Energy, Water and Environment

Smart and Sustainable Cities: Between Reality and Aspirations


Cities will shape the world we live in: According to UN projections, future cities will account for almost 90% of global population growth, 80% of value added and 60% of total energy consumption. The growing urbanisation trends in both the Arab countries and Germany already now mirror this trend. Re-thinking cities and urban environments is the core strategy of so-called 'smart cities'. Yet, the concepts vary from city to city, depending on the individual framework conditions, strategies, and citizen needs.
The AGYA Working Groups Innovation and Energy, Water and Environment are looking at concepts, their implementation and their potential for future solutions and mutual learning in an interdisciplinary manner. For this, we combine skills in information technology, engineering, energy economics, policy analysis and sustainability studies to screen existing concepts and identify promising blueprints for future developments.
Following this path, we soon discovered that we need to address the multi-faceted issues related to smart cities in a staged manner to look behind the 'glamorous' announcements of cities being smart to identify the real needs, notably in the fields of energy and digitalisation.
Moving further into the sectorial aspects of smart cities, we address energy strategies and governance: In a first strand of work we sampled promising smart city projects in Germany and the MENA region by the means of stakeholder interviews and fact finding missions. In a horizontal overview from an economic and political governance perspective, the aim is to systematically identify best practice solutions for mutual learning in the field of Smart Energy & Environment. Currently, our sample covers Algiers, Berlin, Bremen, Casablanca, Cologne, Hamburg and Kuwait City. We investigate in economics, energy components, drivers and barriers that lead to the definition of various smart city concepts.
In a second strand of work, we focus on the item that is responsible for the highest amount of energy consumption in modern cities: existing buildings. People in today’s societies are unaware of the impact of their own energy usage and may not be able to identify the important changes required in their energy consumption patterns to improve the energy management in buildings. We will deepen the current knowledge in the field of the reduction of energy consumption in existing buildings by the use of innovative information and communications technology (ICT) methods and integrated technologies and make an assessment of economic, ecologic and social impacts related to this optimisation. Finally, we develop a prototype for smart energy management systems to be used in buildings in Arab countries and Germany.

Workshop: Smart and Sustainable Cities: Between Reality and Aspirations

In a joint project of the AGYA Working Groups Energy, Water and Environment, and Innovation, a workshop on the different facets of smart cities has been conducted, allowing participants from AGYA member countries to identify research partners and engage in mutual learning:
Today, the number of people living in cities is growing. Spurred on by economic and technological changes, smart cities are emerging. Using new technologies, smart cities are being designed, constructed, and maintained upon intelligent infrastructures spanning energy, resources, healthcare, and transportation. To make these urban centers of the future, safe, secure, environmentally sustainable and efficient, it is required to better optimize their resources, plan their preventive maintenance activities, and monitor privacy and security aspects while maximizing services to all the citizens.
During a two-day AGYA workshop researchers from various domains presented their results on techniques, policies, and standards required to acquire, process, and use spatio-temporal data to pave ways towards real investments on innovative ideas in various related topics. The event was held at the Hassan II Academy of Sciences and Technology and at the Mohammed V University in Rabat in Madinat Al Irfane, Morocco.


The following abstracts provide an impression of the topics discussed during the workshop. The complete conference booklet can be downloaded below.

Recent Information and Communication Technologies in Smart Buildings
AGYA member Prof. Dr. Djamel Djenouri, Computer Sciences & Engineering, Algeria

Energy consumption is sharply increasing in large cities worldwide. The buildings’ ratio from this consumption is the highest and estimated at about 40% in most regions, with 30% to 50% waste due to suboptimal energy management solutions. Most of present building automation systems do not capture the dynamic nature of building usage, the user behavior and comfort, energy supplies in an integrated holistic manner, e.g., predefined setting of HVAC, predefined light intensity values in ligcontrol system, etc. The new alternative is to use advances in information and communication technologies, e.g., IoT, wireless communication and networking, methods from artificial intelligence and machine learning to develop modern user-centric energy management systems that capture the user preference/comfort and provide motivating tools to attract his implication.

Smart Sustainable Cities: Towards Sustainable Bioenergy Approaches
AGYA member Dr. Zeina Hobaika, Biochemistry, Beirut

A smart and sustainable city can be defined as a city that improves the quality of life and local economy, through moving towards a low carbon future. However, nowadays, a large fraction of the world’s total energy demands is supported by non-renewable fossil resources such as coal, oil, and natural gas. These resources are not only limited in supply but also have adverse effects on the environment. Thus bioenergy is considered to be a highly promising alternative to fossil-derived energy in a future bio-based economy. In fact, the future will be led by the need for renewables in transport followed by heating and electricity sectors. Through a general overview on the supply of biomass and their impacts on environment, economic and health systems, I highlight some successful examples implemented in cities worldwide, particularly in Germany and Arab countries, in a sustainable approach. Moreover, I discuss the waste to energy technologies, as part of a sustainable valorization of biomass resources. In this context, anaerobic digestion is one of the key elements in the current energy transition. I will focus on agro-industrial byproducts, especially Grape Pomace, Spent Coffee Grounds and Olive Pomace. Their conversion into methane is a promising possibility given that the current methods of valorization have limited markets and can absorb only a limited portion of the produced waste. At first, detailed information on the maximum production of methane from our different biomasses are obtained in batch and continuous mode at 37 °C. Then, a bio-physico-chemical characterization of different biomass varieties from different growing areas was carried out. The diversity of the lignocellulosic content and the methane potential of the selected substrates was underlined. A negative correlation exists, in particular, between the methane potential and the lignin and cellulose contents. In addition, the dimensioning of anaerobic digesters in continuous mode is optimized by determining an optimum of operation in terms of applied load of substrates and residence time. Finally, in order to intensify the production of methane, various green and innovative pretreatments are evaluated and their respective effects on the methane production and the biodegradability of lignocellulosic fractions are assessed. Altogether, our results demonstrate the relevance and pertinence of our approach addressing two issues: waste management and bioenergy recovery.

Members in Charge

Djamel Djenouri

Computer Sciences, Engineering
Research Centre on Scientific and Technical Information (CERIST)

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Lalla Btissam Drissi

Mohammed V University-Agdal Faculty of Science Department of Physics

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Marc Ringel

Economics, Political Economy
HFWU – Nuertingen-Geislingen University, Faculty for Economics and Law

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DATE and Venue of the project

11 - 12 October 2018
Rabat, Morocco

Pictures by AGYA

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