Amsterdam is going green

Amsterdam is going green.With help from IBM, Cisco, Philips and other companies, the city’s infrastructure is becoming ultra energy-efficient, attracting global attention. Among Amsterdam’s 17th century town houses and meandering canals, big changes are afoot. On Utrechtsestraat, a major shopping avenue in the center of the Dutch capital, street trash soon will be collected by nonpolluting electric trucks, while the electronic displays in local bus stops will be powered by small solar panels. Elsewhere, 500 households will pilot an energy-saving system from IBM and Cisco aimed at cutting electricity costs. An additional 728 homes will have access to financing from Dutch banks ING and Rabobank to buy everything from energy-saving light bulbs to ultra-efficient roof insulation.

The projects, all getting under way over the next few months, represent Amsterdam’s initial steps toward making its infrastructure more eco-friendly. The move comes as governments worldwide set aside billions of dollars to create so-called “smart cities,” or towns that mix renewable projects, next-generation energy efficiency, and government support to cut overall carbon dioxide footprints. Yet, unlike cities that could take decades to upgrade their infrastructure, Amsterdam aims to complete its first-round investments by 2012. That makes it one of the first and most ambitious adopters of the smart city concept, attracting attention from policymakers worldwide hoping to glean lessons from the green experiment.

All told, the municipality, energy outfits, and private companies are expected to invest more than $1 billion over the next three years. That figure includes a $383 million investment by local electricity network operator Alliander in so-called “smart grid” technology that uses network sensors and improved domestic energy monitoring to trim electricity use. Also part of the plan: up to $255 million to be spent by local housing cooperatives on boosting household energy efficiency, and $383 million from companies including Phillips and Dutch utility Nuon to be invested in other energy-efficient technology. “In the next year and a half, we expect to be the leading smart city in Europe,” says Ger Baron, senior project manager at the Amsterdam Innovation Motor, a public-private joint venture that is overseeing the project. “We’re in the right place at the right time.” The focus on cutting cities’ emissions could have a major impact on the battle against global warming. As of 2006, more people now live in urban areas than in the countryside, and the sprawl surrounding megacities such as Mumbai and Saõ Paolo is only likely to increase. Consultancy Accenture reckons cities produce almost two-thirds of total global carbon dioxide emissions through a combination of car fumes, household energy use, and industrial manufacturing. In the coming years, policy shifts from the US and elsewhere will put even more pressure on controlling carbon output. Read the full article here.

(Source: Mark Scott/BusinessWeek/Spiegel online)

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