Thursday, April 16, 2009

Amsterdam Going Green, Smart & Fast

Among Amsterdam's 17th century town houses and meandering canals, big changes are afoot. On Utrechtsestraat, a major shopping avenue in the center of the Dutch capital, street trash soon will be collected by nonpolluting electric trucks, while the electronic displays in local bus stops will be powered by small solar panels. Elsewhere, 500 households will pilot an energy-saving system from IBM (IBM) and Cisco (CSCO) aimed at cutting electricity costs. An additional 728 homes will have access to financing from Dutch banks ING (ING) and Rabobank to buy everything from energy-saving light bulbs to ultra-efficient roof insulation. The projects, all getting under way over the next few months, represent Amsterdam's initial steps toward making its infrastructure more eco-friendly. The move comes as governments worldwide set aside billions of dollars to create so-called "smart cities," or towns that mix renewable projects, next-generation energy efficiency, and government support to cut overall carbon dioxide footprints. Yet, unlike cities that could take decades to upgrade their infrastructure, Amsterdam aims to complete its first-round investments by 2012. That makes it one of the first and most ambitious adopters of the smart city concept, attracting attention from policymakers worldwide hoping to glean lessons from the green experiment.