Pressure is building to get serious about climate change, but countries are long on plans and goals but short on actions to address it, says Sander van 't Noordende, group chief executive for Accenture's resources division.
This has led to many firms doing "green" things to cut costs, but this can have only limited effect, he says.
It has been hard to find the right organisational entity that can act on a scale large enough to be meaningful, but is still controllable and replicable, van 't Noordende says. The experience of national initiatives such as the NHS's National Programme for I have shown how hard it is to manage successfully very large projects with many players.
The missing link has been the City. "The role cities can play has been 'underweighted' by policy makers," van 't Noordende says.
Cities can provide the scale, scope and integration of utility services such as communications, energy, transport, waste, and water that are big enough to make a difference. They are crucial too because cities are the main generators of CO2. Without their buy-in, any national plan is doomed, he says.
Maximising the efficient generation, distribution and consumption of energy will require more information as well as the ability for household and industry demand to be smoothed and matched to supply, says Noordende.
To explore what works Accenture has started SmartGrid city pilot projects in Amsterdam, Boulder (Colorado), Belgorod (Russia) and China. Accenture is also speaking to officials in the world's fastest-growing cities, such as Sao Paulo, Lagos and Mexico City to get them to sign up. These SmartGrid cities could become models that other towns could emulate, he says.
He says the SmartGrid concept is more than so-called Smart Metering. Smart metering allows energy suppliers and consumers to watch and change consumption on a minute by minute basis, if need be, because the meter feeds back consumption data to a central database via a communications network.
The network is in fact the essential link to allow the systems integration that leads to greater efficiency, he says. Putting in a separate network only for smart metering would cost billions and be an inefficient use of capital. But making the smart meter device also the network controller for a complete home or business automation and communication system is clearly an option, he says.
"Perhaps the time has come for the people planning Digital Britain to talk to their colleagues in the energy sector if Britain is to meet its climate change commitments," he says.