Thursday, September 6, 2012

Knoxville wants to be an IBM Smart City

We're meeting the deadline for this initiative tomorrow.

Here's the pea-sized version:

Knoxville, Tennessee has an aging housing infrastructure that consumes energy in excess, often leaving residents with utility bills too large for them to pay. This results in draw down of resources from helping agencies, but not in direct follow up of weatherization and education services. The resulting cycle wastes millions annually.

Ignoring this problem is economically and socially destructive, and excessively damaging to local health, given that 60% of power consumed in the Tennessee Valley Authority’s territory is coal generated . Knoxville is first in the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America’s 2012 Top Five Allergy Capitals. In part this is due to topography, and in part it is because we could be more proactive about consuming less energy.

Buildings account for 36% of our energy consumption and 65% of electricity consumption. In spite of partnering with local utilities to lead aggressive energy reduction measures in-house, commercially, and residentially, the City of Knoxville lacks a methodical system that connects our vast network of emergency utility services – which identify problem spots - to the solution: weatherization and energy education.

In 2011, five organizations paid 3.3 million for emergency utility bills to the Knoxville Utilities Board (KUB) on behalf of private struggling residential accounts. This amount assisted 9,670 households, averaging $339 in utility benefits per household. These programs are designed to alleviate the financial pressure experienced by low-income families, rehabilitated citizens, and people who have recently been or are in immediate danger of becoming homeless. However, no follow-up preventative measures are systematically installed to keep this from happening again.

The City of Knoxville would like to utilize the skills and expertise of a talented IBM team to brainstorm a way to track and measure emergency energy services and to recommend the best way to systematically address Knoxville’s older housing stock accordingly. Knoxville is represented on national working groups dedicated to creating strategies for residential energy efficiency programs, so we know that this is a relevant area of study that as of yet has no consistent answer across the United States.

Good luck, Knoxville!

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