Interfacing with City Services and Utilities

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Smart Buildings: A Foundation for Safe, Healthy & Resilient Cities
GCTC logo 344x80.png
Supercluster Buildings
Authors Heather Ipsen, Manfred Zapka
Contact Heather Ipsen

Blueprint PDF Smart Buildings: A Foundation for Safe, Healthy & Resilient Cities
Chapters
  1. Smart Buildings for Smart Cities Introduction
  2. Benefit, Value and Return on Investment (ROI) Considerations
  3. Organizational and Individual Productivity and Wellness
  4. Next Generation Building Operations
  5. Cybersecurity and Privacy Risk Management
  6. Communications
  7. Interfacing with City Services and Utilities
  8. Mobility
  9. Cybersecurity and Privacy Risk Management Preparation Questionnaire and Handbook


Introduction[edit]

As noted in the Introduction of this blueprint, smart buildings and the technology they house are the fibers that weave the cloth of a “Smart City”. Individual technologies placed in individual buildings are certainly beneficial in many ways (See Chapter 2: Organizational and Individual Productivity and Wellness), but they must be woven together at a larger scale to create a truly “Smart” city. A critical consideration that is often overlooked when aiming to create this “open mesh network” of connectivity, is the relationship that governments and property owners have with utility companies. Understanding the resources that are needed to create a Smart City, the resources that are available to do so, and the monetary and environmental costs associated with these resources is the driving force of fostering such a relationship. In short, it is simply difficult for a city or utility company alone to build an entire Smart City; however, together they capitalize on their respective areas of expertise to weed out the less beneficial smart technology solutions and discover those that best suit the needs of their citizens.
This chapter of the GCTC Smart Building Super Cluster Blueprint will discuss some of the opportunities relative to city services where utility companies, local governments, and property owners can – and in some cases, already do – partner to improve operational efficiency, save money, and conserve resources. The first section will outline recommended areas of focus for city services, and the second section will outline recommended areas of focus for utilities. The third section discusses the National Grid/ City of Schenectady REV Demonstration Project as a case study of the possibilities of partnership between a city and a local utility company. The final section provides a brief review of the chapter.

City Services[edit]

A city provides its residents with a multitude of necessary services every day. A Smart City enhances and improves upon the efficiency and delivery of those services by embracing the numerous advancements that have been made in Smart Technology over the past few years. Outlined below are a few key recommended areas of focus for cities looking to capitalize on the opportunity to adopt a new, smarter mode of operation.

Smart City Services[edit]

Lighting[edit]

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Smart LED lighting is being used by many municipalities today not only to reduce costs and monitor energy usage, but also to improve the overall maintenance of their lighting infrastructure. Why stop there? These lighting controls should be installed at municipal facilities for the same reasons. LEDs have a lifespan anywhere from 10 to 15 years and typically do not require maintenance for many years after installation. For additional savings, ballasts that are dimmable should be used in the installation. With Smart lighting controls, dimmable LEDs can be controlled by an application, enabling the output to be adjusted based on certain schedules and or activity.

Payment kiosks / Online Payments[edit]

Kiosks are located in many different places today. They can provide information about a location, give directions, charge cell phones, and in Smart Communities, they can provide a way for residents to pay municipal bills. A payment kiosk in a municipal building can therefore eliminate the need for an extra cashier or clerk in an office. There are applications for users to pay tax bills, water bills, building permits, and other bills. Kiosks should thus be strongly considered alongside online bill viewing and payment.
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Location analytics[edit]

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Wireless devices know where their users are at almost all times. This provides technicians with the ability to evaluate the use of anonymous live location data for a number of positive outcomes. The best placement of Wi-Fi access points in and outside of buildings can be determined in this way. Building owners can look at not only coverage holes, but also areas where additional devices are needed to make sure there is enough bandwidth for users in their network. This technology can further assist during times of evacuations or shelter in place periods. It can help confirm the location of employees (or students in the case of schools) to relocate them to safety faster than with traditional location methods. Of course, keeping constituents informed on what information that is being collected needs to be a priority in any deployment using this technology. Data privacy is an important issue that must be addressed in any Smart City.

Electric Vehicle Charging Stations[edit]

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Electric vehicles (EVs) are a smart investment for a city’s residents, employees, and municipal fleets. They have numerous positive impacts for the environment and can lead to significant financial savings. Making a municipality EV-friendly, however, requires that infrastructure is incorporated into government facilities, as well as into the public street network. In the City of Schenectady, there are currently 18 charging stations and 8 City owned electric vehicles, with 10 more stations currently in design. The City’s goal is to continue to add additional electric vehicles and stations on a yearly basis.
Electric Vehicles (EVs) have lowered the City’s carbon footprint significantly since 2017. In 2019, the City saved over 13,260 kg of CO2 from entering the atmosphere – the equivalent of 33,000 miles driven in an average passenger vehicle. The City’s charging stations are well-utilized by the public and City employees: the peak number of charging sessions was 445 in July and August 2019, and the average number of sessions for all of 2019 was 336. Currently there is no charge for public electric charging, so the cost of electricity dispensed averages about $150 per month for the City’s fleet and public use combined.

Smart City Communication Platforms for City Services[edit]

Public Wi-Fi[edit]

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The ability to connect to the internet on a moment’s notice is a privilege many people take for granted. For some, the internet is only available in areas that have public Wi-Fi. Communities need to determine how to provide smart city services, such as internet access, to low-to-moderate income residents. Public Wi-Fi can help facilitate community engagement, more efficiently deploy social services, and enable internet-based medical applications to those that do not readily have access to the internet. A community’s open public Wi-Fi can also potentially provide “connected learning” for students. A Pew Research Center survey from October of 2018 indicated that nearly one in five teens cannot finish their homework due to the lack of internet access.[1] In rural areas this number is strikingly higher. Having internet access is necessary to help engage lower income students and households, potentially driving positive results in the classroom. This issue is highly important considering the recent global pandemic – which greatly increased the need for internet access for all – and should thus be considered in any smart city deployment.
The use of Public Wi-Fi should not, however, be performed in a vacuum, rather it should be rolled out using a well-developed, holistic plan. This plan should use new and old infrastructure to connect disparate systems, thus obtaining more value from the high cost of installation and maintenance. Municipalities need a plan to connect building facilities and systems, street cameras, and environmental and other analytic sensors to their networks in a safe and secure manner. These networks can be used to transmit data that is housed in on-site smart buildings equipped with IoT sensors and platforms to employees out in the field, or to the public if necessary. The system can also be used to send police body camera and in-car videos to smart buildings and analysts. Police officers could monitor live video feeds from their patrol cars as well, which can provide them with crucial information before they arrive on the scene of an emergency. This solution empowers first responders to make informed decisions with proper data along with giving them instant access to information for Smart City growth. With this technology in place to automate processes for local police department officers, they can collaborate more effectively to reduce their time spent on manual labor and patrolling to keep citizens safer.
The GCTC Public Wi-Fi Supercluster [link] has created a “how-to” guide for deploying a Public Wi-Fi system within municipalities and should be used as a tool to assist in evaluating a potential deployment[2].

Fifth Generation Cellular Wireless (5G)[edit]

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5G has begun to launch in a number of markets throughout the country. It brings with it increased wireless speeds up to potentially 10Gbps along with reduced latency allowing improved responsiveness. 5G operates on three different bands: low band (< 1 GHz), mid band (1 to 6 GHz), and high band (24 to 53 GHz). The high band version of 5G is a small cell, dense network that requires the installation of many more transmitters than the current technology (and by one estimate, 400 times as many as 4G), along with many miles of fiber optic cable. As a result, cellular carriers have feverishly contacted municipalities to discuss the ability to use a city’s infrastructure to install their cell equipment. A municipality’s landscape of street lighting, utility poles and traffic signal poles make them a prime target for co-locating 5G (and in many cases 4G) equipment. The low and mid bands of 5G, however, can operate from existing cell towers. That said, they have the less speed than high band. So, within a rollout of 5G, it is best to have low, mid, and high bands in operation.
Municipalities should be ready to discuss the placement of 5G in their communities, as it brings many opportunities for economic development, shared service potential, and revenue potential. Of course there are aesthetic and local zoning concerns that would come along with the technology’s deployment. Several cities, including Smart Cities such as Columbus, Ohio, have already acquired limited 5G coverage in select areas of their community. These 5G access points promise to provide visitors and residents with high speed internet connection in crucial locations, such as schools and airports, in coming years[3].
The GCTC Wireless Supercluster [Link] is actively working on a document that will provide much needed additional information to help decipher this transformational technology and has already published a paper entitled, “The Municipal Internet of Things (Iot) Blueprint.” This paper outlines some potential use cases for evaluation.[4]

Digital Signage[edit]

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Government facilities that utilize digital signage in common areas are able to create a superior experience for their visitors. It is also possible to personalize content for visitors. For instance, if a new visitor were to swipe a badge or card when entering a building, or scan a QR code, the sign could be programmed to display information that is specifically helpful to that person (e.g. displayed in a particular language, or suggestions on where to go). Digital signage can provide directions to specific offices or meeting rooms or provide information on upcoming events, and they often help to form the first impression for a visitor entering a building. These displays can be tethered together and controlled by a wired or wireless connection, eliminating the need for staff to create and/or change static signs throughout a building or campus. Installing these displays at entrances or in gathering areas provides an opportunity to have a captive audience, and will improve a visitor’s initial experience with local government. Digital displays can incorporate civic calendars, digital media, and also be used in emergencies to notify employees and visitors of specific facility or community concerns.

Video Conference Equipment[edit]

Similar to digital signage, video conferencing equipment should be considered in any municipality or campus with multiple on- and off-site buildings. Connections made between these buildings provide ample opportunities to save money and enhance staff efficiency and well-being. For example, the City of Schenectady use this system to virtually connect four Fire Stations together to perform daily training. This virtual connection alone saves thousands of dollars per year on fuel costs. Before having this system in place, fire department vehicles and personnel would have to regularly drive to our main station in order to have classroom training sessions. Now they are connected virtually, with the same level of interactivity made possible by two-way video and audio. Not only is the City saving on fuel costs, but we are also able to maintain the apparatuses in their own running districts during the required fire and EMS training in case of emergency. Future applications may include incorporation of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technologies to enhance user experience and broaden education opportunities.

Smart Street Lighting Technology[edit]

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Streetlight infrastructure is the perfect platform to deploy smart city technologies and services using connected devices and a low bandwidth wireless network. This approach is aligned with the utility industry as a whole. Changing inefficient HID lighting with LED streetlights is a good place to start, but what if a streetlight was capable of more than simply lighting a street? Municipalities across the country are looking toward streetlight assets to lower civic costs, increase efficiencies, drive economic growth, engage citizens, and improve city life. Partnership with a local utility company is critical to taking this step toward becoming a smarter city.

Utilities[edit]

It is not just cities that are embracing Smart Technology to improve the services they provide; utility companies across the globe are also taking advantage of innovative technology solutions to provide better uninterrupted electrical supply networks. They are enhancing resiliency with new generation of distributed energy resources – energy storage, microCHP, and even Non-Wire Induction Alternatives. This section will highlight recommended areas of focus for utility companies that want to aid municipalities in becoming smarter.

Grids[edit]

The way energy is generated and distributed has significant impacts on how cities and municipalities can operate, as well as the costs associated with their operation. With recent developments in grid technology, there are increasingly more ways in which utility companies and municipalities can improve a community’s ability to receive power and increase energy savings.

Demand Response[edit]

Electric utility companies can implement demand response programs where consumers are able to reduce or shift electrical usage during peak periods. There are time-based rates and even financial incentives that may reduce costs for building owners. Advanced smart meters can easily be installed and monitored along with facility generation equipment to reduce or eliminate the potential for downtime.

Microgrid – Public, Private[edit]

In cities across the country, various groups are undertaking Community Microgrid projects. A Community Microgrid uses localized distributed energy resources (DER), such as renewable energy, to power a local grid area of up to several thousand consumers. Microgrids are of interest to many communities because they can provide critical facilities with electrical power during widespread outages, brown outs, black outs, or substation failures. Additionally, Community Microgrids can participate in demand response events to assist utility companies with maintaining service levels. There are, however, challenges associated with Microgrids because there is potential for back-feeding into a spot network (with no direct ties to the street grid). Uncertainty in supply and the ability to store excess energy, especially in relation to weather unpredictability, can also pose a challenge to the efficacy of Community Microgrid operations.

Smart Grids[edit]

The term “Smart Grid” refers to the capability of bidirectional information flow between the utility company infrastructure and the end user equipment. Smart Grids allow utility companies to better manage their systems, to prepare for peak energy events, more quickly identify outage information, and help customers adjust their energy usage. Many advanced, effective metering and monitoring technologies are now available for use by building operators and/or utility companies.
Communication networks monitoring substation operations have made it possible to continually (and remotely) monitor critical infrastructure, and now utility companies can provide alerts in a fraction of the time as they have been able to in the past. GPS combines network monitoring information with asset location information to pinpoint deficiencies in these systems and direct operations in real time. But these operations are not limited to utility companies. Critical infrastructure within municipal buildings and campuses can be monitored in the same way. Building generation, backup fuel supply, Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS), and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) operations are all standard devices that can and should be monitored to improve efficiencies, help reduce energy costs, and lower overall operation downtime. Two technological solutions of note are Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) and Automatic Meter Reading (AMR).
Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) technology exists in millions of smart meters across the United States. These meters provide both utility companies and customers energy usage data that they can tie into their energy management systems and use to assist with budgeting. Building operators can shift their high energy usage operations to off-peak hours, and in many cases take advantage of off-peak pricing to reduce costs.
Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) technology allows meters to be read with up to 100% accuracy without customer intervention. Rather than having utility companies enter a home or business to read meters, the job can now be completed remotely via wireless networks deployed throughout communities. AMI is also being leveraged for behavioral programs that engage customers and personalize their energy utilization. Coupled with today’s “smart” speaker devices, AMI is opening up a new way for customers to control and automate their homes with connected lighting and occupancy-based controls.

Solar and Wind Renewable Energy Systems[edit]

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Solar and wind energy systems provide minimal impact on the environment and should be certainly be considered when looking to offset or reduce electric loads. However, these systems need to be monitored to ensure operations that return investments for their owners. Net Metering and Remote Net Metering results should be reviewed in order to understand the benefits of a renewable energy system. There are companies in the market that can provide guidance in this area. Live data can be sent to cloud-based systems where vendors can review it and provide recommendations to help reduce operating and utility costs. In New York State, The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority provides funding to offset a portion of these costs.

Transactive Grid[edit]

Transactive Grid is considered by some to be the future of grid operations. Transactive energy is defined by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) as “a system of economic and control mechanisms that allows the dynamic balance of supply and demand across the entire electrical infrastructure using value as a key operational parameter.” Utilities are developing Distributed Energy Platforms (DSP) that provide location-based grid services compensation for distributed energy resources and dynamic demand management. This platform utilizes “blockchain technology”[5] to manage transactions on the sale and purchase of energy resources.
Smart Grid technology may also facilitate individualized control of energy use and distribution through transactive energy. Transactive energy would allow customers to market energy they generate to other customers on the distribution system. This would reduce power and optimize consumption and service level impacts by allowing for automatic and more rapid adjustment of building services (e.g. cooling, heating, lighting, etc.). Transactive energy would thus provide support for DER systems and buildings with active control technologies, even those connected to a microgrid. That said, significant challenges arise with greater interoperability. Because transactive energy creates an environment that fosters distributed, decentralized energy nodes that are controlled by a vast number of people on the demand side, a significantly more complex network of controls is created. Regulating and maintaining such a complex network could prove to be a difficult task.
Regardless of the challenges involved, the Pacific Northwest Smart Grid Demonstration Project provides a great example of the possible benefits smart grids and transactive energy can provide in practice. The project deployed 55 different technologies in various communities across the Pacific Northwest, testing solutions including smart meters, battery storage, voltage controls, and transactive controls. In one study area, a utility company used transactive signals representing the current and near-future availability and predicted price of power. They updated and sent the transactive signals out every five minutes. The project’s smart grid technologies were designed so that when transactive signals predicted peak power demand and high costs, power use would decline. When the project team ran models simulating extreme events, such as a surge in wind energy and a nuclear power plant outage, the transactive controls worked accordingly. Their study shows that transactive energy not only provides viable electricity supply solutions during critical times and can lower energy costs, but it also empowers end users by giving them an active role in their power usage[6].

Demand Dispatch and Smart Grids[edit]

In today’s traditional “supply dispatch” model, load and generation are balanced by equating load to consumer demand and by dispatching power produced at central energy generating plants to satisfy that demand. The “demand dispatch” model builds upon the supply dispatch approach by adding on the support of “behind the meter” resources. Creating energy through onsite (renewable) generation is therefore important, but equally important is providing an electricity supply that saves on expanding new centralized power generation (plants). Moreover, because renewable energy input can make power supply less predictable, it is increasingly important to find a way to rapidly balance power in the grid. Demand dispatch makes this possible by allowing for direct control of customer loads. Demand dispatch considers what load adjustments can be made before generation, as well as whether those load adjustments improve grid optimization and are consistently dispatched as needed. Demand Dispatch can therefore help enhance reliability, peak load management, and energy efficiency, lowering the price of electricity[7].
The demand dispatch approach to electricity supply requires smart grids and smart buildings to optimize grid operations. Smart devices installed in buildings that directly interface with occupants and their demand for energy services are thus highly important. The relevant technologies in buildings, which enable demand dispatch, will be more obvious to occupants since they will change, to a certain extent, the perception of what to expect with an uninterrupted supply of electricity available at any moment.
As such, demand dispatch will require some form of behavioral adjustment by the consumers of electricity, as expectations are shifted from supply dispatch to demand dispatch. For example, under the present supply dispatch approach, if a customer wants to start high power demand appliances inside their home, such as a clothes dryer, it is expected that the machine will start as soon as they press the “on” button. Under the demand dispatch approach, however, if a customer pushes the “on” button nothing would happen if there is no power capacity available to power their machine. Instead of the dryer starting immediately, their request for power would be put into an online demand queue. Then when the power can be allocated to them, the dryer would start.
Interconnected power consuming equipment in our homes will have to play a significant role in supporting the transition to a demand dispatch model. Buildings that utilize smart technology will be integral in this process as well.

Energy Storage systems[edit]

Utilities, municipalities, and operators of smart buildings need to consider the best (and smartest) way to provide energy to citizens. Renewable energy is a crucial consideration in providing energy services to power buildings and their smart technologies. Batteries and thermal energy solutions can help offset the limitations of renewable energy sources. They should be considered in critical facilities where the potential exists for brownouts or blackouts because they can assure constant voltage to mission-critical devices.

Building as a Battery[edit]

Batteries have been used in communication networks for years. Technology today affords opportunities for incorporation into even the average facility that require continuous uninterrupted service. They can be installed in buildings to maintain lighting, data centers and/or other critical systems. The demand for more efficient batteries for electric vehicles is improving the storage capabilities of batteries, as well as reducing their size. These systems can also be integrated with renewable energy sources, such as solar power, to provide constant electricity during peak load periods.

Thermal Energy Storage[edit]

An Integrated Thermal Energy Storage System (ITESS) using chilled water can provide additional sub-cooling for an air conditioning system’s condenser, thereby increasing the capacity of the entire system and providing significant reductions in electric demand and consumption. ITESS uses a dedicated chiller to cool a thermal storage tank, typically at night when electricity demand and rates are lower. This thermal reservoir is used the following day to sub-cool refrigerant leaving the condenser. This additional cooling increases the cooling capacity and decreases electrical demand during hot days for an existing or new vapor compression system.<ref name="ftn8">[https://www.nyserda.ny.gov/-/media/Files/Publications/Research/Other-Technical-Reports/17-17-Integrated-Thermal-Energy-Storage-for-Cooling-Applications.pdf NYSERDA, Integrated Thermal Energy Storage for Cooling Applications Final Report

Weather Related Conditions[edit]

Wind, Rain and Snow[edit]

No electric utility company is totally immune from weather related issues. Wind, rain, snow and ice events can wreak havoc on networks. Part of many Smart City deployments include obtaining detailed information of weather events, down to street level, with specialized environmental sensors. Sharing this information in real time with utility companies can give advance notice of weather events, and the data can be used as a tool to understand historical events to better plan in the future.

Flood Events[edit]

Many local governments deal with flooding of streets on a routine basis. Having up to the minute information on conditions can help reduce the costs associated with flooding events. Smart City technology provides opportunities for sensors to be placed in a community where flooding is historically common, particularly for those areas within the 100-year floodplain. Notifications from these sensors can be routed to the appropriate staff before an emergency occurs. Streets can be closed earlier to prevent property loss and remediation can start quicker. Understanding the timing of these events from a historical perspective can also help us to plan better and even eliminate future issues.

Water Conservation[edit]

Managing natural water resources is an important commitment of any community. Smart sensors can monitor homes for leaks and are even used in some communities to help monitor vacant homes. These sensors can communicate in a variety of ways, including cell service, 6lowpan, Wi-Fi, ZigBee, and LoRa. Smart sensors that detect leaks should be considered in any Smart City deployment, as they can prevent dangerous situations from arising in both residential and commercial areas.
Other smart devices are also available to monitor the amounts and times property is watered. These devices can help eliminate waste, particularly in areas where water is used on large scales, such as golf courses.

Onsite Wastewater Treatment and Recycling[edit]

The supply of ample and healthy water is becoming a key resource management challenge in municipalities across the world. Water, however, is not always regarded as the valuable resource it is, and there is too much waste. Smart buildings have the potential to change this view.
In smart buildings, water can be used more than once as recycled water for certain applications, such as irrigation, toilet flushing and other grey water applications. By recycling water, valuable potable water drawn from exhausted aquifers and other sources can be reserved for immediate consumption by building occupants.
Storm water (e.g. rainwater) can be harvested for grey water applications as well. In fact, water use trends suggest that rainwater is increasingly being used as a substitute for potable water where it is deemed safe.
Wastewater recycling is a relatively new practice, but it has great potential, since the availability of recycled wastewater does not depend on intermittent rainfall. Oftentimes, during a drought the demand for irrigation is the highest and the availability of scarce rainfall is at its lowest. Availability of recycled wastewater, on the other hand, is more predictable since the amount of wastewater is directly linked to the use of potable water.
There are new technologies that treat wastewater onsite (e.g. at the building level) rather than in centralized treatment plants. Stepping away from the old centralized model of treating and managing wastewater not only saves precious water resources, but also saves communities significant amounts of money and reduces overall energy usage.

Economic and Financial Considerations and Opportunities[edit]

Energy Monitoring[edit]

Smart Building technologies create opportunities in utility monitoring on a more granular basis to help conserve natural resources. The use of Real Time Energy Management (RTEM) and Fault Detection and Diagnostics (FDD) is emerging into mainstream solutions to assist with tracking and addressing operational opportunities. Connected lighting and occupant-based controls, for example, are becoming affordable off the shelf technologies.

Fire and Intrusion Detection[edit]

Communication systems used by utility companies and local governments can monitor and detect fires and intrusions, not just in commercial buildings, but also in vacant houses. Fires in vacant homes cost communities hundreds of thousands of dollars annually. Low powered battery and solar devices are now on the market and can be placed in targeted locations, even those that do not have electrical power, to help reduce the risk of fire and break-ins. These devices can allow for remote monitoring of vacant residential and commercial properties, potentially saving communities significant amounts of money and reducing urban blight in the long run.

New Form of HVAC[edit]

The demand for HVAC is ever growing as people move towards urban centers, global temperatures go up, and the world population becomes more affluent. But the increasing need to provide mechanized cooling bears significant challenges, since basic cooling technologies (e.g. vapor compression cooling) have not changed significantly and cannot solve the problems of energy efficient and healthy indoor temperature control. The photo below dramatizes the trend of increasing demand for cooling, while the use and further development of energy efficient HVAC technologies and their applications in buildings cannot keep up.
The inevitable trend of increased HVAC capacities will level an enormous demand for electrical power. This will present challenges for power grids that are not sized for high additional demand.
Fig11Chap6.jpg Source: The green cooling initiative provides data on the expected growth in cooling and refrigeration. Their forecast predicts energy demand will increase by as much as 100% in certain countries under the business as usual (BAU) assumption.
New approaches to reduce electric demand for AC and lower carbon output are necessary. There are new technologies that could drastically improve energy efficiency, while also increasing occupant comfort and health. The process of separation of sensible and latent loads is a key technology approach, where cooling and removal of excess humidity is achieved by two different HVAC processes and equipment. However, these new technologies are replacing deep-rooted processes of old technology (i.e. conventional HVAC), which could pose challenges to their initial adoption.

Gas Detection[edit]

Utility companies are evaluating the LoRa or NB-IoT networks that they are using for advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) for methane gas leak monitoring. Real time monitoring for leaks provides the opportunity not only to improve air quality and operational efficiency, but also to recapture resources and help mitigate global climate change.

Public/Private Partnerships – Performance Contracting[edit]

Opportunities exist for both public and private enterprises to become more efficient in energy usage without incurring upfront capital costs. Many national companies use a “Performance Contracting model,” where they evaluate facilities for potential improvements and contract with building owners for installation of new state of the art equipment. The energy savings can be used to pay for the upgrades over time.

Opportunities to reduce costs and incentivize reduced energy usage[edit]

Technology is available that allows AMI to be placed inline or within individual devices to meter their electrical usage. Not only could this evaluate the efficiency of a refrigerator, for example, but it also could be used to charge that refrigerator at a different cost rate than a 65” flat screen television, or another connected device.

National Grid / City of Schenectady REV Demonstration Project[edit]

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The National Grid / City of Schenectady REV Demonstration Project is a current example of the vast array of opportunities presented by forming a partnership between a city and a utility company. The City of Schenectady has partnered with local utility company, National Grid, on a “Reforming the Energy Vision” (REV) Demonstration project to not only become a Smart City for the benefit of local residents, but also in hopes of providing a replicable business model for other cities and utility companies across the country. This project includes replacing 4200 lights with much more efficient technology, while adding a number of smart technologies tailored to the needs of the city’s citizens, employees, and visitors.
Many communities like the City of Schenectady are looking for opportunities to save energy and become more efficient in the services they supply to residents and businesses. Converting HID lighting to Wi-Fi and/or other communication enabled LED Smart Lighting will produce savings, improve maintenance, enhance public safety and public works, empower employees, and conserve natural resources. This technology also fosters innovation in government and the community. While one of the main objectives of this project is to reduce energy consumption, emerging technology allows the City and their partners to use this project as a platform for real change. Data will be collected and disseminated to users via Smart City platforms housed in city buildings, which will allow staff to make educated decisions in countless areas. A city-wide network will enable us to more fully integrate our facilities into the same network. Monitoring building operations as well as vacant properties will help reduce maintenance costs.
Integrated utility-grade smart meters will be capable of automatically submitting usage without human intervention and will help reduce incorrect billing by keeping accurate inventories. The “chips” inside these meters are as accurate, if not more accurate, than the meters used by the utility company and located in our homes and businesses.
Current New York State Public Service Commission Tariffs (PSC 214) that govern the costs of Municipal Street lights in New York State do not provide for the opportunity to use or even test them, and as a result the project is currently limited to flat rate calculations, which nullify any savings. Reviewing wireless metering capabilities will be a key part of the REV process.
By the City’s own calculations, the yearly energy savings with a switch to Smart LED is estimated to be over 2 million kilowatt-hours of electricity. Greenhouse gas calculators from the EPA show this as a reduction of 1,546 tons of carbon dioxide, equivalent to over 3.3 million miles of passenger car travel saved every year when the entire project is completed. Since dimming is a built-in capability of Smart Lighting networks, the potential exists to reduce usage during peak electric use times in order to help prevent brownouts and help balance loads across the grid.
A Smart City deployment is extremely important for the future of municipalities like the City of Schenectady, as it will help show the role a local government can play in improving and enhancing citizens’ increasingly digital lives. Learning more about how smart building technologies in everyday operations is a critical step in developing and maintaining any Smart City operation.

Recommendations and Conclusion[edit]

This section is meant to be a guide to any city and/or utility company looking to improve the way they operate and deliver services to citizens. There are a daunting number of technologies that can be adopted in a Smart City project, and it can be difficult to decide where to invest time, money, and efforts. The recommended areas of focus, as detailed above, are:
City Utility
Smart City Services
  • Lighting
  • Payment Kiosks / Online Payments
  • Location Analytics
  • Electric Vehicle Charging Stations
Grids
  • Demand Response
  • Microgrids – Public, Private, PPP
  • Smart Grids
  • Solar and Wind Renewable Energy Systems
  • Transactive Grids
  • Demand Dispatch and Smart Grids
Smart City Communication Platform
  • Public Wi-Fi
  • 5G
  • Digital Signage
  • Video Conference Equipment
Energy Storage
  • Building as a Battery
  • Thermal Energy Storage
Smart Street Lighting Technology Weather Related Conditions
  • Wind, Rain and Snow
  • Flood Events
  • Water Conservation
  • Onsite Wastewater Treatment and Recycling
Business Models
  • Energy monitoring
  • Fire and Intrusion Detection
  • New Form of HVAC
  • Gas Detection
  • Public/Private partnerships – Performance Contracting
  • Opportunities to reduce costs and incentivize reduced energy usage


As the National Grid/ City of Schenectady REV Demonstration Project case study shows, by working together to harness the power of the wide variety of smart technology available on the market today, cities and utility companies can lead the way in creating smart communities worldwide. Even if it takes building just one Smart Building at a time, there is plenty to gain from investing in smart technologies that cater to the needs of citizens.