Sejong Zero-Energy Smart City Development

The National Agency for Administrative City Construction (NAACC)

With the Paris Agreement on climate change, the looming Fourth Industrial Revolution, and other changes in the background, discourse on urban planning is changing rapidly. Zero-energy goals and the smart city, for example, are immediate challenges faced by urban planners.

“Happy City [1] Zero-Energy Town (5-1 Community Zone [2])” is an environmentally sustainable urban model in which energy consumed is equal to energy produced. This equilibrium can be achieved through a synergetic relationship between new and renewable energy technologies on one hand, and information and communication technologies (ICT), such as smart grids, on the other.

In a net zero-energy city, the energy needed for buildings—for heating, air-conditioning, hot water, ventilation, and lighting, for example—is supplied by new and renewable energy produced locally. At the same time, the city energy grid is connected to an external grid. Any surplus energy produced is absorbed by the external grid while any shortage is supplemented by it. The idea is to make the net give and take of the energy a zero at the end of each year.

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[1] “Happy City” is a nickname for Sejong City. The city government seems to have adopted the name for an obvious reason: the word “happy.” However, the nickname is also an acronym for “administrative city” in Korean, which was the working name before Sejong City was formally incorporated on July 1, 2012 (translator’s note, hereafter t.n.).
[2] A “community zone” or saenghwalgwon (literally a “biotope”) in Korean, is bureaucratic, urban planning jargon. The use of this term reflects policy makers’ desire for a departure from traditional urban planning and putting into practice some of the more recent, ongoing discussions regarding the environment and urbanism. More specifically, it refers to what might more ordinarily be called an “integrated” zone or city, where residents may enjoy commercial, residential, and public service amenities in an integrated way, and where people can work and live in the same place. While there are many “community zones” designated as such in Sejong City, “5-1 Community Zone” is special: at the end of 2016, it was selected as the first pilot project site for the Zero-Energy Town initiative. Construction is expected to be completed by 2030 (t.n.).