By Kerry Wilson
Managing Director, Business Solutions

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced cities across the globe into dealing with many simultaneous, unforeseen and urgent challenges. First among them is the health of their citizens, but having to deal with the immediate and future consequences of severe budget shortfalls, the catastrophic effects of lockdowns upon local businesses, as well as widespread civic unrest are also certainly top of mind for most communities. It is not an easy time for local governments.

In addition to addressing the most urgent issues, City officials are dealing with a variety of other, less urgent but significant problems that have come to light during this pandemic, such as a need to bridge the digital divide, where an estimated 30 million Americans do not have high speed broadband internet access at home. These individuals are locked out of an increasing movement towards a more digital economy, with work and school increasingly being performed at home.

It's only natural then that capital spending decisions are either delayed or shelved unless they address the immediate concerns of their constituents. Despite the increasing trend for cities to take advantage of new technologies that can use information and communication to increase operational efficiency and improve the quality of government services – some of the goals of Smart City technology, these overlapping and urgent problems have taken priority in capital budgeting and planning.

However, if a city owns its streetlight network, and hasn't upgraded them to LEDs, they're sitting on a redundant asset whose value can be unlocked to pay for not just a lighting upgrade, but a Smart Lighting infrastructure that can also lay the foundation of becoming a Smart City, which will accelerate the city's recovery. Smart Cities are those that are adapting to a more digital economy, which is going to lead many of them out of these difficult times by attracting knowledge, workers and companies that will rely upon greater connectivity and more efficient service delivery.

Through an Energy Performance Contract, RealTerm Energy can finance the entire upgrade program, including LED lighting, Smart Lighting Controls and a variety of Smart City applications, paid for solely from the energy and maintenance savings, without requiring any city funds or the city taking on any debt. In this budget constrained environment, smart streetlight infrastructure projects are still the fastest and cheapest way to begin transforming into a smart city and to help accelerate a city's recovery by gathering essential data to improve city services, as well as bridging the digital divide and reducing crime rates.

As bad as these times are for almost all of us, the combination of highly efficient LED lights, newly affordable smart lighting controls and interest rates at an all-time low now make it possible for cities to use these savings to pay for the project in its entirety. By converting the same expense that they're already paying for an inefficient and aging lighting system, cities can now get not just better lighting, but can begin the journey towards becoming a Smart City of the future, and can begin reaping the benefits today, rather than waiting until they find the capital.

RealTerm Energy, a North American LED, Smart Control and Smart City leader, can help cities across North America to begin this journey without spending municipal funds or taking on any debt through an Energy Performance Contract.