Net Zero Cities speaker: Smart city attainment an evolutionary journey

By: Steve Friday October 25, 2013 0 comments Tags: Charbel Aoun, Fort Collins, Schneider Electric

By Steve Porter


Net Zero Cities logoFORT COLLINS - A growing number of cities around the globe are turning to new strategies for reducing their use of water and energy and lowering the carbon emissions from their transportation systems, including in Colorado.

But achieving "smart city" success in long-term sustainability is not something that can happen quickly, noted Charbel Aoun, senior VP of Schneider Electric's Smart Cities division, who gave the keynote address Thursday on the final day of the two-day Net Zero Cities Conference in Fort Collins.

"We should look at it as a journey," said Aoun. "It's not a revolution - it's an evolution."

Aoun said cities that are moving in a direction to become smarter about their sustainability - including London, Paris, Barcelona and dozens of others - are putting citizens at the center of their planning and enlisting technology and business as partners.

"We have to acknowledge that we need to collaborate," he said. "Because it is complicated, and it is scary."

Aoun said smart city attainment is something each city must work toward in its own way and with dedicated local leadership.

"You can't outsource smart cities," he said. "It requires leadership, and if you don't have leaders pulling people around, it's not going to happen."

Aoun said one significant obstacle to becoming a smart city is obtaining the funding to invest in more efficient water, power and transportation systems.

"Where are the financial institutions in this," he said. "How do you fund social or environmental value? How do you put a price on that? It's not something you can fund easily."

Aoun said Schneider Electric, a global energy management services company, is working with 200 cities to help them move toward smart city attainment.

There's no defined timeline for how long it takes for a city to get to that point, Aoun said.

"How long does it take? Who knows," he said. "It's up to you. We don't want this dream of smart cities. Start doing things to make this tangible benefit visible to your community."

The sold-out, second-annual Net Zero Cities Conference featured more than 70 speakers and experts from around the world and was sponsored by the cities of Fort Collins, Loveland and Boulder, the Colorado Clean Energy Cluster and BizWest Media.

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