Smart cities and the challenges of energy transition

04.11.2020
The Repsol Foundation and the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid organized an online conference where they analyzed, along with various experts and public Administration representatives, the key role cities play in fighting climate change and inequality and how they can promote sustainable development within the framework of energy transition.
Smart cities and the challenges of energy transition

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The conference started off with a greeting by António Calçada, executive managing director of the Repsol Foundation, and César Giner, co-director of the Master’s program on Business Legal Advising at the Universidad Carlos III.

The first round table was focused on “Urban development and smart energy” and included the participation of Alfonso Vegara, president of Fundación Metrópoli; Martha Thorne, dean of the IE School of Architecture and Design; Joan Clos, president of ASVAL (association for owners of rental homes) and former mayor of Barcelona; Alfonso Gil, president of the Commission on Transportation, Sustainable Mobility, and Road Safety for the Spanish Federation of Municipalities and Provinces; Rocío Martínez-Sampere, director of the Felipe González Foundation; and Alejandro Oliva, director of Strategy and Planning at Repsol.

All of the speakers stressed the importance of joint action between public Administration, the private sector, and citizens in order to make headway on the sustainability challenges for cities of the future.

Despite having different points of view on how best to approach this, they all agreed that cities are fundamental in the energy transition process, where it's necessary to act on different fronts, including mobility, energy efficiency, and responsible consumption, without losing sight of any social and environmental impacts.

Along these lines, Alejandro Oliva stressed that “in order to achieve more sustainable cities, we must foster all alternatives; the solution must be multi-energetic.

Following that, the second round table titled “Supercities and energy” included contributions from José Luis Martínez-Almeida, mayor of Madrid; Juan Espadas, mayor of Seville; Juan Mari Aburto, mayor of Bilbao; Abel Caballero, mayor of Vigo; and Gema Igual, mayor of Santander.

José Luis Martínez-Almeida mentioned the measures enacted in Madrid for addressing mobility challenges, including, among others, building up public transportation with 46 new kilometers of bus routes, 50 new municipal bicycle renting stations, and a plan to remove the most polluting vehicles from the city center by 2025.

Juan Espadas pointed out the role of cities in the fight against climate change: “we must make profound transformation one of our goals throughout the decade, to be reached before 2030.” Along this line, he highlighted two main challenges: “rehabilitation and optimization of housing and public buildings according to energy efficiency criteria and a redesign of mobility.

Juan Mari Aburto discussed the City Hall of Bilbao's dedication to improving the city's environmental quality with a threefold commitment: using less energy, supporting technology that reduces emissions, and creating urban laboratories for testing innovative technology.

Abel Caballero underscored the importance of achieving sustainable urban mobility through urban development strategies, like the "Vigo Vertical" project, in order to make connections between the various nuclei of the city possible.

During the event, Gema Igual laid out different sustainability measures that have been carried out in her city to promote energy efficiency, highlighting the renovation of all public lighting in Santander by substituting more than 22,000 street lights that led to an energy savings of more than 65%.

And lastly, Antonio Brufau, chairman of Repsol, and Juan Romo, rector of the Universidad Carlos III, concluded the event.

The Repsol chairman stressed that we must consider the idea of a smart city that addresses sustainability across the board. "That means rethinking not only urban mobility but also housing rehabilitation, accessibility, ports and airports, green spaces, the circular economy, and interconnectivity via hubs,” he stated. 

Modernization of cities and the creation of so-called smart cities, he noted, occurs with the integration of three main agendas: the green agenda enacted across the board, the digital agenda, and energy transition. In this context, Brufau underscored that “in order to address all of this, we need to leverage our industry and infrastructure as a strong starting point by supporting technological neutrality as an indispensable key to building environmentally, socially, and economically-inclusive and sustainable cities.”

Juan Romo pointed out that we are in a digital era in which cities play a dominant role and represent a great opportunity for citizens. He also highlighted the role of universities in complying with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as institutions that promote social and environmentally-sustainable innovation.

Repsol Foundation conference series

This event is part of the Repsol Foundation's conference series to promote knowledge and rigorous debate surrounding the challenges of the future of energy. Debates and the exchange of views between key organizations on the energy transition are encouraged through different formats, with the objective of rigorously addressing various challenges in terms of energy and sustainability

Thanks to the participation of experts from various fields, we can delve deeper into key aspects related to energy transition, like new technologies for CO2 emissions reduction, sustainable mobility, circular economy, energy efficiency, and natural climate solutions.

For more information on other events, visit our meetings space.