As the global population grows and its energy use expands, consumers, policy-makers and utilities look to city leadership for models of effective program planning, design and implementation that help tackle the challenges that accompany expansion. Planners and providers will be scrambling to accommodate an additional 2.7 billion people in the world’s cities by 2050.

One city in the United States has stood out for its success in this endeavor. According to the Boston-based research firm, Lux Research Inc., Boulder, Colo.’s SmartGridCity joins an elite group of four cities worldwide that provide the most replicable models. The other members are Amsterdam, Netherlands; Stockholm, Sweden; and the Living PlanIT initiative in Portugal.

Driving this recognition is the notion that policy and technology must be paired effectively to drive the development of efficient future cities. Lux asserts that technologies must cost-effectively maximize convenience, connectivity, energy-efficiency and environmental sustainability, while accommodating rapidly growing urban populations that are expected to reach 6.3 billion, or 70 percent of the world’s population, by the middle of the century.

Lux recognized SmartGridCity, a program of Xcel Energy, for providing a model of how best to meet that challenge. The program has four component parts. It consists of a smart grid infrastructure, which acts as a backbone of the entire smart system. Xcel has layered digital capabilities across the local grid, including two-way high-speed communications, which allows the utility to proactively monitor the grid and detect outages before they occur.

Smart meters also are an integral component of the system, allowing customers to view usage patterns in 15-minute increments instead of monthly. Coupling the smart meters with a MyAccount website gives customers detailed information about their energy usage and provides them greater choice and control over how and when they use electricity. Lastly, the utility plans to make in-home smart devices, such as wireless, two-way thermostats and smart plugs, available to customers in the future, to help them connect to the smart grid, communicate with the MyAccount website, and more closely monitor and adjust their energy usage.