The implementation process of an integrated infrastructure can be accompanied with many difficulties. Partially, they are linked to the lack of a clear division of competences at national and city level. When cities make procurement decisions, sometimes pricing is unfortunately the only factor taken into account. The lack of political willpower to lead to innovation as well as the lack of communication among municipal departments are also not conducive to the venture.
Oftentimes, there is no standardized data to open data in public administration and a low priority on national and local level for open data projects. Moreover, the public administration frequently opens and provides data as static resources. All in all, defining the technical solution and the economic model for the tender publication can be time consuming.
Furthermore, district heating should be considered as a key technology in the transition to low carbon cities in Europe. The methods of traditional urban planners might also contradict to the new way of planning a district installing heating. There might also be a lack of instruments to prepare and launch the project (like in Spain). The development of a new District Heating Network might also require changes in the urban plan of the city. When a city procures a platform, it is also necessary to tackle privacy concerns and to take legacy systems, investments and contracts into account. This does also apply for privacy and security issues and the related need for specialists as well as technical and legal access to data.
Furthermore, economic challenges will arise. For example, how can district heating be financed at different levels of development (from initial to advanced stages)? Additionally, there can be a lack of understanding in finance and investment in innovation that can be high and will have a long pay-back. Besides, the development of energy networks and smart grids do involve the resale of energy between users or do require an energy provider license that is not only hard to obtain but also expensive.
Moreover, there are no sustainable business models for sensor ecosystems and there is little awareness of the importance of open data for citizens, businesses and NGOs and their daily activities. Inadequate communication about the requirements of the DH can also be considered problematic. Other challenges are linked to the variety of technical standards, the lack of technological knowledge, data security and transformation/conversion. In DH issues, there is the pressure from gas utility to use biogas instead of gas since their business model is based on revenues of numerous gas connections.
To achieve successful urban data platforms, cities should start with specific valuable cases and should define common guidelines for the tricky business of data sharing as well as engaging in collective capacity building. When making procurement decisions, value should be given to environmental concerns and to encouraging innovation.
Additionally, the public administration should be open and provide data dynamically (for example through APIs). On a legal level, laws could be changed, restrictions removed, and standards could be used to secure buy-in from legacy arrangements. Moreover, municipalities can be open to specific modification of the municipal plans of the cities in order to allow some infrastructure deployments. Economically, public-private solutions should be developed to finance district heat works while standards could be used to drive change and strengthen business cases.
Moreover, the collaboration with citizens and partners should be considered as sources of insight and innovation. In smart lightening, products must also be developed well from the get-go.
Plan for Implementation
To implement an integrated infrastructure successfully, cities need not only to demonstrate a foresight but also local political leadership. Concerning legal aspects, municipalities can work on specific modification of a general development plan of the municipality in order to solve some planning barriers when implementing some infrastructures (like in Vitoria). All in all, collaboration and transparency with citizens and partners is also highly important.