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To be sustainable, an urban energy system must meet the needs of current urban populations without compromising the city’s livability – including mobility, health, and safety – or the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Modern sustainable urban energy systems generally are integrated multi-fueled energy systems that incorporate energy efficiency, renewable energy, and demand side management. Specific technologies and practices utilized in today’s sustainable urban energy systems include energy efficient buildings and transportation systems, district energy (both heating and cooling) systems, distributed energy systems, and smart grids.

Source: Arup – Five minutes guide: Energy in Cities (

The combination and scale of measures and technologies used by different cities’ energy systems depend on the local resources and demands of the city. Urban energy systems that effectively integrate electricity and thermal energy (including from renewable sources), and incorporate controls and communication technologies to maximize demand side energy efficiency, have several advantages over traditional energy systems.  These include:

  • Adaptability to changes in fuel availability;
  • More effective utilization of low-value surplus energy and renewable energy;
  • Flexible integration of intermittent renewable energy (e.g., through energy storage and co-/tri-generation); and
  • Reduction in peak loads.

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