HG Chissell, founder and CEO of Advanced Energy Group, opened the session, “Creating a Smart City in the Real World,” talking about the “Moonshot” decarbonization goals that cities signed up for in Paris at COP21, and how they could possibly be expected to achieve them.

His No. 1 takeaway after working for years in the energy business was, “Unless we can achieve alignment, we’re not going to have the velocity we need to meet the urgency of the problem.” The concept of smart cities is not new, according to Bob Bennett, chief innovation officer for Kansas City, Missouri.

Even the electrification of cities took place in Hawaii, in the 1880s, well before it did in most cities on the mainland, thanks to forward-looking King David Kalakaua, who might have been the first smart city leader.

“Smartening” a city, argued Bennett, could serve to pull it up by its economic bootstraps – essentially what Kansas City has done.

The city then installed a free trolley which expanded its vibrant city center to a broader area, all served with free wifi.

Ke Wei, assistant director for infrastructure at the New York City Mayor’s Office of Recovery & Resiliency, used data to determine that heat and hot water in buildings accounted for 60 percent of the city’s GHG emissions.

Along similar lines, Rubicon Global, also at the event, provides truck-mounted waste management technology that smart cities can use to operate more efficiently, while improving recycling rates and increasing landfill diversion.