Words of welcome of the State Premier of North Rhine-Westphalia, Armin Laschet

E-world energy & water is one of the most important meeting points and market places in Europe, where innovative solutions for the energy of the future are being presented and discussed. I am delighted that E-world energy & water has chosen “Smart City” as a thematic focus, a topic that is becoming increasingly important for a federal state such as North Rhine-Westphalia which is rich in metropolitan areas. “Smart City”, this means the employment of new information and communication technologies for the purpose of an integrated urban development that pursues two objectives: Creating climate-friendly cities with a higher living standard for their residents and at the same time increasing the competitiveness of the domestic economy. Cities in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, Europe and across the globe are already confronted with the question of how to cope with the increasing traffic density and simultaneously reduce air pollution or how to contribute to climate protection in a drastically changing energy market.

Previous concepts are reaching their limits. However, the transport sector is probably the most impressive reference for showing what is possible with digital technologies. Smart solutions – ranging from app-based digital services for connecting different means of transport to autonomous driving – will change the transport sector fundamentally in the next years and decades and ease the situation on the streets significantly. Just like many other cities in North Rhine-Westphalia, the capital city of Düsseldorf, with about 300,000 commuters every day, has launched a smart city project to reduce step by step the daily rush hour traffic with the help of intermodular route planning and digital traffic control. The state of North Rhine-Westphalia actively supports the municipalities in implementing innovative mobility concepts. Within the scope of the project “Emissionsfreie Innenstadt”, the state government of North Rhine-Westphalia provides 80 million euros for 2017 and 2018. In addition, the expansion of charging station infrastructure as part of the “Sofortprogramm Elektromobilität” is supported with 20 million euros.

In the context of smart city solutions and advancing sector coupling, the energy industry will also deal with the topic of mobility, for example concerning the question of how electric cars can be used as power storage systems. One of the key challenges for the energy industry will be the management of an energy system which is getting more and more complex – where the sectors electricity, heat supply and mobility keep on growing together - by using smart solutions.

North Rhine-Westphalia already offers an extensive testing ground for that. The project “100 Climate Protection Housing Estates in North Rhine-Westphalia”, for example, is designed to only deploy supply options which are particularly innovative and energy-efficient and thus contribute noticeably to climate protection. Learning from each other is enormously important to us. As a result, Bottrops’ experience as InnovationCity with innovative energy technologies and intelligent coupling solutions will now be transferred to 20 neighborhoods and customized individually.

However, in order to actually turn cities into “smart” places, we need a concerted effort by companies and local authorities together with federal and state level politics to support this innovation process actively. The state government of North Rhine-Westphalia will therefore support, among other things, the potential of digitization in the energy sector with new programs to promote specific projects, such as sector coupling and smart networks, on a regional and local level.

There are many things left to do. I am convinced: Together we will succeed in founding a lot of new “Smart Cities” in our state. In this regard I wish you a successful E-world energy & water 2018!

Armin Laschet
State Premier of North Rhine-Westphalia

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