On behalf of Siemens USA, congratulations to the new Administration, newly elected members of Congress and new leaders in our state and local governments. You have undertaken your leadership roles at a critical time, and Siemens stands ready to support you.
Our company continues to join with government leaders in the effort to defeat COVID-19 and begin the work of reopening America. As we move the country forward, we also see tremendous opportunities for new infrastructure investment to help us address the health, economic and societal crisis we face as a nation and to build a more resilient future.
In a recent Harris Poll survey, 69 percent of U.S. mayors indicated that their priority for immediate investment is in infrastructure – with a focus on technology – to generate jobs and economic growth in their cities. Likewise, associations are urging action. The National Association of Manufacturers has voiced support for infrastructure investment. A coalition of more than 140 groups led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Bipartisan Policy Center is urging policymakers to pass a national infrastructure plan by July 4. And the American Society of Civil Engineers will soon release its 2021 Infrastructure Report Card to highlight America’s infrastructure challenges and galvanize action to address them.
We support efforts underway to advance a new, broader vision for infrastructure. This is a moment to invest boldly in a future that is more sustainable and equitable – one that creates jobs and opens doors into good-paying careers running America’s vital industries and critical infrastructure.
Future infrastructure investments through a COVID-19 relief bill, an infrastructure package or the next surface transportation reauthorization present an opportunity to bring transit and rail on a level playing field with other modes of transportation. Additionally, new infrastructure investment focused on climate action and advancing projects of national significance can transform America’s power grid, buildings, manufacturing sector and more.
We support efforts underway to advance a new, broader vision for infrastructure.
This moment clearly calls for new partnerships between the public and private sectors. Traditionally, governments provide the funding; companies do the building. Let’s see this as a moment to work together to solve problems and spark new innovation. Promoting U.S. leadership in emerging technologies and unlocking private capital will accelerate progress on infrastructure and help us move the country forward: rebuilding our economy, creating jobs, tackling climate change, raising U.S. competitiveness and answering the call for racial justice.
Below are five key infrastructure opportunities that can help us achieve all of the above.
Digitalize U.S. manufacturing to drive resilience
When the national spotlight shines on America’s aged infrastructure, we don’t typically see U.S. manufacturing. Yet recent challenges to rapidly produce and distribute vital supplies for pandemic response have shown us that modernizing our industrial base is of national importance. Prioritizing the digital transformation of America’s factories will raise the competitiveness of U.S. manufacturing and prepare us for the next crisis.
When the pandemic struck, the nation turned to a national stockpile of emergency items. Instead of just a physical stockpile, what if we also had a digital one? A national strategic digital twin reserve would allow government leaders and manufacturers to proactively prepare for all types of future emergency events by leveraging the advanced virtual design and modeling tools that helped GlaxoSmithKline shorten the development time for vaccines by nearly one-third. Combined with agile, flexible production lines, this will help companies localize more of their production to the United States and bolster an industry that currently has more than 400,000 open (and good-paying) positions.
Build and expand our rail systems
Another area of opportunity is America’s rail system. Yes, rail ridership has been heavily impacted by the pandemic. But in the 21st century, rail has reemerged as a growing transportation choice and cornerstone for economic development. Prior to the pandemic, Amtrak was routinely setting annual ridership records; shorter routes connecting city pairs were even turning a profit.
Turning to public transportation, more frequent regional rail and bus services stand out as a way to close opportunity gaps and reconnect neighborhoods that have been adversely impacted by highway construction or that lack access to quality transportation. In Houston, known for its massive freeways, ridership on buses and light rail, which Siemens has supported, has remained strong throughout the pandemic, highlighting its essential role in transporting our country’s essential workers.
By prioritizing investment and technology across our nation’s rail systems – from high-speed to more reliable, frequent intercity services and rail transit – we can directly support economic recovery and greater equity in communities nationwide, from the municipalities that need new and better mobility options to the manufacturing plants located in every state that are ready to produce the supplies.
Enable a new era for electric vehicles
Over the next decade, consumers, governments and commercial operators alike will increasingly pursue the electrification of vehicles and fleets as a business decision, greening a sector that’s the largest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions.
We share the view that electric mobility can only grow as fast as the charging infrastructure enables it to. Investing in this infrastructure and power grid modernization today will accelerate the market trends and energy transition that promise to drastically improve air quality and reduce carbon emissions.
Yet there’s also an important role for policy in scaling charging infrastructure: increasing the role of electric utilities. As we commit to greater investment, no other market participant has the bandwidth to deploy chargers at the scale we need: not 10 or 20 at a time, but in the tens of thousands. Utilities also can help advance standards for chargers to ensure that electric vehicle users aren’t forced to continuously sign up for proprietary offerings.
Embrace cleaner, more resilient energy systems
The power grid not only has to be made newer but made smarter. And we can do this right now. Technology and private-sector-led financing models, what we call “energy as a service,” are ready to be deployed, enabling us to modernize the power grid, decarbonize infrastructure and increase resilience to shocks and severe weather.
When it comes to wildfire mitigation, technologies currently installed at points along the power grid are greatly reducing risk. At the same time, decentralized power systems like microgrids are supporting resilience, clean power, and environmental justice. Native American reservations, military bases, elementary schools, university campuses and city neighborhoods alike are using Siemens microgrids to increase renewable power generation as well as to “island” and retain power even when utilities experience outages.
One Siemens partner is Bronzeville, a historically Black community in Chicago, which will be the first utility-operated microgrid cluster in the United States. The project was supported by U.S. Department of Energy grants and is modeling how renewable power projects can advance a net-zero carbon future alongside neighborhood revitalization.
Transform America’s buildings
Microgrid projects and energy-efficiency solutions helped Siemens’ U.S. customers decrease carbon emissions by 132 million metric tons in 2019. As we look ahead, the advent of smart buildings also holds tremendous promise. Transformation is already reaching indoor environments as new building technologies are being deployed to make it possible to reopen schools and essential spaces.
And, as we make buildings heathier and safer, now is the time to scale the work to also make them more sustainable. Buildings produce 40 percent of all emissions globally. But by deploying data technologies and clean power systems – connecting smarter buildings to a smarter grid – we can both decarbonize our built environment and even make it less expensive to operate and maintain.
Consider New York’s Javits Center, which installed rooftop solar panels offsetting 1.3 million pounds of carbon. Seventy percent of U.S. businesses will generate energy savings by investing in similar projects. Even if just a small fraction of America’s commercial buildings followed the Javits Center’s lead, we’d generate enough renewable capacity to power more than half the homes across America.
In closing, our 40,000 employees and more than 24,000 suppliers across the United States are eager to continue working with government leaders nationwide. Siemens has been a national asset for more than 160 years, and we’re ready to join you in taking action. Let’s seize this opportunity.
President and CEO, Siemens USA
Editor’s Note: For more on transforming America’s infrastructure, visit the related links above and subscribe to the Siemens USA podcast, hosted by CEO Barbara Humpton. Follow “The Optimistic Outlook” wherever you get podcasts or by clicking these links to your preferred platform: iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Tune In, YouTube, Podbean.
Published: February 22, 2021