Opinion - 11/January/2019

Working multilaterally for a successful smart city

Geneva is changing its technologies and its ways of working to become a truly smart, energy efficient city, argues Patricia Solioz from Geneva Industrial Services, a public utility

“Smart” will doubtless be a key word of 2019 as actors across the energy sector attempt to show they are leading the way to a cleaner, more connected world. Geneva is ahead of the pack changing not only its technologies, but also its ways of working, explains Patricia Solioz from Geneva Industrial Services, a public utility

 

Today in Switzerland the energy transition is at the centre of everybody’s thinking. It poses a major challenge for energy players, which are faced with a rapidly changing sector. New ways of thinking are required to find and implement the right solutions.

Decentralised energy production, new storage prospects, reduced environmental impact, the exit of nuclear energy and fossil fuels are all examples that illustrate this transformation. At the same time, solutions to these challenges are emerging rapidly. The evolution of digital technology allows us to capitalise on data and to give customers a more active role in this transformation. Local authorities are also changing. Geneva Industrial Services (SIG), a public utility, is transforming to become a smart city provider, abandoning traditional ways of working in departmental silos in favour of a vertical, multilateral, multi-energy way of thinking that makes the most of digital technologies.

Every day, SIG provides essential services in Geneva from energy to water, fibre optic connections and waste treatment. Now, SIG is going further, committing to develop a sustainable and connected society in Geneva. For SIG, a smart city’s aim is to achieve the energy transition and to develop a sustainable and connected territory. A smart city is necessarily energetically intelligent: it consumes reasonably, it produces locally and it reduces its carbon dioxide emissions. Moreover, an intelligent city also aims to improve the well-being of its citizens by providing connected services.

 

 

To successfully complete this transition, SIG is engaged with the state, the city and the municipalities in Geneva. Together, they are working to promote local and renewable energy resources and capitalise on digital technologies and data to improve the quality of life of citizens.

This (r)evolution has already begun.

As a supplier of water, electricity, gas and thanks to its fibre optic network, SIG is already offering innovative, sustainable multi-fluid energy solutions that combine two or more of these commodities, and developing tools for data management, such as smart metering.

SIG is also a partner of Geneva’s electro-mobility programme, which includes the largest public electric vehicle charging network in Switzerland run by Move, a joint venture set up by three energy companies. SIG has also installed LoRa, long range wireless antennas, throughout the town, which, coupled with sensors, can measure local water flows, electricity consumption and show if a parking space is free.

Another important project is the development of GeniLac, a hydrothermal project that uses the water from Lake Geneva to cool and heat residential buildings and businesses in the city centre. Its aim is to remove fossil fuels from the heating and cooling system in a hundred buildings.

To go even further, SIG has created a dedicated smart city department that operates multilaterally across the organisation. The energy transition involves thinking and acting differently, breaking with the traditional vertical organisation of utilities and getting people from different departments with different ideas and competencies to work together more closely.

This department also works to multiply local collaborations. We want to develop even further our partnerships with the state, with the economic sector of Geneva and the world of innovation, including private companies and start-ups. In short, the new smart city department will work within a network to transform Geneva into a connected and sustainable canton.


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