I recently had the pleasure of attending the second annual Smart Cities Week Silicon Valley, organized by the Smart Cities Council. During this event—which brings together leaders from government and industry to share best practices about programs and projects that relate to smart technology—I spoke on a panel alongside Urbanova (Spokane, Washington) and the City of Portland, Oregon, as they shared their current smart city initiatives and collaborations with their local electric utility.

While the week was filled with innovative ideas, forward-thinking discussions and a focus on how the right technology can drive our populations forward, I was encouraged by the partnerships forming between the electric utilities and the cities and communities they serve. Itron has been providing solutions to electric, gas, water utilities and cities both large and small with solutions that help them better manage their energy and water resources. The opportunities we discussed during the panel at Smart Cities Week were centered around utility-city partnerships, and specifically Urbanova, the smart city initiative in Spokane. From my perspective, the breakthrough we’re seeing is that when it comes to smart cities, utilities are now being viewed as a key contributor in strategic plans for a city and for communities.

In the past, the relationship between a city and a utility was focused primarily on providing electricity, gas or water. Today, the utility industry is going through a major transformation. Utilities manage infrastructure and the electric grid in a safe, reliable and cost-effective manner, and many smart city initiatives involve deploying infrastructure that could be operated and managed by the local utility.

Advances in open and standards-based communications networks—whether it’s a smart and connected streetlight solution or a utility-advanced metering infrastructure solution—can now be leveraged for other use cases within the city. This presents additional opportunities for utilities to seek new business models where they could potentially garner new revenues through managing streetlight infrastructure or offering other digital services within the city. By having a leadership role in a city or community’s overall smart city plans, utilities can strengthen their relationships while pursuing new revenues—and through these strategic relationships, cities become more livable, workable and sustainable to the benefit of its citizens.

The Smart Cities Council (SCC) in conjunction with Edison Electric Institute (EEI) has formed an Electric Utilities Advancing Cities Committee which is comprised of leaders from cities, electric utilities, private sector and the SCC. The goal of the group is to educate, advance and accelerate cities and communities engaging with their electric utilities. I am excited to be a part of this effort and we look forward to conducting our second workshop hosted by CenterPoint Energy in mid-August. As a solution provider to both utilities and cities, we are excited to be a key contributor in these collaborations that enable cities to be more livable, workable and sustainable.

Robert Borzillo
Vice President of Smart Cities Business Development - Itron
Bob is a senior-level professional with over 30 years of experience in delivering, managing and selling utility solutions. Recently, Bob has been at the forefront of the smart cities movement both internally at Itron and externally as the executive representative for Itron on the Smart Cities Council. Bob has attended and spoken at a number of global smart cities events over the years. He also lead Itron’s participation in smart city projects in the United States including Envision Charlotte, Urbanova and the Dallas Innovation Alliance, while also supporting his colleagues globally in regional smart cities initiatives.