NEW ORLEANS - At a meeting of the New Orleans City Council's Utility, Cable, Telecommunications and Technology Committee today, Committee Chair and City Council President Jason Williams announced that his committee is setting the wheels in motion to make New Orleans a "Smart City."
The Smart Cities concept has been adopted by cities around the world to develop a highly integrated approach to technology that brings together cutting-edge advances in energy generation and management, wireless communications, high-speed data analysis and transfer, water and transportation management, and other services, to create a comprehensive amalgam of city services and "smart" city life.
Williams explained that the goal of Smart Cities is to use information and communication technology, the internet of things and clean technology to optimize the efficiency of city operations and services, connect citizens, improve the quality of life, and foster sustainability.
"New Orleans stands at the edge of a technology frontier and how we respond will either make us a true 21st-century city or leave us in the wake of this advanced technology as a backwater laggard," said Williams.
Among the first goals of the initiative is to gather detailed information on modernizing the Entergy New Orleans (ENO) electric distribution system to upgrade the physical structures and the functional technology. The Committee indicated that an immediate short-term goal would be to pursue a greater penetration of distributed generation, which is the generation and storage of electricity from a variety of small grid-connected devices such as solar and other renewable sources. The plan would also seek to identify and approve select micro-grids for deployment within the City.
"As Mayor-Elect, I am particularly interested in continuing to modernize the City," said District "B" Councilmember LaToya Cantrell. "I encourage public input and engagement to make sure that whatever is implemented is the best fit for our communities and the City, and that it spurs job growth and equity for New Orleans residents."
The Smart Cities concept also incorporates strategies to increase energy efficiency for both private and public buildings, the broader use of electric vehicles, especially for city vehicles, and the deployment of more electric vehicle charging stations.
"We're excited to take this first major step to modernize the electric grid in New Orleans and integrate it with some Smart Cities concepts being implemented around the country," said District "D" Councilmember Jared Brossett. "All New Orleanians should be able to enjoy a clean and sustainable environment, and this move towards a smart city will put us on that path. It will attract businesses, create jobs, and modernize our city's infrastructure so that we can take advantage of major new technological developments."
Williams noted that while Smart Cities is largely about energy technology, it also includes other resources that will be useful in making the City safer. Williams explained that Smart Cities tap all forms of technology to create a safer environment by using tools like gunshot sensors, smart street lights, and crime statistics databases and analysis. The technology will also provide more effective tools for traffic and crowd management, especially during major events.
"Cities across the nation are at a crossroads; they must embrace fast-developing clean technology or face increasing irrelevance," said District "A" Councilmember Susan Guidry. "In terms of energy efficiency, New Orleans started down the path in 2010 with the launch of our nationally recognized Energy Smart and NOLA Wise initiatives. Becoming a Smart City catapults us to the next level. It is an ambitious goal, and one we must start working toward in every facet of our city operations and services."
An expert panel also weighed in at the meeting. The panel was comprised of former Secretary of Energy in the Obama administration Ernest J. Moniz, Melanie A. Kenderdine, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, a Washington think tank, and Paula Gold-Williams, President and CEO of CPS Energy, the municipally owned San Antonio electric utility, which has also adopted a Smart Cities strategy.
"This is a once in a generation opportunity for our city to be proactive in integrating all of these amazing technologies into a comprehensive program to improve our city with one overriding priority that our entire community, including lower-income residents, will benefit. Access to state-of-the-art technology cannot be a luxury enjoyed by a few; it must be a necessity shared by all," Williams assured.
Williams also noted that he has consulted with both Mayor Landrieu and Mayor-Elect Cantrell to assure that this is a cooperative effort between the Council and the Administration. He emphasized that "the Smart Cities concept provides an opportunity for the Council to cooperate with the administration, and for both to cooperate with our universities, non-governmental organizations, local businesses and residents to help shape our 'smart' future."
The Committee voted unanimously in favor of a resolution that will open a utility docket and provide a mechanism requiring ENO to offer a plan for grid modernization. Also, it will allow stakeholders and the public to comment on the Smart Cities concept.
Chief of Staff
Office of Council President Jason Williams