Siemens to Build ‘Urban Sustainability Hub’ in Chinese Smart City

Siemens says it will build a new “Smart Eco Technology Demonstration Center” at a smart city currently under development in southern China. It will be the company’s first urban sustainability hub in the Asia-Pacific region.

Siemens will develop the demonstration center jointly with Sino-Singapore Guangzhou Knowledge City Investment and Development Co., the master developer of Sino-Singapore Guangzhou Knowledge City (SSGKC). The 47 square mile planned city is under construction near Guangzhou, the port city northwest of Hong Kong.

The demonstration center is meant to allow both Chinese and foreign technology companies “to exchange business ideas and showcase new generation information and communications technology (ICT), smart technologies, intelligent transportation, renewable energy and green technologies,” the developers say in a statement.

The center is set to be completed by 2020 and will meet green-building standards such as the U.S.’s LEED Platinum rating and China’s Three-Star label. It will include exhibition areas that will “showcase the future of public services and infrastructure in areas of sustainable transportation, building technology, electricity and water supply, as well as healthcare,” the statement says. In that sense it will be similar to The Crystal, the Siemens building in East London that houses similar exhibitions of sustainable technology.

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The hub “will further enhance SSGKC’s leading position as a model for smart eco-cities in the region, enabling it to contribute significantly to galvanizing the sustainability movement in Asia,” says Ng Kok Siong, CEO of the GKC development company.

The company is a joint venture between the Gangzhou Development District Administrative Committee and Singbridge, a Singaporean development company whose parent firm is partially owned by Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund.

When completed, the Knowledge City will have a population of about 500,000, official estimate. Its office parks and towers will host a range of international companies, including those in the clean energy, technology and biotech industries.

The city’s basic infrastructure is mostly finished. “We are expecting businesses and residents to settle in by the end of 2016,” Ng says.

Officials from Siemens and SSGKC signed a memorandum of understanding related to the new technology hub at the World Cities Summit conference in Singapore. Following are some of the other announcements and deals — from companies and groups ranging from Citigroup and the World Bank to Engie and Hewlett Packard — disclosed at that conference and at two related gatherings: Singapore International Water Week and the CleanEviro Summit Singapore.

Citi, Siemens Detail New Methods to Finance Climate Change Adaptation

Cities around the world need to invest a combined $57 trillion in their infrastructure to combat the effects of climate change, experts estimate. That figure isn’t going to be covered by taxpayers alone — it will take the combined efforts of national and city governments, banks, and the private sector to pay that huge tab.

A new report from Siemens, Citibank and the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, unveiled at the World Cities Summit, seeks to help cities figure out the best way to cover the costs. The 132-page report, “New Perspectives on Climate Finance for Cities,” goes in-depth on the financing options that are available as cities look to fund climate change programs and projects in cities. The report also details what cities must do to access the different types of climate finance, as well as the lessons that cities have already learned from funding climate projects.

The joint report “provides a springboard for urgently-needed financing solutions and captures the synergistic efforts of the most innovative climate actions taken by cities around the world,” says Martin Powell, head of urban development at Siemens Global Center of Competence for Cities.

Six financing mechanisms get a detailed look in the report: green bonds, equity capital, international and regional climate funds, city government-backed funds, international financial institutions and agency finance, and emission trading programs. The report discusses the benefits and challenges of each type of financing, and discusses the likely finance providers for each category.

“New financing models can support sustainable infrastructure development and corresponding investments in cities,” says Kenneth Hsi Jung Koo, deputy general manager and Citi chief representative at Citi Orient Securities. “The key is to understand and embrace new approaches to infrastructure and devise enabling financing solutions that will benefit each city according to its specific needs and economic situation.”

The report is available for download here.

Water Researchers to Come Together at Chinese Water Research Hub

A growing number of water researchers are joining forces at an under-development water research hub that energy and water company Sembcorp is building in eastern China, the company announced.

The Nanjing International Water Hub is slated to open in 2018 and is intended to be a place here companies, with support from research institutions, can “test bed and validate innovative water technologies,” so that they can be brought to market “in China and beyond,” says Tan Cheng Guan, a Sembcorp executive vice president and head of group business development and commercial.

The center “will feature fully-equipped R&D facilities, business and conference space, and bring together leading investors and operators of water facilities, technology and R&D providers, government agencies, academia and research institutions, to create a vibrant industry eco-system,” the Sembcorp announcement says.

Companies with a presence at the hub “will also have the opportunity to test bed their new solutions at Sembcorp’s many water facilities across China,” which should lead to “the rapid commercialization of innovative water technologies, and offer water companies enhanced access to opportunities in both the Chinese and global markets.”

Two Chinese state-level research institutes signed on to the hub, according to an announcement Sembcorp made at the Singapore International Water Week conference. They are the National Engineering Research Centre for Special Separation Membranes, which is affiliated with Nanjing Tech University and specializes in the application of membrane solutions for industrial and wastewater treatment, and the National Environment Protection Organic Chemical Wastewater Treatment and Recycling Engineering Centre, a Nanjing University-affiliated organization that’s known for its expertise in wastewater treatment and water reclamation.

The two water research institutes will help the hub create a “vibrant eco-system for water players,” Sembcorp says. They will undertake research and development while also offering “technical consultancy services to companies operating there, especially for test bedding and validation of water technologies,” the announcement says. “In addition, they plan to collaborate with the water hub to hold industry events and seminars, as well as to place promising university students in internships there.”

Other groups that also intend to have a presence at the hub include the National University of Singapore’s Centre for Water Research and Singapore’s national water agency, PUB. Officials from the participating organizations are already in talks to establish academic exchanges such as post-doctorate R&D exchange programs between NUS and the two Nanjing universities.

Inst’l Investors Commit $300M to Water Infrastructure Fund

Resonance, a real assets investment management firm, announced the third close of its Resonance Industrial Water Infrastructure fund after securing commitments of $300 million from six institutional investors from the U.S, U.K. and Europe. The fund finances industrial water infrastructure projects in Europe, China, southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand.

The firm plans to build a portfolio of 10 to 15 water assets across those regions. Each project will be between $10 million and $50 million, Resonance says.

Industrial companies are finding it beneficial to outsource  water treatment because it reduces capital expenses and transfers operating risk, Resonance says. “Demand for outsourced water treatment services is being driven by increasing government regulation of discharged water and by water scarcity,” says Resonance CEO Nick Woods. Woods, the former CEO of Man Group’s Man Environmental Capital Opportunities, founded Resonance in 2012. “In certain regions, industrial businesses are increasingly concerned that they cannot obtain enough water to operate their facilities reliably. Firms continue to invest in new facilities to meet these challenges.”

Investors in the fund include BAE Systems Pension Funds Investment Management and Swedish pension AP1. Mikael Angberg, CIO of AP1, says the Resonance investment  is part of AP1’s commitment to a sustainable investment: “Water scarcity and water treatment issues are cornerstones of AP1’s resource efficiency-focused sustainability strategy,” he says. “We are therefore very excited to be partnering with Resonance in the first institutional fund exclusively focused on financing industrial water infrastructure projects.”

“We have had a lot of interest from institutional investors in this opportunity,” says Phil Peters, managing director at Fidante Partners Europe, which partners with Resonance on the fund. “Pension funds, endowments, and funds with an ESG policy are looking for strong investment ideas, and this appeals because of the water industry’s investment characteristics and growth potential. Real assets continue to be an area of growth for us.”

London-based Resonance oversees $450 million in renewable energy and water treatment assets.

Engie Creates Clean Energy Research Center in Singapore

French energy giant Engie has created a green-energy research and development center in Singapore, called Engie Labs Singapore, the company announced. It will “act as a regional hub for energy innovation and technology in Southeast Asia,” with a focus on three areas: smart distributed energy systems for cities and islands; industrial energy efficiency; and new gas-related technologies.

The new lab will “support and collaborate with the Engie entities that are already established in the region,” the company says. CEO Isabelle Kocher says the lab is “a key milestone of the development strategy of Engie in Southeast Asia to support the transition to low-carbon energy sources.”

Engie already has about 1,600 employees in Singapore, in functions ranging from power generation and energy services to energy trading and research. Engie Lab Singapore marks the eleventh Engie Lab worldwide and the first in the Asia-Pacific region..

““We are pleased that Engie is growing its activities in Singapore, across the energy services, power generation and energy trading businesses,” says Ben Swan Gin, chairman of the Singapore Economic Development Board. “Engie’s decision to establish its first Asia-Pacific research centre in Singapore is testament to our strong base of capabilities that can enable companies to develop, test and commercialise innovative urban solutions to serve Asia and beyond.”

Canadian Water Researcher Honored for Career of Water Research

A Canadian hydrogeologist and water researcher has been awarded the prestigious Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize for his efforts to protect groundwater resources around the world. John Cherry, a distinguished professor emeritus at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, was awarded the prize, which includes a cash award of S$300,000 (about $220,000), at a ceremony at the Singapore International Water Week conference.

Cherry’s research in hydrogeology “has provided the global groundwater community with a better scientific framework to formulate policies and best practices,” the prize committee said in announcing the award. “The effect of his contributions have also established new models for public-private partnerships for groundwater research.”

Cherry also developed water monitoring technologies and clean-up processes that have been implemented in areas with groundwater contamination, including sites in the U.S., China and Brazil. And he has been vocal about the need to monitor and research the effects on groundwater of shale gas exploitation and fracking.

“His knowledge in fractured rock hydrology and rock drilling has contributed towards the supply of safe drinking water to people living in mountainous bedrock regions with limited vehicle access,” the announcement said. Cherry is also “currently leading an international team to acquire and test small, low-cost portable rock drills to make small-capacity wells that are designed to have a low risk of bacterial contamination.”

Named after Singapore’s first prime minister, the Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize was first awarded in 2008. It’s meant to honor individuals or organizations that make big strides towards solving global water problems through innovative technologies or new policies and programs.

Hewlett Packard Extends Smart City Efforts to Asia

Hewlett Packard Enterprise is extending its Future City Initiative to Japan and the Asia-Pacific region, the company announced. The program is aimed at helping governments and the private sector implement smart city solutions to a range of social problems and other urban challenges.

The extension of the program to the region “will accelerate the development and deployment of solutions that improve quality of life, drive economic growth, and create sustainable communities,” says Suparno Banerjee, vice president for public sector strategic programs at Hewlett Packard Enterprise. The Future City Initiative leans on “four pillars” for its efforts: big data, the cloud, mobility and security, the company says.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise has applied its services and technology to numerous civic programs around the world, including using big data to assist New Zealand’s Auckland Transport in making traffic flow better, and improving communication between Anaheim, Calif. city employees and residents.

The company has also deployed “eHealth Centers” in India, the Philippines and Bhutan. These medical clinics offer primary healthcare via diagnostic equipment and cloud-enabled technology to resource-poor communities.

In Japan and Asia-Pacific, the Future Cities Initiative will initially focus on using the company’s Internet of Things capabilities to test and deliver smart city solutions and helping governments build “consolidated, integrated hybrid infrastructure platforms as the backbone for delivering core services to citizens,” the company says in a statement.

It will also work to expand the eHealth Center program to additional sites.

World Bank Report Offers Tips on Regenerating Urban Areas

A new report from the World Bank offers case studies and examples of how cities can redevelop run-down areas, using policy levers and a variety of financial approaches to help encourage private sector investment in regeneration projects.

The report, titled “Regenerating urban land: a practitioner’s guide to leveraging private investment,” notes that cities typically must turn to the private sector to help fund urban redevelopment projects, and outlines policies and financial instruments that governments may want to consider to help attract private sector investment in such projects.

Case studies include how Ahmedabad, India, created a development corporation to reclaim 200 hectares of large informal settlements along the Sabarmati River, resettling the residents and transforming the land into public parks. The report also details how Santiago, Chile used a national housing subsidy to encourage the repopulation of the inner city, which had lost 50 perecent of its  population and 33 percent of its housing stock between 1950 and 1990; the $138 million subsidy encouraged the eventual private investment of $3 billion.

The World Bank released the 479-page report on the sidelines of the World Cities Summit. It’s available through this link.


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