Growing Your City's I.Q.

“Your city is dumb,” said Clayton Moore, writer for Digital Trends. “The potholed streets, coin-operated parking meters, and drafty brick buildings many of us interact with daily haven’t changed much in a century. But it’s finally happening.” Cities in every country are using technology to reduce energy, water use and traffic.  Streets are getting cleaner, greener and safer with technology.

One of the first cities in the U.S. to implement the idea of a Smart City was San Diego. Their first project focus was electric vehicles (EVs) and they soon grew to the highest EV adoption rate in the country.


  1. Create a team representing five key sectors: electric utility, government, business, education, and non-profit.

  2. Pick a project area your region is already working on: energy efficiency, reducing water use, safety, EV adoption, or smart grid deployment.

  3. Align your project area with regulatory policy making.

  4. Prioritize projects by tangible community benefit.

  5. Determine which team members have access to funding and which will contribute with time.

Smart Cities San Diego set out as a bold effort to improve the region’s energy independence, empower consumers to drive electric, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and encourage economic growth. They recognized they could build and implement projects more quickly if they had representation from five key industry sectors: the electric utility, government, business, education, and non-profit.

San Diego Gas & Electric, Cleantech San Diego, GE, UC San Diego and City of San Diego were the 2011 inaugural members and were already working together on many of the city’s smart grid technologies – like smart meters, microgrids, automatic electrical line reclosers, battery storage, solar and EVs. This partnership was the natural next step to formalize a results-driven effort to leverage the group’s strengths to design, build and install projects years before they could do so individually.

“Growing EV adoption was the first way Smart Cities San Diego felt we could move the technology needle,” said April Bolduc, president of S Curve Strategies, and founding member of Smart Cities San Diego while at San Diego Gas & Electric. “We implemented seven EV projects that crowned San Diego the city with the highest EV adoption.”

The EV projects included:

  • Nissan Leaf’s launch of the nation’s first all-electric car in San Diego.

  • San Diego Zoo’s Solar-to-EV Project that was the world’s first to combine solar and battery storage for the charging of visitor’s electric cars.

  • Partnering with local developer H.G. Fenton Company to install solar and EV charging stations for all residents at their new apartment community.

  • National Geographic’s first Smart Cities documentary series was on San Diego and featured its EV efforts.

  • Installed almost 60 public EV chargers on city-owned land that included Balboa Park, recreation centers, libraries and entertainment districts.

  • Launched the Cleantech San Diego EVerForward consumer campaign to education drivers on the ease of driving electric.

  • Launched the country’s first all-electric car sharing program.

April Bolduc