July 19, 2013


Can 'D+' in infrastructure lead to 'A' in economics? (Daryl Dulaney JULY 19, 2013, Reuters)

When the American Society of Civil Engineers gave American infrastructure a D+ "report card" this year, maybe the United States should have been proud of its first improved grade in 15 years. But moving from D to D+ still means we need to take tremendous strides to make our cities "smarter." [...]

But investing in the right technology solutions now can mitigate future challenges and lessen increasing repair costs. More important, it can ultimately ready our cities to excel in today's population-growth era.

Unlocking each city's potential is dependent on some key components -- namely affordable scalability and interconnectivity:

Connected, coordinated public transportation systems -- similar to European hubs that efficiently link planes, trains, buses and trams -- are now being embraced in the United States. Cities like Atlanta, Charlotte, San Antonio, Denver, San Francisco and Portland are looking into interconnected public transportation systems that can free up roads and feed airports. This will ensure more efficient transportation flow and better support to key economic centers.

Microgrids -- which are stand-alone energy systems capable of operating in parallel or independent of the larger power grid -- can deliver a more reliable source of power. During Hurricane Sandy, for example, Co-Op City, a major housing project in Bronx, N.Y., was able to disconnect from the central city grid and distribute power from its own on-site generator, maintaining power throughout the storm for its 14,000 apartments across 35 high-rise buildings, townhouses, garages, three shopping centers and six schools.

Energy-efficient technologies, including lighting or temperature controls, can be financed through performance contracts tied to the value of future energy savings. School districts from Minnesota and Mississippi have used performance contracts to cover the cost of updating infrastructure with new energy-efficient technology. Schools have installed, for example, new systems that during off-hours automatically turn off building lights and lower temperatures -- saving considerable energy and money. These schools finance their new equipment over a set period of time (say 10 or 20 years) using the energy savings to offset payments -- thereby updating their facility and infrastructure on a neutral budget.

Posted by at July 19, 2013 5:30 AM

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