NEW DELHI, January 28: The world's most ambitious application of smart integrated infrastructure (SII) is, arguably, in India. The government, or centre as it is often called, is seeking to facilitate the creation of 100 'smart cities' through the Smart Cities Mission.
While the mission relies substantively on SII, however, it is not a pure SII undertaking. The plan looks beyond critical human infrastructure - power, water and telecommunications - and seeks to address virtually every dimension of the cities: governance, commerce, social, logistics and environment.
Because the circumstances of India's cities differ greatly, and the mission covers so many cities, the government has not given a prescriptive definition of a smart city. Rather it has identified common attributes that the mission seeks to foster. Similarly while the centre has urged the consideration of technology, institutional or managerial reforms, and the involvement of citizens in the development of smart cities, it has not provided a detailed plan for creating them.
The core attributes of India's smart cities include:
-Adequate water supply
-Assured electricity supply
-Sanitation, including solid waste management
-Efficient urban mobility and public transport
-Affordable housing, especially for the poor
-Robust IT connectivity and digitalization
-Good governance, especially e-governance and citizen participation
-Safety and security of citizens, particularly women, children and the elderly
-Health and education
The absence of a standard formula for creating an Indian smart city has left some asking for greater clarity about what smart cities are and how they should be delivered. This has not, however, hindered the mission's early stages.
At the request of central government, each state government nominated the urban areas or greenfield sites it wished to be considered for smart city funding.
The number of states' nominations was based upon the number of statutory cities within the state and the population density. This meant northeastern states and small states like Goa and Kerala nominated one city while larger more densely populated states like Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Maharahstra nominatedseveral cities.
The 472 nominated areas have been assessed against 13 criteria. These included ranking on the Swachh Bharat scale - the centre's measure of urban cleanliness based upon provision of services such as sanitation and refuse collection; the ability to finance the development of a smart city; and track record of implementing the previous urban renewal programmes of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission.
The process has identified 98 areas for Smart City Mission funding. They include 24 state capitals, 13 cities in Uttar Pradesh - India's most populous state; and 12 cities in Tamil Nadu, 10 in Maharashtra, six in Gujarat and Karnataka and four in West Bengal and Rajasthan.
In November 2015 each of the 98 areas submitted a detailed smart city proposal to the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD). Based upon its assessment of these proposals the MoUD is due, in early 2016, to name the first 20 cities to receive money from the centre. A further 40 recipients of central funding will be announced in 2017, with the final 40 being named in 2018.
Estimates of the overall cost per city vary from Rs 10,000 crore to Rs 30,000 crore. The centre will provide viability gap funds of Rs 500 crore per city; with R200 crore allocated in the first year, and Rs 100 crore for each of the subsequent three years. State governments will match the centre's funding by providing R500 crore for each of the smart cities within their jurisdiction.
The centre expects the remaining investment in the Smart Cities Mission to be raised by the urban local body (ULB) responsible for each smart city. Every ULB, in conjunction with the government of its state, will create a special purpose vehicle (SPV) to lead the programme that will deliverthe smart city. Funding is anticipated to come from a mixture of direct foreign investment - from the private sector and government agencies; and from the domestic private sector.
Foreign governments' interest is evidenced by the number of trade missions - from the UK, USA, UAE, Germany, Singapore and France for example - visiting areas that will receive funding from the Smart Cities Mission. Some countries are targeting specific areas; the French government - for instance - has shown interest in partnering with Puducherry, Nagpur and Chandigarh. Finalised deals, however, have yet to emerge.
Although the Smart Cities Mission encompasses virtually all of the infrastructure a modern city requires, commercial interest is being led by what can broadly be described as the information and communications technology sector rather than the construction sector. This is exemplified by the agreements the Confederation of Indian Industry has signed with Hitachi, Siemens, Cisco and INDRA Systems for a national mission to help state governments create smart cities.
At this stage domestic expertise is likely to be from the major multi-disciplinary companies like the Tata Group. Tata Projects has created a division dedicated to the markets it envisages the Smart Cities Mission will generate.
Smart integration of critical human infrastructure has a central role in delivering many of the smart cities' core attributes: adequate water supply, assured electricity supply, sanitation, robust IT connectivity and sustainable environment.
Synergies between many of these attributes can be realised through the use of SII, assured electricity supply and sustainable environment for instance. Solar power,especially rooftop solar, is expected to have a significant rolein generating the smart cities' electricity. According to some estimates solar will account for ten per cent of the new cities' power. Solar power has a much lower environmental impact than fossil fuels.
Distributed generation such as rooftop solar, however, can have a profound impact on daily demand curves. SII, in the form of distribution automation, can provide an excellent way to integrate power from renewable and traditional sources, by scheduling each energy source to optimise value.
Generating energy from waste, typically through the anaerobic digestion of solid waste and sewage, is another way of reducing the environmental impact of power generation. Turning waste into a valuable resourcealso supports the Swachh Bharat agenda. As a result waste-to-energy is also likely to play a meaningful role in powering the smart cities. Meeting the energy demands of an area served by a single fossil fuel power station typically requires numerous, smaller waste-to-energy power stations. SII will be needed to ensurethe efficiency and viability of this kind of large scale distributed generation model.
A further way to enhance the environmental performance of the smart cities is through greater use of gas fuelled power stations for baseload generation. Compared to the average emissions from coal-fired generation, natural gas produces half as much carbon dioxide, less than a third as much nitrogen oxides, and one percent as much sulphur oxides - according to the US Environmental Protection Agency.
Of the three fossil fuels, natural gas offers power station operators the shortest start-up time. This means a gas-fired power station can quickly provide extra electricity when there is an increase in demand. This makes gas a sound baseload partner for solar generation, with the former able to respond quickly to fill gaps in the intermittent generation profile of the latter - using smart distribution and monitoring systems to match supply with demand.
The use of smart distribution networks will also contribute to the smart city goal of an assured electricity supply by helping reduce transmission and distribution (T&D) losses. India's T&D losses as a proportion of electricity output are among the highest in the world. Smart metering will help identify the sources of losses such as electricity theft, meter tampering, faulty meters.
Smart metering will also help with the provision of an adequate water supply. Currently 40-50 percent of the water entering India's distribution networks is lost. This is due largely to leakage and unauthorised connections. As well as wasting a precious resource these losses are also non-revenue water, for which the utility is unable to recover the costs of treatment and supply. High levels of non-revenue water hampers investment in water infrastructure.
Smart metering is a highly successfully way of identifying accurately how much water is being lost, where leaks are occurring, and the location of unauthorised connections to the distributionnetwork. This information helps preserve a stressed natural resource and increase the income available to invest in water infrastructure.
While trade missions and expressions of corporate interest abound, concrete manifestations of the Smart Cities Mission are less obvious. This, and the absence of a prescriptive smart city definition, sometimes impartsthe undertaking with a sense of opacity. There is no doubt, however, that the mission is gathering momentum.
Announcing the first 20 areas to receive government funding will be a highly visible milestone. Behind the scenes, meanwhile, the country mobilising, as TimesJobs' COO, Vivek Madhukar noted in September, "The government's push to create 100 smart cities comprising modern digitally-connected infrastructure had an impact on hiring activity in India Inc., with a rise in demand for key personnel in the infrastructure industry, and across Tier-II cities."