It is predicted that by 2050, nearly 70% of people worldwide will reside in urban areas, up from 55% of the global population who currently live in cities. As a result, 78% of the world’s energy is being consumed in cities which produce more than 60% of greenhouse gas emissions. This is set to increase following the speed and scale of urbanisation. To mitigate this impact, smart cities may provide a solution to reduce energy consumption while still meeting service demand, improving grid stability and overall quality of life.

In positive news, two years after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced his future plans to build the first smart city in Lanseria, the draft master plan has been completed and is out for public comment. The city will house between 350 000 and 500 000 occupants within the next decade.

Speaking in light of Earth Day, celebrated annually on the 22nd of April – Dr Andrew Dickson, Engineering Executive at CBI-electric: low voltage says that while our Government works towards building new smart cities, South African citizens can start building their own smart cities at home by investing in smart home technologies. “This is because smart homes will be a key component in the creation of smarter cities.”

Smarter consumption

He explains that South African households consume roughly 17% of the country’s total grid electrical energy and can account for up to 35% of national electricity demand during peak periods. “Installing smart home devices, which use an internet-connection to enable the remote monitoring and management of appliances and systems such as lighting and heating, can help improve energy efficiency in the residential sector. This is because smart home devices not only enable users to keep an eye on how much electricity their appliances and systems consume, but also schedule them to turn on and off at specific times on a daily or periodic basis to reduce consumption.

“The need for these solutions is all the more pressing when one considers that a third of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions are the result of household energy consumption.To put this in perspective, South Africa is the 14th largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world, with the average South African emitting approximately 7.41 tons of CO2 – nearly double that of the world average of 4.47 metric tons per person. These emissions result from everyday routines such as turning air conditioning systems on and off, however, home automation has been found to reduce emissions by 12.78% – something which will be crucial for helping South Africa fulfil its commitment to limit its annual greenhouse gas emissions to between 398 to 440 million tons of CO2 equivalent by 2030. In the United Kingdom, for instance, the Nottingham City Council revealed that the city managed to reduce CO2 emissions by 26% from 2005 levels using smart homes as one of the tactical solutions.”

City-wide benefits

Dickson notes that smart homes also present cost-saving opportunities not just for those living within them but also for the cities in which they are situated. “By being able to remotely monitor their energy consumption, smart homeowners are able to save on their monthly electricity bills. But imagine what would happen if this concept was applied to a city-wide housing grid. This could enable local authorities to track energy usage and spikes across the community, ensuring fairer pricing as well as the ability to tackle outages, energy leaks and the environmental issues associated with overuse.”

He concludes by saying, “With 70% of South Africans set to be living in urban areas by 2030 and the cities of Johannesburg, Tshwane, Cape Town and Ethekwini under pressure to accommodate everyone, now’s the time for investment in smart home technology. I envisage smart homes working together to benefit all citizens and positively impact our planet.”

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