Cities can get smart taking control of their electrical grid and electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure as a means of addressing urban growth. Boulder, Colorado is making a run at it but few outside Germany have taken a serious move in this direction for it requires a long-term vision. Seeking this urban planning route is not always initiated for economical reasons. Boulder, for instance, is driven to engage as a means of increasing renewable energy sources in their electricity generation fuel mix. Here’s the catch, this approach may not a scalable or sustainable solution for all cities Mega cities; no way anytime soon. Rural environments; not likely ever needed. So, Boulder just happens to sit in the Goldilocks Zone but even with it being “just right” the increasing digitalization of the electric grid and new sources of distributed energy will make this endeavor a tenuous pursuit.
Years ago I was involved in dozens of negotiations with municipalities throughout the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Many desired to “take control” of and then offer, as a public service, wireless Internet services for their citizens. The complexities in equipment management and selection, maintenance, and budgeting were often solely regarded in the context of whether to make the WiFi a free or a for a fee amenity to subscribers. Thing is, that’s not where the root challenge existed. Even a little bit of education in these matters achieved a stakeholder stalemate for trying to figure out how to convert a privatized service into a public good without causing bias to an ongoing free market was no simple matter. The concept of a public-private partnership was alien.
Dealing with increasing urbanization today requires a systemic stakeholder analysis and just the right sitting of pilot efforts in advance of any at-scale execution plans. To date few cities have taken this approach but Toronto, Canada is on the way.
“...We are designing a district in Toronto’s Eastern Waterfront to tackle the challenges of urban growth…Sidewalk Toronto will combine forward-thinking urban design and new digital technology to create people-centered neighborhoods that achieve precedent-setting levels of sustainability, affordability, mobility, and economic opportunities” – Sidewalk Labs
To do as Sidewalk Labs proposes there must be an integration of technologies, policies, and financial mechanisms that allow for private and public implementation plans to surface, ones in service of many stakeholders.
- SAMPLE TECHNOLOGIES AT PLAY
- Smart Meters – pair with visualization tools and software platforms
- Electric Vehicles (EVs) – pair with charging infrastructure
- Battery Swapping – a la Better Place & maybe soon to be Telsa
- Smart Parking Systems – citywide planning on sitting requirements
- Renewable Distributed Energy Resources (DER) – solar & storage microgrids
- Software Platforms – generation, distribution, & consumption load balancing
- IMPLEMENTATION APPROACHES
- Analyze long-tailpipe electricity generation fuel mixes
- Promote EVs and pilots ONLY in cities that have clean fuel sources
- Establish population growth and transport demand metrics
- Conduct customer interviews to fit future needs
- Create intelligent city policies to cater to DER and EV microgrids
- Engage private-sector electric mobility companies
- Educate citizens on mobility and clean energy options
- Build neighborhood based pilots
- Engage citizens via engagement workshops for updates
- Prepared to pivot for at-scale execution
- STAKEHOLDERS TO ENGAGE
- City Planners & Urban Designers
- Public Entities and Administrators
- Private Technology Providers
- EV Manufacturers & Infrastructure Providers
- Load Balancing Software Solution Providers
- Private and/or Public Electric Utilities