smart mobility devices and pollution sensors.

Smart Cities: business opportunities for companies and local authorities

Having clearly understood the demands of its network, Capenergies has created the conditions needed to roll out its Smart City concept in the region and promote the implementation of innovative technologies. A number of collective smart workshops were jointly organised with companies and then with regional authorities to check that the innovative solutions proposed properly reflect the needs of local administrations. Public procurement is definitely a strong economic lever, making it possible to accelerate the deployment of new solutions. To do this, the criteria for awarding contracts must be reviewed to take better account of more eco-friendly, sustainable solutions and products.

The Smart-City market is expected to be worth more than 400 billion euros by 2027 (source: Grand View Research Inc.). Digitalisation of public services, data processing, sustainable mobility, energy efficiency of equipment and buildings, open access to data; all these topics will garner strong support in the years to come. This impetus is already tangible today; despite the current pandemic, the quest for sustainability and smart growth remain fundamental drivers in adapting our cities and better managing global warming.

Though the ESMARTCITY project is coming to an end, the European Commission had decided to support 100 European cities in developing low-carbon economies and digitalising companies through the Intelligent City Challenge (ICC). In France, eight cities have been chosen for this initiative, with two located in the south: Nice as the mentor city, and Aix-en-Provence. 

In 2021, Capenergies will continue its actions in the field by supporting Smart-City players and rolling out strategic projects.