Clean-Tech Corporate Living

Keywords: Ecological modernisation; price-driven efficiency; circular economy; service economy; clean technology.

Key emission reductions: Product and production-process energy efficiency and carbon-intensity improvements.

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This is a city of clean and efficient production, a model for the application of circular economy principles and clean-tech innovation. International agreements on limits to greenhouse gases quickly redirected market competition towards innovation for triple bottom line success, particularly for the shift from fossil fuel to renewable forms of energy.

Large, for-profit companies with the resources to invest in innovation have become the primary actors in the economy. Significant decarbonisation of the city has been achieved principally through a focus on changing production systems and product design and the adoption of low-carbon clean technologies, with only minimal changes in consumption patterns (where necessary) to accommodate the new production and product systems. The private sector owns and manages most of the city infrastructure from energy supply to transport and building technologies to water. Even biodiversity and green spaces are privately owned, deriving revenue from charging for access along with government payments for ecosystem services delivered.

“By 2040 autonomous vehicles should be prevalent. So the way that we occupy our road systems and the way that we use our transport networks will radically change and that will have a major impact on what we use the spaces within our cities for” – Andrew Maher, ex-Arup now at Aurecon

The 80% reduction in greenhouse emissions has been achieved through decarbonisation of the electricity system, substitution of electricity for other forms of renewable energy (e.g. wind, solar PV), high energy efficient products and a substantial increase in the service sector. Electricity is now more than 95% renewable even though consumption of electricity has grown. Renewable energy generation involves rooftop PV and surface PV cladding of buildings (with a high proportion provided by corporate companies as a leasing arrangement) and the adoption of bladeless wind generation in the lower density suburbs; however most electricity still comes from large-scale wind, solar and geothermal plants beyond the city boundaries.

“Hopefully roofs will all be ‘cool roofs’ by then [2040], which stops heat getting into the building by reflecting more sun and also has feedback effects like reducing air conditioning load and making ventilated air a lot cooler. I expect there’ll be a proliferation of whiter roofs, those technologies will become essential. The ultra cool roofs I’m working on do that in the extreme, and any heat that comes from anywhere else they also pump out. The albedo is close to 100 per cent, which is possible through the design of the materials” – Professor Geoff Smith

Technology is focused on delivering highly energy efficient products and related services. The services sector is large including, for example, a diverse range of products for the efficient management of buildings, energy, food, water, transport and waste from a carbon emissions perspective. Transport involves a mix of private vehicles, privately owned and run public transport (trams, buses and trains) and competing smart driverless taxi pods; the majority of all transport is electric powered, with some use of biofuels. High bandwidth communication has seen the creation of small business hubs for information based service businesses across the suburbs as well as local telework centres.

Information technology has helped to create a city that is smart and efficient. Competing investment in the ‘internet of things’ has been significant with the sale of privately held data now a significant contribution to GDP. Corporate competition in smart city technologies is a feature of life for citizens as multiple services from different companies compete to build their exclusive customer base. Robots and automation have reduced labour costs in many areas of production and service provision.

Within the mix of products and services, the economic identity of the city is strongly consumerist, profit oriented and individualistic, with wealth, status and economic growth as a societal priority. However, there is a continued shift towards casualised labour with decreasing job security and the proportion of citizens in full-time work. Inequality of income, wealth and power is large, tempered only by the need to suppress social unrest. Government provides essential infrastructure for corporate activity and works with business to target a light level of regulation to ensure that yearly emission reduction targets are achieved.

“Some people in Arup have been talking about the systems within buildings and the possibility of manufacturers putting the components they supply on lease agreements. Would you get a different set of behaviours if the systems in buildings were retrofitted and owned by a company and they would be monitoring and maintaining them all the time?” – Andrew Maher, ex-Arup now at Aurecon