A majority (87 percent) of public sector sustainability professionals in the UK have begun to embrace smart technologies, but future projects are stymied by lack of finance and poor implementation strategy, according to new research by GE Lighting and the Carbon Trust.
The most common areas where there has been significant smart technology adoption are building efficiency (77 percent), LED lighting (57 percent) and water and waste technologies (24 percent). The smart technologies most commonly installed include intelligent features such as sensors, which combined with internet connectivity and control systems, enhance performance and efficiency and reduce resource consumption, costs and carbon emissions.
The public sector is realizing the potential of smart technologies for delivering public services cost efficiently and intelligently, the report says. However, executives face clear challenges due to budget cuts, as well as a lack of clear long term implementation strategies. This can often lead to a “lock-in effect”, leaving public properties stuck with old, inefficient equipment that is more expensive over its lifespan.
Nearly two thirds of public sector officials (64 percent) cited availability of funds as the biggest barrier to the implementation of smart technologies. This was despite the existence of self-financing models, such as Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs), which many are employing to obtain capital. In addition, concessional finance available to the public sector such as the Public Works Loan Board, as well as the Green Investment Bank, provide options to get projects off the ground.
The report says the top three barriers related to finance, organizational strategy and procurement know-how can be addressed via enhanced communication and training, skills and internal support to help public sector employees understand how to build and procure investable projects. Without this skill set, adoption of smart, low carbon infrastructure in the public sector will be held back.
“Technology is no longer the key barrier for adoption of smart technologies, the barriers are now related to procurement and skills,” Agostino Renna, President and CEO of GE Lighting Europe, Middle East & Africa, said in a statement. “The good news is that innovative business models exist, such as self-financing, allowing estates to de-risk procurement, prevent lock-in and benefit from major efficiencies, for example from intelligent lighting, which can cut energy bills by up to 80 percent.”
A separate report by the Carbon Trust and its partners released in March warned that the UK is falling behind other advanced economies in harnessing the value of the growing remanufacturing industry Remanufacturing refers to manufacturing where parts or products at the end of their useful life are returned to like-new or better condition, with warranty-supported quality. Currently, these activities contribute roughly £2.4 billion to the British economy.