NSF Research Collaboration Network on Sustainable Cities: Workshop: “Aligning City Needs with Research Opportunities Municipal Energy and Sustainability"

Location and Date

Co-Sponsored by the City of Tallahassee
Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL
October 17-18, 2016



How can municipal electric utilities can contribute to making their city a more environmentally sustainable, healthy and livable community? Working with municipal utilities, the NSF Research Sustainable Healthy Communities Research Project is providing research answers to this question.

Florida State University and Colorado State University hosted a workshop on Tuesday, October 18, 2017 in Tallahassee, FL to engage electric utilities and contribute to the knowledge based on resources, barriers, and concerns in promoting sustainable, healthy, and livable cities. The FSU and CSU teams prepared, discussed, and distributed some of the work currently under way. The role of demand side management (DSM) programs, distributed generation and city-university research partnerships was highlighted. The benefits to participation in this workshop include: an expanded network of municipal utilities, an opportunity to influence research to provide practical benefit to utility managers, and the potential to collaborate with researchers to answer city specific questions.

Demand Side Management and Citizen Engagement (Social Science Work)

The FSU team highlighted completed and ongoing work that estimates impacts for programs including low-interest loan programs, energy audit program, and rebate programs. Tradeoffs between energy and water consumption after participating in these programs was also discussed. New research on the impacts of different billing mechanisms and marketing materials on consumption and participation in programs was presented.

The goal in working on these projects is to help understand the motivation of individuals participating in programs that promote sustainable outcomes. This should be viewed as adapting policy design to encourage citizens to work with Cities to achieve livability goals for their cities. 

Distributed Generation (Engineering Work)

Colorado State University is working with Fort Collins Utilities on distributed generation innovation.  As part of the SRN, their presentations demonstrated some of the grid driven research occurring within the network.  The decreasing cost of communications and control has opened the possibility of managing more operations at the end-user meter level, or even inside the meter.  Many distribution utilities have now installed advanced metering and are using it for billing and outages, but are not using it for load shaping, controlling distributed generation, or to evaluate their operations.  One stumbling block is determining what is possible – and what to expect – from these programs.  Questions to consider include:

  • How much can demand-side management manage load peaks?  What’s it worth? How will customers react?
  • Should we be doing something now to understand and shape PV installations?  Rooftop? Community gardens?  Should we require controllable inverters? How would we control them?
  • Are there cost-effective ways to assess where distributed generation will – or won’t – be a problem?  Is the proposed all-solar development a good or bad thing? Are electric vehicles a great new revenue source?  Or a recipe for killing my transformers?

This effort breaks new ground in understanding how distributed generation impacts the operation of distribution systems as well as community sustainability and livability.  

City Utility-University Research Partnerships (Collaboration Networks)

Open discussion of technical and management needs of municipal utilities, and the challenges they face in their communities followed with discussions of potential benefits of research partnerships for advancing knowledge, good governance, and best practice. Opportunities to work with the NSF Sustainable Healthy Communities Research Project through data sharing and/or sharing of utilities experience and experiments will be advanced.