Overall, half of the total global population live in urban areas with variations of percentage share among regions. In India, about 460 million (around 34 per cent) people are living in urban areas, which is expected to be increased up to 600 million by 2030 and probably stabilised at 814 million by 2050. India’s plan of developing 100 smart cities and 500 Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) cities within five years appears appropriate as sustainable and inclusive urbanisation are becoming essential for this rapidly urbanising nation (rate of urbanisation exceeding world average).
A smart city is expected to integrate the capabilities of ICTs (information and communication technologies inclusive of Artificial Intelligence and automation) to improve the quality of life and services, efficiency of operations, meeting rational needs of economic and social aspirations to keep the earth sustainably habitable forever. Practically, it is expected to bring positive changes in all aspects including comfortable living (equipped with basic amenities, healthcare, waste disposal and sanitation), governance (efficient and transparent functioning of local administrations to serve its people keeping environment intact), education (opportunity to acquire completeness and intellectual nurturing as residents of a city), economy (enabling to avail economic opportunities that the city offers), mobility (safer and easier movement for all) and environment (no additional pollution loading and ensures required air and water quality). Thus, smart cities is a modern and holistic concept for economic and sustainable development where resource management would play critical role.
Electricity is key for success of smart cities projects
Financial resources, innovative tools and technologies coupled with competent human resources are fundamental requirements for a sustainable and successful smart cities project. However, among all, reliable supply of electricity is essential for success of each and every aspects of smart cities project as mentioned in the previous section. The intensity of electricity demand vis-à-vis consumption vary among the regions due to spatially varying attributes. For example, HVAC is a major component of domestic electrical loads which is climate dependent. Similarly, prevailing modes and pattern of transport services would also govern the amount of electricity demand. The per capita annual electricity consumption (kWh/person/year) data of six developed nations, which may be considered as the reflection of the level of electricity consumptions of six smart cities located in these nations, are presented in Table 1. The level of electricity consumption is substantially higher than average consumption in India. Human Development Index (HDI), which encompasses several attributes concerning the nature of living and facilities, is a universally accepted index to measure the quality of life. Similarly, SCI (Smart City Index) parameter is also used to indicate the fulfillment of objectives of smart cities project. Thus, higher level electricity is pre-requisite for better quality of living and it is better to plan additional generation from renewable sources for country like India.
Clean and smart electricity
Higher rates of GHG emissions through the conventional resources (coal based thermal power plant) strongly justify the needs of switching over to clean resources such as solar, wind, biomass etc for power generation. Besides reducing carbon emission, other benefits of renewable resources include the capability of decentralised generation. The rapid advent of ICT integrated control system including micro-grid could make RE as right candidate for smart cities project. Intelligent micro grid based solar power and electrical mode of vehicular mobility are anticipated to provide added advantages for smart cities projects in India. Ambitious concept of upgrading conventional electricity grids to ICT enabled National Electricity-Internet comprising of prosumers (producer cum consumer) integrated electricity-intranet (micro-grid) are started incubating. The residents of smart cities could play roles of consumer (domestic consumption), manager (storing at EV battery and supplying to micro grid as per need) and producer (rooftop generation) and thus, participate in the innovative electricity intranet.
Looking at the various renewable energy options, India can take advantage of its huge biomass, solar and wind resources potential. Being situated in the tropics, India receives annual solar insolation of 5000 TWh or 4-7 kWh per square meter per day. The country has potential to harness about 750 gigawatts of solar power through grid-connected and off-grid installation of solar panels. Against the Government of India’s target of 175 GW renewable power by 2022, country has installed 17 GW of solar power so far and several solar plants of hundreds of megawatts size are under construction. To achieve the ambitious targets of additional RE based generation, the regional level assessment and planning are essential. The electricity planning for proposed smart cities in different parts of India should also examine the regional renewable energy based inventories.
Smart cities project and existing electricity consumption status among northeastern region
The obvious disparity of electricity consumption (Figure 1) among the Indian regions has been a serious concern for the planner as positive correlation between electricity consumption and HDI has been conclusively evidenced. Consuming only about 392 unit per annum, the people of northeastern states are living well below the development (less than 800 kWh unit per capita per annum is considered lower HDI). Moreover, experts suggest the requirements of a minimum of 1,850 unit of electricity for each citizen to ensure a reasonable standard of living. Inadequate local generation capability has been considered as one of the major reasons of deficient consumption in NE India.
Thus, not only for the proposed smart cities project as listed in Table 2, but also for the welfare of the entire population, northeastern India should target increase in electricity generation capacities through sustainable means such as solar and biomass. The large hydro power, though marked as potential, could not be capitalised due to several socio-political reasons.
Renewable energy resource Potential of NE India
Favourable solar insolation almost in all parts (Figure 2) over major period of the year make solar PV generation an advantageous option for the northeastern region. Both rooftop and medium scale centralised generation, integrated with smart micro-grid could be useful to support smart cities project in NE.
Fours feasible renewable energy resources viz, solar, biomass, small hydro and wind are considered to estimate the renewable electricity generation potentials among the nine northeastern states and presented in Table 3 using standard procedure.
A total of 106.8 BU of annual electricity generation from RE sources is possible in NE India dominating by solar energy based electricity generation (75 per cent). State of Assam is capable of generating more than 33 BU of renewable electricity (26.6 BU from solar) annually.
In general, electricity demand ranging from 82 BU (in the year 2019) to 101 BU (in the year 2050) is estimated to meet 2,000 kWh/capita (aiming HDI of 0.8) for the entire population of for NE India. Doubling the expected level of energy consumption up to 4,000 kWh, the demand would further increase up to 184 BU (2019) and 226 BU (2050). Thus, the potentials of combined renewable energy resources from solar, biomass, small hydro and wind are found capable to contribute substantially for electricity demand of NE states. However, considering the global status of energy consumed by smart cities (Table 1), the regional renewable energy resource potential might not be adequate to support fully the electricity demand for its smart cities.