- New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced the Downtown NOLA Energy Challenge, a first-of-its-kind competition for the city in which business owners will be encouraged to reduce their energy usage and make the city more energy-efficient.
- The challenge, which is supported by the city's Downtown Development District and City Energy Project, will provide participating businesses with a number of resources, including free technical support and training to optimize performance.
- The challenge will run through May 2018, after which the leading businesses will win prizes and awards for their efforts.
Downtown New Orleans, which includes the French Quarter — famous for its Mardi Gras celebrations — and the Central Business District, is home to hundreds of bustling businesses and tourist attractions, many with famous neon signs and late-night hours. The energy usage in the downtown region is higher than throughout the rest of the city, making this challenge a strategic starting point for New Orleans to push toward a more energy-efficient city.
These efforts, however, are not new. Earlier this month, the city announced it would explore ways to improve New Orleans' energy technology, including options for micro-grid deployment and for increasing the use of electric vehicles. Entergy New Orleans (ENO) also launched a multi-year plan to install residential smart meters for customers to gauge and price electricity use by 2021. New Orleans City Council President Jason Rogers Williams cites this overall push toward energy management as complimentary to the city's Smart Cities Initiative and focus on resilience.
Though to become a true smart city — which Williams says is a "once in a generation opportunity" — the Big Easy will also need to also focus on climate resilience. New Orleans is one of 55 cities from around the world that has faced a population decline since 2000 — partially due to natural disasters — and has failed to pledge to some climate-cautious initiatives like the Fossil-Fuel Free Streets Declaration.
Focusing on green building management is a way for the city to prioritize both energy- and climate-related resilience in its overarching smart city plan. Through the Downtown NOLA Energy Challenge, buildings will likely see measurable energy savings, and the excitement around these achievements may spur additional "green" upgrades for those same buildings in the downtown area.