All hands on deck! A closer look at city-utility collaboration to meet sustainability goals
What do successful collaborations between city governments and electric utilities look like? In Detroit, Michigan, groups are working together to electrify their municipal fleet while installing a public charging infrastructure that makes it possible for the broader city to reduce its carbon footprint. In Salt Lake City, Utah, the government and Rocky Mountain Power are partnering to make the whole city powered by solely renewable energy.
These are just some of the examples of important work that demonstrate how they can lift up communities in need while providing clean power. This is what is driving a unique partnership among the US Conference of Mayors, the Center for Climate and Energy, the IEEE Power and Energy Society, and ComEd.
The challenges that cities face today are urgent, as the realities of climate change become ever more apparent. Meeting these challenges requires a wide array of stakeholders focusing on how to employ their particular strengths in effective mutual partnerships. Advanced electric utilities, who have expertise in ways to enable the integration of innovative technologies that allow communities to benefit from clean power while also enhancing their resilience to disruptions such as major weather events, are in a unique position to work with city governments and other sectors such as transportation and health care to implement programs that make neighborhoods and cities better places to live.
Many partnerships already exist in cities across the United States and the world, with projects being implemented to make it easier for residents to use lower carbon forms of transportation or walk to school safely because of renewable energy powered lights, or live with the confidence that they will have electricity no matter what, to name a few examples. These efforts are typically the result of innovative collaborations between electric utilities and stakeholders who help identify not just the general need of the community or city, but where precisely these technologies can be deployed to provide maximum value.
Today, however, there is more to do. The US Conference of Mayors, the Center for Climate and Energy, IEEE Power and Energy Society and ComEd are conducting a series of workshops to discuss successful ways they have collaborated in order to enhance resilience in a way that ensures that the communities that most need help get it. The groups have researched city-utility relationships across the United States and other parts of the world to identify areas where the partnerships have produced extraordinary value to communities. Over the next months the workshops will closely study the nature of their collaboration and how and why they were so successful.
The information gleaned from these workshops will provide actionable intelligence that will be presented to the US Conference of Mayors, and offered to interested stakeholders, providing a roadmap that will drive strategic decisions. This research represents a foundation that should not only help different cities make informed decisions about whether they too want to embrace innovative efforts to help their communities leverage advanced technologies, but also to provide them insights about how to do so.
The climate is changing around the world, but each of us faces the problem and can provide solutions in our unique areas. Solving this challenge requires global vision but local effort. The collaboration here is significant because by bringing mayors from across the United States in conversation with not just the electric utilities from their areas, but the best power and environmental minds in the world, offers them the way to implement cutting edge policies that will allow them to impact not just the residents that elected them, but all of us.
Shay Bahramirad, PhD, is the vice president of engineering and smart grid at ComEd and vice president of new initiatives and outreach at the IEEE Power & Energy Society where she is focused on developing strategic relationships regionally and globally around grid resiliency and climate change.