Malaga: Getting Smarter?

Malaga: Getting Smarter?

With Malaga recently adopted into the internationally known Smart City project, I look into how the funding is beginning to help move the coastal city to a new, greener path.

By Aaron Bennett

Lights lead the way for Malaga’s smart city project

For one of Spain’s biggest tourism hot spots, you’d expect the majority of its energy to be used on more exciting needs than keeping the city bright, but for the capital of the Costa Del Sol, the cost of lighting is the most immediate problem on the government’s agenda with public lighting eating up seventy percent of the municipality of Malaga’s electric energy supply.

This translates into a huge amount of energy used and CO2 fumes emitted just to keep the streets and parks usable at night.

To tackle this, the Municipal Energy Agency of Malaga or AGMEM, is looking to change the entire way it works, installing whole new lighting systems in order to better control it

and cut the wasteful flow of energy it leaves.

AGMEM, founded in 2005 by the mayor of Malaga, looks at solving these problems of energy wasting and increased efficiency. Speaking to Alfonso Palacios Carrasco, who is the head of the studies and projects department, I asked how they were planning to solve this issue.

Using Energy Intelligently

The conventional bulbs are way too costly energy-wise to even begin to think about cutting energy use with them. However, by using LED’s, the kinds of lights you see in road signs and other small, flashing light sources, instead of conventional bulbs, they hope to save far more energy than previously.

The new mini LED bulbs use 90% less energy than the originals, already cutting energy, which cuts down the problem significantly
Another of the ways they look towards solving the problem is through the use of miniature wind turbines, combining the problem with this renewable solution. By placing them around the streets and connecting them to the generators, they are able to power a system for an entire series of street lights.

They’re also waiting to use new Smart Grid technology, which allows the suppliers to control all facets of the energy system, as well as insulate more of the energy as it moves from place to place.
“The current way of regulating the system wastes too much energy, with smarter grids, we can move far more of the energy to its intended source….We can also access the streetlights with a smart-grid, which means if we’re wasting energy, we can just turn one off”

This flexibility also makes Smart Grids more compatible with renewable energy sources. Due to the intermittent nature of most renewable sources, the ability to cut individual power or even go so far as raise prices individually, allows for rationing of power to save energy when there is a shortage.
AGMEM also works with the community to affect this change. They’re in the middle of working on two five-year plans with HEXA, to refurbish public schools and other municipal buildings, using another piece of lighting technology.

Smart lighting

Handbooks like this are being handed out to tens of schools in the area

By changing the school’s lighting systems and installing 10kw/h solar panels, the AGMEM have reduced two-thirds of their energy consumption and cut their CO2 emissions.
This need to conserve the amount by Independent controls for lighting systems and with
Smart lighting is built to conserve as much energy as possible. By using light sensors and calculating the time and weather, it senses how bright it is and dims and brightens accordingly. By using it, AGMEM says the schools involved in the program have already saved 70% of the energy they previously wasted.

Education is key

Also, in order to make the community more aware of climate change, they work at the schools to inform the students about its importance, running classes and presentations, as well as putting more focus on climate change in the normal curriculum.

“We give teachers handbooks dedicated on how to teach the children about the values of climate change.”

The ninety-six page book looks into subjects such as the different ways to produce energy, how to measure it, the pros and cons of every kind of energy and activities for the children to play.
They have even placed info-boards at the front of the schools to showcase the amount of energy the school is saving thanks to their solar panels.

Mr. Carrasco added, “We want the children to know how their community is giving to the climate change effort.”

Playa de La Misericordia: Will the Smart City project help the merciful beach?

When the government of Malaga was given the chance to become part of the Smart City project, it was chosen mainly for its possibility to grow both economically and population-wise. Malaga has a lot to gain from this large amount of funding coming from both public bodies like the European Regional Development Fund Organisation and private industries like Endesa.
Using this money to create more opportunities, particularly tourism-based, nowhere in Malaga showcases as much potential than the Playa de la Misericordia.

The Playa de la Misericordia or “Beach of Mercy” is about to be used as the testing ground for the newer technologies that the initiative will end up using later on in its time here.
Situated on the western side of the coast of Malaga, Misericordia is home to a small residential and industrial district, which overlooks the sea. Surrounded by old smokestacks and abandoned warehouses, its old industrial past contrasts with the new plans that the Government have for it.

At the moment, the area is only a small collection of council estates, rubble and building sites. Unlike Malaga’s other beaches like Playa de la Malagueta, it isn’t used by many tourists, despite its location, because of its distance from the city centre and lack of sight seeing options. But with the planned changes, they hope to bring new business to this somewhat neglected beach. Mr. Carrasco said, “With the new technologies, we are building there, we are looking towards showing people the possibilities of energy efficiency technology.”

Left in the dark?

However, the neighbouring residents are having little say on the scope of the project, being consulted after the plans have been finalised, “When it is built, we’ll ask if they like the new changes, but right now, we’re trying to be as transparent as possible. We’re making advertisement campaigns on the buses, making active signs which show how much energy we’re saving and CO2 we’re producing…”

It’s a wise idea considering other recent stories of resident backlash at government sponsored building plans in Spain, especially along the coast. Just recently, the mayor of Marbella received large amounts of negative press for selling sand-dunes for development, just a forty-five minute drive south-west of Malaga.

At that, details are still sketchy as to what they hope to build there, with only refurbishment of public utilities being planned by the Agency, leaving the other contractors in project free to build whatever they want.


– Became one of the six Smart Cities in the world in 2009, alongside Copenhagen and Columbus, Ohio

– Pledges to cut 20% of their carbon emissions and produce 20% of their renewable energy by 2020

– Lighting takes up 70% of the energy used by its government, mainly from street lamps.

– Malaga is populated by approximately 550,000 people, however, it is home to 12 times as many tourists in one year

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