Smart Cities: These Cities are Saving Millions by Going Green

Smart cities are all about efficiencies. Not only are they saving the environment by protecting it from the harmful impact of rapid development, but they are also saving governments millions of dollars.

The world’s first smart city, and is still considered as one of the best smart cities in the world, is Seoul. The city provided the best and most technologically advanced healthcare services in the world. The disabled and the elderly were provided tablets and smartphones for monitoring purposes and to receive timely medical attention. As the host of the upcoming 5G network, Seoul is also leading in technological innovation in mobility and transportation.


But there also other cities that have found out that they can save themselves from bankruptcy by going green. Among these cities are:

1. Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Toronto is one of those cities that have been hit by government deficits, forcing them to revisit costs. One city in Ontario discovered that from 2005 to 2019, they experienced a 1400% increase in streetlight electrical bill. By switching to solar-powered Smart City street lights that are using LED lighting, Toronto has saved an estimated amount of CAD1.4 million or about USD1.05 million in costs. The poles in Toronto also have WiFi hotspot capabilities and other Internet of Things (IoT) devices. Because these poles are solar-powered, they need not be connected to the grid.


2. San Diego, California, USA

Despite California being one of those states ahead in adopting electric vehicles, the state still has problems with charging ports for these types of vehicles. San Diego tries to stay ahead with its “Solar-to-EV” project where solar power is used to directly charge electric vehicles using plug-ins. The power is coming from the San Diego Zoo and all the excess power is redirected and stored to the city grid. This project is a collaboration between the government, several companies, and an academic institution.


3. Highland Park, Michigan, USA

After an electric crisis where around 10,000 citizens residents were affected, the city switched to community-owned and solar-powered street lights. During the crisis, around 1,000 street lights were removed to help the residents pay the skyrocketing bill, leaving them to the dark at night. The solar-powered street lights are powered with LED lamp, using about 40% to 50% less power than the previous street lights. The innovation has saved the city from unnecessary costs, making sure that they can enjoy the comfort of technology at night.


Smart City Lighting

Upgrading to LEDs generates energy savings and reduces emission, which is important for paybacks, and financial returns for projects are very attractive.

For a few years now, street lighting upgrades have been already dispersed in many parts of the world. To emphasize, the majority of installed LED lights are smart-enabled.

Nevertheless, controls have still not been adopted at the extent, even if they offer many opportunities to cause additional energy savings, improve asset management, and to sustain other smart city use cases.

There are numerous rationales for this and we cannot tell them one by one. For example, though, sometimes the benefits for asset management cannot pour through municipalities since their lights are maintained by the utility. In other scenarios, street lights are categorized as ‘unmetered loads’ and additional energy-savings from dimming and trimming strategies cannot be captured.

There are still various problems that need to be addressed with complying standards. Many of these issues are being dealt with and worked through by industry stakeholders. And, we anticipate that the solutions can be grasped by our hands.


There is still a strong case to invest in street lighting controls today if you take into account what role a control system plays in the wider smart cities ecosystem.

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