In a keynote address at the Smart Cities Week conference in Washington D.C. sponsored by the Smart Cities Council, EEI Chair Pat Vincent-Collawn said increasing the number of smart cities in the United States is one of her top priorities.
Smart city initiatives are wide-ranging but can include networked street lighting, integration of distributed energy resources like electric vehicles and EV charging infrastructure, smart buildings that reduce energy use, and the monitoring of data generated by sensors that can help cities become more efficient and cut costs while reducing pollution.
Electric companies are partnering with local governments to help make communities “smarter,” through the deployment of advanced digital technologies, improving power lines and substations, strengthening the grid against severe storms and bolstering cyber security, she said.
“Whether to improve security, resiliency, sustainability, traffic congestion, public safety, or city services, each community may have different reasons for wanting to be smart. But all smart communities share common attributes—and they all are powered by smart connections and by our industry’s smarter energy infrastructure. A smart grid is the foundational piece in building a smart community,” said Vincent-Collawn, who also serves as president and CEO of PNM Resources based in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
“If you think about it, the energy grid is really what connects smart community technologies and brings them to life,” Vincent-Collawn added. “Smarter energy infrastructure has the power to transform common streetlights into crime-fighters, everyday buildings into automated systems, traffic jams into traffic flows, basic information kiosks into connected networks.”
The infrastructure investments from electric companies average more than $100 billion a year – investments in new technologies, cleaner energy and a stronger grid that benefit customers – while also supporting local jobs for communities. Indeed, the electric power industry supports more than 7 million jobs across the United States, according to a recent report by M.J. Bradley & Associates for EEI.
EEI represents all U.S.-investor owned electric companies, and its members provide electricity for about 220 million Americans in all 50 states.
With such a broad reach, electric companies are well positioned to partner with local communities, technology companies and universities to advance smart city initiatives, she said. “That is why EEI recently rolled out the Smart Community Commitment — we are encouraging all EEI member companies to commit to work more closely with local communities to assist them in achieving their goals.”
EEI recently announced it would partner with the Smart Cities Council, the largest smart cities network, to work on a series of initiatives to help cities become more resilient and sustainable. One of the goals is to help cities in EEI’s service territories win 2018 Readiness Challenge grants from the council.
Electric power companies can nominate communities within their service territories for grants to help the cities improve their sustainability, workability or livability. Winners will receive a workshop for up to 150 government leaders from the council in a session custom designed for the needs of each city. Also, the program provides in-kind contributions of professional services, access to best practices from some of the world’s top smart city practitioners, access to the expertise of leading smart city technology providers and the opportunity to learn from peer cities in the Smart City Program.
Five U.S. cities won Readiness Challenge grants in 2017, including Austin, Indianapolis, Miami, Orlando and Philadelphia.
“For more than a century, electric companies have been partners for urban progress, building essential infrastructure to enable growth and prosperity,” Jesse Berst, chairman of the Smart Cities Council, said in a statement. “As we now transition to smart, sustainable cities, their close involvement is more important than ever.”