Infrastructure Outlook: The Competitive Cost of Waiting to Invest in Infrastructure
As the U.S. population keeps growing, we can’t simply maintain the status quo. And to bring change, we need infrastructure investment: approximately $57 trillion during the next 12 years.
In the past, the United States spent billions of dollars on improvements to outdated infrastructure; and although there’s a need to repair and upgrade, it can’t be our sole focus. We can no longer spend billions of dollars solely on improvements. It’s time to invest in “smart” and connected technology to meet 21st century standards. The global market for smart city solutions is expected to grow from $40.1 billion in 2017 to $94.2 billion by 2026. To stay competitive, cities must adapt.
Although infrastructure is a national priority, its implementation should be local. Whether in a large city or small town, the private sector can help fill the gap even if public funding is limited.
Energy Upgrades in Utah
An example of this is the city of Orem, Utah, which sought energy upgrades and retrofit solutions to modernize energy services for its citizens, reduce its energy output, and improve resource and cost efficiency. Siemens provided these upgrades and financed a portion of the project through a tax-exempt loan structure. The result? Savings of roughly $11.4 million over 15 years, which were used to pay back the loan.
But what happens when public funding isn’t available? In these situations, technology and financing can come together to achieve significant savings through unconventional ways.
Natural Gas Plants in the Northeast
Bayonne Energy Center (BEC) in Bayonne, N.J., is unique due to the technology behind it. Although natural-gas-fired plants are not new to the New York City area, BEC is the only one that can produce peak energy in 10 minutes from the aero-derivative gas turbines Siemens supplied. These turbines are derived from jet engines and bring all the power that comes with an airliner to power generation. When the plant is at full capacity, BEC delivers power through a dedicated 6.5-mile-long underwater transmission cable from Bayonne to the Consolidated Edison Gowanus substation in Brooklyn.
Natural-gas-fired plants like BEC produce 50-60 percent less emissions than coal. And thanks to the inclusion of Wet Low Emission turbines, BEC releases fewer emissions than the typical natural-gas plant. These additions—as well as a $50 million holding company loan followed by three subsequent loans from Siemens—were crucial to successful project completion, as they increased the facilities’ power output to 640 MW, enough to provide power to 500,000 New Yorkers.
Private capital is ready to be invested into our cities, but that window won’t be open forever. We must act now if we’re going to help guide our cities toward sustainable, competitive growth. The success of the technology behind infrastructure only further emphasizes that “it’s time to build.”