As Cities Become Smart: Contributing to Clean Power Plan Compliance

by Alex Frank

Cities have been early to acknowledge the importance of addressing climate change through organizations like C40 or the World Mayors Council on Climate Change. Over 90% of all urban areas are coastal and with their concentrated collection of people and businesses that can be greatly affected by unexpected storms or droughts cities will be on the front line of adapting to our changing climate. It is not surprising then that many cities have supported the Clean Power Plan. In December the U.S. Conference of Mayors, National League of Cities, and more than a dozen cities around the nation joined a legal motion to support the Clean Power Plan. 

Cities are not only affected by climate change but also contribute over 70 percent of all global greenhouse gas emissions. In their support of the Clean Power Plan, city leaders noted that “implementation of the Clean Power Plan will give other cities the tools and framework to help them take the necessary steps to combat this global problem.” As cities continue to evolve, learning to address how to grow and serve citizens in a carbon constrained economy will be increasingly important. Today, as cities change and look to improve their services it is often done under the mantle of becoming a “Smart City”.

Smart cities leverage technology to improve services and decrease costs. When the Clean Power Plan and other carbon limiting policies are implemented smart cities will increasingly focus on also managing carbon emissions. While the Clean Power Plan is focused on power generation emission sources, the ability to meet emission reduction targets through energy efficiency measures means that cities will be involved in the compliance efforts. With their large variety of services and corresponding emissions, cities will have many avenues for reducing carbon emissions. 

Today, utilities have generally been the leading city department or partner in deploying smart technologies. Utilities can help drive innovation at the city level by leveraging their deployment of new technologies and advanced communication systems. Cities can employ these systems to become smarter through incorporating smart streetlights, smart water meters, or smart other smart sensors.  These same technologies can further be utilized as key enablers to Clean Power Plan compliance through advanced programs for demand response, energy efficiency, and continued customer education of how their activities affect carbon emissions. As utilities lead the drive to smart cities, they are also leading the drive to eventual Clean Power Plan compliance. 

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