Green cities, technologies and future to conVERGE in SF

Energy, mobility and Big Data in cities will coalesce at the VERGE conference in San Francisco Oct. 14-17. As GreenBiz chairman and host Joel Makower describes it: “VERGE is how technology, and particularly data, creates and accelerates business opportunities that transform companies while addressing the world’s most pressing social and environmental challenges.” I’ll be there to report on everything from news and alliances to a special microgrid that will be created especially for the event.

In addition to reporting for Sustainable Cities Collective and Common Current I will be representing a new global initiative by Germany’s Fraunhofer-Society called the Morgenstadt City Insights program (“City of the Future”) that leverages Fraunhofer’s 12 complementary technological and social research institutes with the city-focused sustainable economic modeling of Economic Transformations Group (ETG), with which I am teaming.

“The Fraunhofer Morgenstadt City Insights initiative is bringing together the power of Europe’s largest organization for applied research with global corporate partners and a limited number of city applicants,” says Alanus von Radecki, of Fraunhofer IAO. “These participants, fa

Von Radecki added that for the first time this will be done in a systemic way, combining research results on sustainable cities from eight different sectors in an innovative and action-oriented approach.cilitated by North American partner ETG, will research, model and implement powerful new integrated sustainability market opportunities in everything from finance, to energy, the built environment, mobility, communications and retail.”

Says ETG president Eric Hansen, “The ‘City of the Future/Morgenstadt’ Initiative is forging a radical

new way of urban systems research by developing insights and systemic analysis tools derived from 100 global best practices across six sustainability-leading cities Copenhagen, Singapore, Freiburg, Tokyo, New York, and Tokyo. Now ‘City of the Future’ is applying its robust action-oriented model and developing new breakthrough urban sustainability innovations/projects in selected cities worldwide.”


Similarly, VERGE will feature a line-up of major policymakers, scientists, technologists and business hybrids who span spheres of influence, such as former US EPA chief Lisa Jackson, who now directs Apple’s sustainability programs, Rocky Mountain Institute chairman/ inventor Amory Lovins, and author/ entrepreneur Paul Hawken, who wrote the prescient foreword to my 2007 book, How Green is Your City? The SustainLane US City Rankings.

“Urban sustainability is not an option….” Hawken wrote. “While international action is required to prevent global catastrophe, cities must lead the way in creating a post carbon environment where people can thrive.”

Cities participating in VERGE include the chief data officer of Philadelphia, the sustainability director of Houston, the director of San Francisco’s Environmental Department, Phoenix’s mayoral sustainability adviser, and the CIO of small but influential Palo Alto, CA, which just announced it will require all new homes to have electric vehicle power hook-ups.

Others in areas such as research and funding will be in the house: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which I have collaborated on in designing an indicator and assessment tool for the 663 cities of China to manage themselves using a Low-Carbon Eco-city framework; and the Energy Foundation, which has funded sustainable city work in China and Latin America.

Executives from companies presenting at VERGE will include Google, Microsoft, Airbnb, GM, Sprint, Shell, AECOM, Schneider Electric, NRG Energy, GE Software, Autodesk, Whole Foods, Trulia,  Intercontinental Hotels, Perkins + Will, Lyft and Zimride, eBay and many more.

Warren Karlenzig is president of Common Current, which is based in the San Francisco Bay Area