Smart cities are all the rage with urban planners. But does this mean that the smart city design is right for every city? And what about the United States — will it fall behind and never catch up? Here are some of the questions city planners are asking.
What is a Smart City?
The term smart city applies to cities aiming to improve quality of life for citizens by updating infrastructure with smart power grids fueled by renewable energy. Smart cities can reduce traffic congestion, cut CO2 emissions and reduce operating costs for cities and residents.
Smart grids modernize power systems and provide reliable integration and distribution of renewable energy. They allow power companies to determine when and where energy is needed in real time, and allocate power across the grid based on those needs. Better understanding energy needs and the smart grid’s ability to shift power allotments helps to avoid bottlenecks that cause blackouts and brownouts.
Is it Worth the Investment?
Adopting smart city technology requires a sizable investment. Worcester, MA is spending $57 million dollars for smart power meters, E-billing of power bills, and programmable thermostats for their 15,000 customers.
The investment is large, but so are the savings. The UK is looking at 10-billion-pounds in energy savings over the next 40 years, even after implementation costs.
What’s the Downside of Not Adopting the Technology?
The increase in world population and aging infrastructure is overtaxing power grids around the world. Brownouts and blackouts are common occurrences in India where the population has swelled in the last 20 years. In the United States, aging grids can no longer meet the increasing demand, and blackouts last 20% longer.
A smart grid within the smart city structure can anticipate and react more effectively to changing power demands. Smart city technology also affords consumers greater control over when and how electricity is consumed within their homes.
Will Smart Cities and Grids Work for Every City?
Smart cities might not be for everyone, especially in the United States. Small communities may find the costs prohibitive. Also, not all consumers will be comfortable with the increased regulations and data gathering these systems employ.
While there are certainly benefits for the country as a whole, smart cities, at least for the near future, will most likely be contained to the major metropolitan areas where millions can share both the costs and benefits.
Would you support the implementation of smart cities infrastructure in our area? Tell us why and where in the comments below.