EXPERT INTERVIEW
Brigitte Bach

Brigitte Bach
Head of Energy Department, AIT Austrian Institute of Technology
Video (in german): Waldhör KG

You are active as an expert in international research initiatives in the Smart City field. What are the objectives of the European activities in this research area?

For radical innovations to be feasible long-term, clear strategies in research and development are essential. One key instrument is the EU’s Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET-Plan), which will shape its energy R&D policy up to 2050 and beyond. In this strategy for developing and disseminating renewable energy technologies Smart Cities are an important issue, and numerous independent initiatives and programmes are already focussed on it; Austria takes an active part in several of these, for instance in the European Innovation Partnership (EIP) for Smart Cities and Communities, the Joint Programming Initiative Urban Europe or the Joint Programme Smart Cities within the framework of the European Energy Research Alliance (EERA).

Which are the most promising strategies for making a city more energy-efficient?

At all infrastructure levels efficiency can be massively increased – for example by making more use of urban sources of waste heat, such as industrial processes, by renovating existing buildings thermally or by accelerating the adoption of the passive-house standard for new buildings. It is equally important to tie in energy systems based on renewables in urban areas, by integrating PV modules, solar collectors or even wind turbines in residential, office or industrial buildings much more. In the long term this will transform buildings into energy-surplus facilities which produce more energy than they consume and can feed power into the grid. In the long run they will thus develop into active players in the overall energy system. In future, though, these developments will make it necessary to control and direct two-way flows of energy in line with supply and demand.

How can individual elements be successfully combined to yield integrated complete systems for cities?

The Smart City of the future must be considered, much more than it is today, as an overall system in which buildings and industry must be taken into account just as much as energy supply, the heat and power grids and the transport facilities. Here e.g. electric-powered vehicles will play an ever more important part. Concrete implementation in pilot projects focussed on pioneering design and intelligent operation of the entire urban energy system will lay the foundation stone for more energy efficiency and sustainability.

Brigitte Bach is active in international research initiatives in the Smart City field. In March 2016 she was re-elected chair of the Advisory Group on Energy – this body of topflight experts advises the EU Commission on the strategic organization of energy research.