New Orleans Will Explore ‘Smart City’ Approach To Energy

New Orleans smart city grid modernization
New Orleans at night. Credit: NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, Flickr Creative Commons

The New Orleans City Council’s Utility, Cable, Telecommunications, and Technology Committee unanimously passed a resolution this week to explore a “smart city” approach that could include grid modernization and energy-efficient buildings.

Smart cities have taken off in recent years around the world, defined by their highly integrated approach to technology. In New Orleans, City Councilmembers say they see the potential for cutting-edge advances in energy generation and management, wireless communications, high-speed data analysis and transfer, water, and transportation management.

One of the smart city initiative goals would be modernizing the Entergy New Orleans electric distribution system with upgraded physical structures and technology. A public statement about the committee meeting said that pursuing a greater penetration of distributed generation from solar and other renewables is an immediate short-term goal. “The plan would also seek to identify and approve select microgrids for deployment within the city,” according to the City Council.

Entergy proposed installing smart meters for customers by 2021 — an initiative expected to cost $75 million, the New Orleans Advocate’s Jessica Williams reported. Other aspects of the local smart cities approach under consideration include increasing energy efficiency for public and private buildings, expanding the use of electric vehicles, and installing more EV charging stations, the City Council noted.

A panel of experts discussed the benefits of a smart cities strategy at the meeting. They included Ernest Moniz, secretary of energy under Obama, and Paula Gold-Williams, the president and CEO of municipally-owned San Antonio electric utility CPS Energy.

The committee is asking its advisers to study which technologies could be used and how much they would cost, Williams reported.

Actually becoming a smart city may be an uphill battle for New Orleans, though. Smart Cities Dive’s Kristin Musulin points out that New Orleans is one of 55 cities globally facing a population decline since 2000, due in part to natural disasters. Costs, including for smart meters, are also a concern. “It is unclear what these newer smart city concepts will cost the city or Entergy customers, but it is likely that more funding will be needed to move forward with the initiatives,” she wrote.

As smart cities gain in popularity, the market surrounding them has been expanding. A report from Research and Markets last year predicted that the global smart cities market will reach $2.452 trillion by 2025.

In a separate report that put the global market for smart city solutions and services at closer to $94.2 billion by 2026, Navigant analysts concluded that urbanization, new emissions reduction goals, improved resource consumption management, and increasing economic and environmental pressures are driving the growth.

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