San Sebastian, Spain: a smart city making the most of past & present

 

In 2018, San Sebastián’s city council have continued to drive forward numerous projects started in 2016 to maintain the city’s historic core and seafront through using state-of-the-art technology. The municipality’s aim is to become a near-zero emissions city, at the centre of the Action Plan for San Sebastián, 2016-2020. A model for civic engagement, the venture was designed and drafted through the participation of 200 local citizens. Given that the urban area is an important attraction for tourists, implementing as many technological innovations as possible reduces pollution and damage to protected structures. The result will create a more functional environment for visitors and locals alike - Bruno De Man 
 

San Sebastián’s rich cultural and commercial history presents undoubted opportunities but also significant challenges for successful Smart City innovation projects. In order to embrace the past and look forward to the future, the city has focussed on technological and environmental aims in four high-impact areas:
 
Energy Efficiency
 
The municipality has created an on-demand platform to allow residents to monitor how they are using their heating and energy consumption. This will allow citizens to better understand how savings can be implemented and learn about their energy consumption. The result is a win-win situation for San Sebastián: reducing household energy bills for its citizens and safeguarding the city’s environment. In addition, the town hall has retrofitted over 18,000m2 of homes and businesses to date in the city’s old town – whose buildings date from the 16th and 17th centuries – to optimize their energy consumption. Smart street lighting illuminates the urban core and biomass energy heats the newly-constructed properties in the city. These innovations make use of 90% renewable energy and will result in an 85% reduction of CO2 emissions.
 
Sustainable Mobility
 
San Sebastián has invested heavily in rolling out electric cars, buses and charging infrastructure that will allow its citizens to sustainably travel around the city. Currently, the number 26 bus line offers a service with electric buses. In terms of electric cars, there are 70 electric taxis, cars and e-scooters transporting locals and visitors around the urban area. Charging stations have been placed in strategic positions, allowing the maximum of users to charge and use their electric vehicles.
 
Integrated ICT Infrastructures
 
San Sebastián has introduced a smart urban data platform, allowing citizens to access all municipal information – political, social, economic and administrative – ensuring transparent public governance. In addition, citizens have gained access to a neighborhood energy management system, encouraging the locals to adopt more sustainable behaviors. The city has also developed an urban mobility application for its inhabitants as well as a traffic control system. The entire metropolitan area has access to high-speed broadband, ensuring that digital interactions can flourish.
 
Ensuring Future Progress: Support from the City’s Educational Establishments
 
With the REPLICATE project and the 2016-2020 Action Plan for San Sebastián, this seaside Basque city has become one of the leading European cities in the context of smart and sustainable cities, largely because of its commitment to science, technology, economic development, sustainability and culture.
Within its urban area, it hosts several leading technical and academic institutions as a reference point on best practice for the city. The Deusto University’s Engineering Campus is a short walk from the city centre. In addition, it also boasts a campus of the Navarra University, one of Spain’s most innovative third level establishments. In 2018, the city council will review the advancement of the plan and will optimise to ensure its progress for 2020. The exciting project that San Sebastián has developed will undoubtedly make the city a more liveable space for its citizens in years to come.
 
What do you think of San Sebastián’s Smart City plan? Do you think it could be implemented successfully in your city?By John McCarrick, Strategic Communication Expert