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ICEF 1st. Annual Meeting Summary: Concurrent Session - Smart Community
Following the presentations, a panel discussion among the speakers was held, focusing on three questions. In response to the first question on how the smart community can contribute to climate change issues, one speaker stressed that the key to smart community impact on carbon reduction is through changing the behavior of the consumer. Another speaker highlighted the fact that the legacy grid must be modernized in order to cope with the increase in renewable generation and its integration into the system, with particular attention needing to be paid to the practicalities of connecting to the low- and medium-voltage grid. Echoing this point, a different speaker noted that in order to have a stable and reliable grid, it is necessary to look at how non-renewable and renewable energy can co-exist and work together as a whole. It was also pointed out that in order to facilitate demand response and power-saving, it is important to consider how to utilize incentives to lead consumers into taking action.
Turning to the next question, regarding who will become the leader to realize the smart community, one speaker suggested that instead of specialists, “advanced generalists” will be required to enable the cooperation for building a new system among the energy suppliers, the system design organization, and the community coordinator. A different panelist stated that it is necessary to recognize there are multi-stakeholder groups involved in the creation of a culture that allows the smart community to come into being, and also that leadership is most effective coming from a local champion. Another panelist emphasized the importance of changes in education of the public, so that citizens understand more clearly the system approach and its consequences. Yet another panelist re-framed the question in terms of leadership at the global stage, responding that is not clear whether it will be one country that stands out, or the UN, or a global company in the private sector.
On the last question – what should be done to achieve a high degree of consumer engagement in the smart community – the first respondent proposed figuring out what incentivizes consumers and then engaging in a way that best brings together that combination of incentives to trigger a change. Another speaker underscored that involving the consumer requires national planning and national investment, because there is a limit to the amount of investment that privately held or publicly listed utilities can make. A different speaker noted the common theme across different developing and developed countries of encouraging consumers to voluntarily take on these initiatives through levels of incentives targeted first at the community or city level.
In conclusion, each panelist offered brief closing remarks, summing up the following central messages: The key of involving the consumers in realizing the smart community; the importance of innovation with consumer engagement, as well as the outstanding problem of intellectual property ownership, which will be a barrier to the investment flows required for the change; the necessity not only of smart meters and smart communities, but also of smart regulation; and the complexity and time involved in changing social systems, even though we are running out of time.