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Large Scale Energy Projects That Are Powering Cities

As the population grows, energy is becoming a more pressing concern around the globe. Add to that all the electronic devices that power our workforce and homes, and the need for improved energy efficiency is all too clear.

It's an issue that's at the forefront for many city government officials. We recently reported on a conference held by the Smart Cities Council, which highlighted the greatest challenges that cities are facing and how city sustainability is being improved. The general consensus of the conference was that meeting energy demands is a big problem that's going to require large-scale energy projects to solve.

The City Energy Project

At the beginning of 2014, Chicago and nine other cities joined together in the Natural Resources Defense Council's City Energy Project. This initiative is aimed at improving energy efficiency in large buildings to help reduce the overall consumption and carbon emissions. The project is unique in that cities collaborate with one another to share ideas and implement suggestions that they hope will make a significant difference. The solutions include citywide programs, ordinances and policy changes.

Improved Consumer Involvement That Pushes Energy Providers

Cities across the world are beginning to give consumers more control over where their energy comes from and who provides it. Texas recently made headlines when the EIA found that electricity rates were lower than the national average in deregulated areas that allowed consumers to choose their energy providers. Giving consumers a choice is a growing trend across all of North America. Companies like Direct Energy in Calgary, Alberta are responding by offering a greater variety of plans for residences and businesses. This gives customers a better chance of finding a cost effective option that fits their energy needs.

When consumers have a voice companies listen. In the case of energy, providers are beginning to offer more green electricity plans, diversified options, more competitive rates and better customer service. Now that deregulation in Dallas and Houston is proving to be a better model more cities are likely to adopt the strategy.

Madrid's Street Lighting Project

Changing one light bulb is a small step. Changing 225,000 leads to a huge energy efficiency improvement. At the start of the year the city of Madrid set out to complete the world's largest lighting update by replacing every one of their streetlights with newer energy efficient LED bulbs. Once the project is complete Madrid officials expect to reduce energy costs by 44%. The city is also installing a new central control panel that will help to reduce waste even further.

In the U.S. Portland is doing something similar. In June city officials announced that they were half way through updating their 45,000 blub lighting system, which is the biggest energy efficiency project Portland has ever implemented.

Costal Cities Are Turning to Tidal Power

More cities along coastlines are beginning to use offshore wind and tidal waves as a renewable energy source. In Strangford Lough, Ireland the SeaGen turbine is being used to produce 1.2 megawatts of clean, efficient electricity from waves. Beneath the ocean surface 66-foot wide turbines turn 180 degrees as the tides go in and out. It's the largest project of its kind, but soon the 300-megawatt Wando Hoenggan Waterway tidal turbine project will surpass it.

Costa Rica's Hydropower is Eliminating Non-Renewables

At the beginning of the year the small, tropical country of Costa Rica accomplished an electricity feat that is giving countries around the world hope for a more sustainable future. The entire country was powered for 75 days using only clean, renewable energy. This was possible because of Costa Rica's long-term investment in hydroelectric plants. While this isn't a viable option for all countries, it does point out the importance of considering how the local environment can impact electricity generation.

Currently the Democratic Republic of Congo is working on the largest hydroelectric project in history. If everything proceeds as planned the massive Grand Inga Dam will be finished by 2025 and will produce 39 gigawatts of power.

Solving the problem of energy efficiency isn't going to come from one solution. It's going to require the efforts of cities throughout the world that are willing to invest in large-scale projects that make a big difference.