This week, Charlotte will host a three-day workshop for Envision America, an effort that will bring municipal leaders, smart technology experts and private sector allies from 10 major U.S. cities together. The goal? To kick start smart city initiatives across the country. And they’re coming here to Charlotte to learn from us.
For a city that has long hung its hat on being a major financial center – a distinction that has served us well – it’s a new feeling to be recognized nationally as a clean-energy leader and model Smart City. We’ve started to outgrow our Bank Town moniker.
How it began
It all started as a sustainability initiative driven by Charlotte Center City Partners, who worked with Duke Energy to identify an energy reduction goal for uptown Charlotte: reduce energy use in our biggest buildings by 20 percent over five years. Envision Charlotte was created to drive efforts toward achieving this goal, making us one of the first cities in the world to implement a measurable clean-energy program in more than 60 buildings uptown.
Envision Charlotte is on track to succeed. As of last June, energy reductions were at 16.1 percent in the 61 buildings taking part, saving $17 million in energy costs. Those numbers have attracted notice, most notably from the White House, which views Charlotte as something of a lab for smart city innovation.
It was the White House that first recognized the great model we had in place and suggested other cities learn from us. That concept became Envision America, which was announced at the first-ever White House Smart Cities Forum last September. And we heard immediately from other major cities around the country that wanted to participate in the first Envision America workshop to learn from us – places like Dallas, Los Angeles and New York City.
We’re hosting the Envision America workshop in Charlotte because we have a tradition here of forward-thinking, cross-sector collaboration, and because we’re becoming a hotspot for talent, capital and technology leaders. We’ve always been a city of innovation and aspiration; the difference is that now were being nationally recognized for it. The rest of the country is realizing that we’re not just a banking town. We’re an energy town, and it’s time we started thinking of ourselves that way too.
Amy Aussieker is the executive director of Envision Charlotte.