Cities of the future: Smart city innovations in San Diego

The state of California has long been a nationwide pioneer in advancements regarding climate change, sustainability, and energy transitions in the United States.
Published: Tue 24 Apr 2018

In 2006, California instituted the Global Warming Solutions Act, which fixed a limit on greenhouse gas emissions and the state’s commitment to transition to sustainable and clean energy.

In addition, the state passed the Clean Energy and Pollution Reduction Act in 2015, which aims to increase renewable energy generation and consumption and energy efficiency.

Though these measures present a contrast to the United States’ current stances on climate change, sustainable energy, and environmental policies, California is working to enforce its legislation that attend to these matters. This has made the San Diego region, in southern California, the perfect ground for the implementation of environmental and energy innovations.

Smart cities and environmental regulations

Cleantech San Diego, a non-profit, membership-based trade association, aims to combine efforts by businesses, government officials and related organisations to achieve the goals set by the state’s legislation. “Cleantech San Diego […] was launched 10 years ago to help the San Diego region catalyse on the economic and environmental opportunities that were going to be realised because of some of the regulations that were coming down from the state of California,” says Jason Anderson, the organisation’s President and CEO.

“Business leaders [and] the mayor at the time saw that as California moved forward with a pretty aggressive climate agenda, the private sector and the business community was going to be developing technologies and solutions to help the state meet its goals, specifically goals around renewable energy generation, battery storage, etc.”

“We wanted to realise in advance the adoption and development of sustainable business practices, renewable energy and clean technologies for the greater San Diego region.”

Citizens, utilities, academia: collaboration and engagement

The organisation serves as a common ground for discussions to happen between several parties involved in the process of implementing and deploying sustainability projects.

According to Anderson, “a lot of partners are needed at the table to make things a success. The city can’t just lead it and make everything work, they need a public sector behind it, they need a private sector behind it, they need the academic community behind it, they need the utility at the table with them, so it’s really those collaborations [that] are really critical to the implementation and deployment of actual projects.”

This necessary modernisation in the energy industry, says Anderson, is directly connected with a significant surge in people’s more active participation in the energy generation and consumption process.

“From my perspective, what’s driving so much of this is that cities, communities, citizens, especially in California, are really starting to think about where their energy comes from. Right now in San Diego, for instance, we get 43% of our energy from renewable energy sources. That’s pretty significant.” San Diego is indeed far above the national average - in 2016, renewable energy sources provided only around 15% of the electricity in the United States.

“The state of California has significant goals, cities around our region are passing 100% renewable energy goals, so it’s at the top of mind of San Diegans. I wish that was at the top of the minds of the rest of the country. For us it’s the start of the conversation, but it’s definitely not concluding the conversation.”

Indeed, Cleantech San Diego and other similar, independent initiatives may come to set an example for the rest of the United States. Following such instances, the country can move on from fossil fuels utilisation and make a significant shift towards renewable energy in a move which is both industrially and environmentally sustainable.

To watch the full interview and find out more about Cleantech’s and California’s commitment to sustainability, access our digital magazine.