The Mayor of Ãvora, Carlos Pinto de SÃ¡, reflects on the expectations, challenges and vision of Ãvora on the path to energy transition
How will the POCITYF smart city project transform Ãvora? Can you explain the main impacts you expect from the implementation of the project?
With POCITYF, for the city of Ãvora, the major challenges are to increase the penetration of renewable energy sources (RES), to increase the energy efficiency and self-consumption of buildings, in particular in the city center. history, and increase the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs).
POCITYF’s demonstration activities in Ãvora will take place in three positive energy blocks: 1) the city center of Ãvora, 2) Aldeia de Valverde and 3) the industrial and commercial park of Ãvora. Each presents challenges and opportunities for achieving positive overall annual energy performance. The historic center of Ãvora, a World Heritage Site, represents the main challenge with the implementation of innovative solutions and at the same time ensuring the preservation of the facades and roofs of buildings, taking into account a more sustainable future. With POCITYF, we hope that Ãvora can be an example of how it is possible to overcome these challenges for many European cities with a strong historical heritage.
From your point of view, what is the most innovative solution that will be implemented in Ãvora?
POCITYF will implement a considerable number of different innovative solutions in Ãvora. Some examples: Renewable energy communities; P2P energy exchange platform; Flexibility control algorithms; 2nd life batteries; Prototype EV charger with PV integration; Two-way smart inverters for smart EV and V2G charging; Smart street lights with EV charging and 5G features, etc.
All the solutions are important, but the most interesting solutions for Ãvora are those concerning the implementation of renewable energies produced locally in the historic center. As part of the project, various photovoltaic solutions integrated into municipal buildings will be implemented, which meet the restricted specificities of each building, such as photovoltaic glass, photovoltaic skylights, photovoltaic roofs and traditional photovoltaic tiles.
POCITYF photovoltaic solutions will integrate a self-consumption community made up of producer and consumer buildings, where it will be possible to test new innovative models of energy distribution, in a variable coefficient, depending on the energy produced locally and the needs of instantaneous consumption per building.
We are also developing a community solar farm (on the outskirts of the city) which will serve the historic center. It will allow houses in the historic center that have no chance of installing photovoltaic solutions to have part of the self-consumption of the energy produced in the community solar farm.
We will also have in place a public platform which will allow and facilitate direct energy exchanges between producers and consumers and which will serve as the basis for a sustainable energy community extended to the entire population.
This project is a very important opportunity, because POCITYF’s solutions aim to enable the city and in particular the Historic Center to actively participate in the urgent energy transition.
What are the major challenges for a historic city aiming to become a smart city?
The historic center of Ãvora, being a UNESCO World Heritage Site, involves significant restrictions in terms of the deployment of solutions that modify the facades and even the roofs of buildings, which turns out to be a considerable barrier between the today’s energy landscape and a greener sustainable future.
The Historic Center of Ãvora raises the additional challenge of solutions capable of preserving the city’s cultural heritage. Indeed, all buildings are protected and subject to very strict rules. The implementation of innovative solutions must guarantee the preservation of the heritage value of buildings. Therefore, all work on facades and roofs must in principle ensure that the original fittings and materials are preserved.
The strict rules of the National Authority for Cultural Heritage (DRC) and the Municipality of Ãvora have led us to a more exhaustive analysis and adjustments compared to the solutions initially envisaged.
For example, standard commercial photovoltaic panels are not allowed in the historic center of Ãvora. With POCITYF, specific integrated photovoltaic solutions will be installed in municipal buildings, and will be a first step and will serve as a basis for future photovoltaic installations in buildings in the historic center.
How will citizens be involved in the entire smart transformation process: from the co-design of solutions to their implementation?
The involvement of the population is fundamental. The population of Ãvora was involved in the installation of POCITYF solutions in 11 private homes and in the definition of the solutions to be installed in schools. Citizens were also involved with POCITYF in webinars and workshops. We are preparing co-creation workshops and we will organize an open innovation challenge competition. We will invite citizen communities, such as students and stakeholders, to participate in discussions and specific challenges on smart city, such as positive energy solutions in cultural heritage buildings, smart city services , etc.
What have you learned after two years with POCITYF?
In this first period of the project, involving partners, the population, local agents and local and national authorities, we worked hard with the responsibility and importance necessary to find the best solutions and overcome the obstacles and restrictions in the process. implementation of the project in Ãvora. From the start, we knew that the job was not going to be easy and that the road, despite the hard work required for a project of this magnitude, was not going to be easy.
What is Ãvora’s long-term vision in terms of sustainability and how do you plan to use POCITYF solutions (after the conclusion of the project) to achieve this vision?
The municipal administration of Ãvora considers the environmental issue to be of high political priority. In fact, Ãvora was one of the first Portuguese municipalities to develop a municipal strategy to adapt to climate change.
The great financial constraint to which the Municipality is subject and the substantial increase in energy costs, in addition to environmental issues, reinforce the need to adopt measures that make energy consumption more efficient. In this context, POCITYF is a project that integrates actions aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but also actions which, without affecting these emissions, optimize the financial aspects of the acquisition and use of gas. energy, freeing up resources to other areas. The building and transport sectors are included, distinguishing between actions intended for the population of the municipality and actions exclusively dedicated to municipal heritage.
The engagement with the POCITYF project is in line with the strategy and the commitments that the municipality of Ãvora has defined to face climate change and ensure the environmental sustainability of the territory. POCITYF is an ongoing international project of great importance, in which Ãvora plays one of the most important roles, among other ongoing projects in the municipality, of different natures and magnitudes, focused on climate change and the theme of environmental sustainability.
How have your city’s sustainability plans been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
The municipality of Ãvora considers the environmental issue to be more important, alongside the fight against the pandemic crisis. Indeed, the current slogan of the activity of the Municipality is: “fight against the pandemic crisis, act for a better environment, promote a sustainable Municipality”.
The pandemic has had a major impact on the conduct of municipal activities and sustainability plans have also been affected. Due to the restrictions imposed by the government and the national health authority in the fight against the pandemic, many works in progress have been delayed and hampered. The POCITYF project, unfortunately, was no exception and delays resulting from pandemic restrictions were inevitable. All face-to-face activities and meetings have been suspended or limited. On the other hand, the partners of POCITYF who develop the technological solutions to be implemented have also seen their plans affected due to delays in the materials and components required. In any case, as a team, we have done everything to overcome the difficulties caused by the pandemic and have continued all the work using mainly online meetings.
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