Strategic Energy Action Plan

Action Area 4: Develop And Implement Resilient Innovation Districts (Rids)

A resilient city is one that can deal with shocks and stresses. Shocks may include climatic events such as floods, or it could be the disappearance of an industry upon which the city is highly dependent. Stresses are issues that weaken a city, and may be associated with income inequality, high unemployment, a lack of affordable housing, poor education, and high rates of crime. Ensuring resilience at various scales (city, neighborhood, district) requires the ability of cities to engage with their stakeholders to form a greater understanding of vulnerabilities that span communities, government agencies, city departments, businesses, and utilities.

55 The proposed Resilient Innovation Districts are a combination of Energy Innovation Zones (EIZs), Resilient Innovation Neighborhoods, and the Smart Cities Concept. They are there to deliver low carbon, resilient approaches in order to establish the business models that can see their deployment elsewhere.

The SEAP is based upon the three pillars of buildings, transportation, and generation, with these being set on a foundation of innovation. To maximize economic advantage and speed up the innovation process, structures need to be put into place to prove and realize the transition to a low carbon future. The suggested approach is to establish a set of Resilient Innovation Districts55 (RIDs) as the City seeks to ‘rid’ itself of CO2e emissions while ensuring resilience and maximizing job opportunities. These RIDs should be in different areas of Charlotte and will integrate the three pillars - this will allow the City to address economic mobility. The proven low carbon, resilient business models can then be applied elsewhere with revenue opportunities returning to Charlotte, and at the same time deliver greater resilience.

The suggested concept of a Resilient Innovation District (RID) builds upon the existing Smart City District Model (SCDM). The SCDM promotes energy efficient projects and renovations for neighborhoods and communities that lead to a scaling up of proven energy efficiency solutions.

Through the RIDs, barriers to action due to policies and regulations can be overcome through piloting projects and data collection. This will enable emissions to be reduced alongside costs, while at the same time creating jobs and exports from the City that can be deployed around the United States and beyond, bringing finance with them.

Task 1: Formalize the Concept of a Resilient Innovation District Through Dialogue with all Relevant Stakeholders and in Line with The Comprehensive Plan Process in FY21

To be successful, the RID concept cannot be deployed in isolation. Rather, it needs to link to other activities, including the Comprehensive Plan process and the UDO Update. The RID concept requires a partnership approach along with a clear idea of how learning from them can be incorporated into a wider planning.

The technologies and processes exist for living in a low carbon future, however the business models required to realize them have not yet been established. The RID concept allows for collaboration and realization. The regulatory structure of North Carolina could be used positively to address this. The business models needed to exploit low carbon, resilient technologies require development to facilitate a more rapid transition to the target of 2tCO2e per capita.

Task 2: Implement a Set of Criteria that will Guide the Selection and Development of Resilient Innovation Districts in FY22

The precise structure of each individual RID is still to be determined. It is recommended that the RIDs include at least some or all of the following:

  1. Located near to research centers whether they be university-based or private;

  2. Linked to City government-owned sites, businesses, residences, and/or transportation infrastructure;

  3. May contain micro-grids and other forms of distributed generation.

Step 1: Utilize CREDIT to identify policies that would be a barrier to the creation of RIDs

Ideally, a RID would be located in an area that already has policies and structures in place to support it, for example, areas such as University City, South End, and Uptown. High levels of engagement will be required to achieve and deliver such a model if these areas are to form part of a RID. To establish the RIDs, engagement with regulatory bodies will be necessary, although part of their purpose is to overcome such barriers. This is part of the learning process.

Step 2: Update and/or create policies to support the creation of five RIDs in FY22

The target of five RIDs is aspirational, and should seek to cover different elements of Charlotte’s demographics. The RIDs should engage with the

operations functions of various relevant Charlotte government service departments like Charlotte Solid Waste Services and Charlotte Water. The plans should be clearly visually set out and developed in tandem with the community through CREDIT and incorporate feedback from relevant groups.