Definition

We use the term "energy" broadly here to include all resources cities use to produce and deliver electric power – coal, gas, hydropower, steam, renewables, etc. Because energy is essential for providing city services and is interconnected with all of them, it very much deserves to be a key foundation for your smart city planning.

Improvements in a city's energy infrastructure – deploying a smart grid, for instance – can’t occur without an understanding of dependencies between energy and other city systems and services. Three stand out: communications, transportation and the built environment.

A smart grid is by definition a specialized communications network that moves electricity and data to balance supply and demand and maintain reliable service. The distribution lines and underground cables that are part of the energy grid often follow the layout of city streets (part of the built environment), creating dependencies between utility services and the various transportation systems that also rely on streets for mobility.

The built environment is also a major consumer of electricity and natural gas – and potentially a producer of electricity as well. As distributed generation evolves and building owners adopt solar, wind and related technologies, utilities and local governments will form even closer alliances.

Information and communications technologies help cities optimize these energy systems, making them more efficient and more resilient. Implementing smart energy systems also helps conserve precious natural resources and gives residents, businesses and cities themselves a variety of ways to monitor and control their energy consumption to reduce costs. Think of it as doing more with less.

There are a number of components of a smart, digital energy network. In the pages that follow we’ll identify the technologies and technology-supporting practices involved and the array of benefits that cities gain when they implement them.

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