Power Plays: The Increasingly Competitive Electricity Landscape

Unless their cities run their own municipal utilities, most local governments have had little involvement in what electricity costs their residents. Historically, this has been the domain of private companies: the investor-owned utilities that are regulated by state-level public utility commissions. This monopoly arrangement created a secure energy environment but placed the retail pricing of electricity and its sourcing -- such as from coal, gas or solar -- well outside the control of consumers or local governments.


Can Smart Infrastructure Be Cyber-Secure?

Many cities are rapidly deploying "smart" infrastructure technologies that promise to preserve and even enhance quality of life in an increasingly congested and urbanized world. Networked through fiber optics and wireless broadband, sensors embedded in buildings, in roadways, and in water, waste and energy systems generate enormous quantities of data used to reduce traffic congestion, optimize water and energy use, and make the environment more comfortable and safe.


One California Community's Power Switch

Back in the late 1990s, Steve Jobs' vision for Apple was to create a computing ecosystem that delivered an easy-to-navigate and seamless user experience, an alternative to the Windows world's disjointed hardware-software infrastructure. Apple's "Think Different" campaign capitalized on the strength of Apple's integrated approach and launched the company into the success it experiences today.

Much as Apple's approach changed the world of computing, thinking differently about infrastructure holds considerable promise for innovative civic leaders looking for ways to improve their communities' long-term economic robustness and livability. In its approach to its energy infrastructure, one California city is laying a path away from the dysfunctional 20th-century development processes that were put in place to keep costs low at the expense of long-term value and functionality, process that are still too often the norm for many cities. READ MORE

The Transportation Choices That Millennials Want

With no long-term solution in place -- or even in sight -- for the sputtering federal Highway Trust Fund, state and local governments are significantly increasing their own transportation spending. This shift is giving more control to local governments and allowing them to explore alternate transportation modes, not only as a means of reducing traffic congestion but also as a way to attract younger professionals who don't see the automobile as the only choice for mobility.


How We're Learning to Measure Progress on Sustainability

Perhaps nothing speaks more to the challenge of sustainably managing infrastructure systems than attempting to measure their performance. It's a daunting task, at best, to merely inventory a city's systems -- water, energy, transportation and water, for example -- much less to describe and catalogue their many functions and interdependencies. Adding verification that the systems are sustainably managed would seem to be virtually impossible.

Some cities, however, are paving new ground toward making the impossible possible. While many communities have set sustainability goals, plans and programs, a lesser number are actively communicating their progress. A few cities have significantly raised the bar by defining performance statistics, setting timelines and publishing their results through online performance dashboards. These cities include Kansas City, Salt Lake City and, most recently, Los Angeles, whose Sustainable City pLAn dashboard debuted last month. READ MORE