Launching the Energy Efficient Cities Initiative

Monday, November 03, 2008
 In 2007, more people lived in cities than rural areas for the first time in history.Massive urbanization, mostly in the developing world is expected to continue, with an estimated 60 percent of the population living in cities by 2030.Such a demographic shift will pose a massive challenge to city mayors across the world.It will put a major strain on existing infrastructure, substantially increase demand for municipal services and create new demand on land.In addition, this trend will require major increases in energy supply and use.Today, cities around the globe are responsible for 75 percent of the world’s energy use and the resulting greenhouse gas emissions.As urbanization trends continue, tackling energy efficiency issues in the urban context will be essential.
The Energy Efficient Cities Initiative, jointly developed by the Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP) and the Urban Anchor of the World Bank, and launched at a Roundtable discussion with stakeholders earlier this month at the World Bank’s Headquarters, aims to promote energy efficiency in cities and reduce the harmful effects that cities can have on our environment.Energy efficiency can help cities reduce their energy bills and thus free up resources for other developmental priorities.In addition, such programs can ease strains on existing infrastructure, reduce the costs to customers for municipal services, improve a city’s competitiveness and help reduce the environmental footprint of the city.
City leaders from Amman, Antalya, eThekwini (Durban), Lviv, Mexico City, Odessa, Quezon City, Sao Paulo, Stockholm and Tianjin came together to discuss the successes and challenges they have experienced so far with implementing energy efficiency programs and discuss how the World Bank and other international partners can help.Organizations such as ICLEI (Local Governments for Sustainability), Clinton Climate Initiative, UN Habitat, Columbia University, City Indicators Facility and Cities Alliance, were also invited to speak at the Roundtable, and share their experiences working with cities to implement energy efficient projects.
“In the Roundtable I learned of a campaign in Ukraine where each major building in a city was given recognition, a certificate, when they reduce their consumption,” said City Manager, Dr. Michael Sutcliff, of Durban, South Africa.“That’s something I can implement in my city at almost no cost.”
Although cities consume a lot of energy, efficiency is often not a priority.The Roundtable participants noted that municipal governments are focused on the immediate needs of their citizens, expanding access to basic services and socioeconomic development.Further, reliance on more ad hoc urban planning often overlook options for more “mixed planning” and “spatial densification” which can have substantial efficiency gains across many sector services.While approaches and initiatives varied, there was consensus that delivery of these required services can be provided at a lower cost through improvements in energy efficiency; in addition, energy bills can be lowered, air pollution can be minimized, jobs can be created through various energy efficiency measures, green roofs can provide vegetables in food scarcities, and public transportation can make travel safer while saving energy and travel time, to name but a few.
Despite these benefits, higher upfront costs and difficulty in measuring energy saved from energy efficient products often prevent broader adoption at the customer level.Many studies have been completed to show the energy saved from energy efficient products, the most convincing argument, however, is often personal use.When the people of Durban took part in a light bulb exchange program, replacing old light bulbs with energy efficient bulbs, their electricity costs were reduced and the new bulbs had to be replaced less often -- the small increase in cost seemed worthwhile to them. “Realizing this,” explained Dr. Sutcliffe “encourages them to be more energy efficient in other areas, such as turning off the light when leaving a room.” 
The Challenges

Cities, particularly in the developing world, face many difficulties starting energy efficient programs. Already working on tight budgets, they often lack the money to invest in such programs, even though there will be a cost-savings in the future.While some would consider borrowing, cities cannot access many forms of development financing as a sub-national borrower.Even if they have the will and the financing to improve energy efficiency, there are limited documented case studies from other cities that share different types of programs, costs and results. Planning is also a major hurdle since more innovative planning methods are not widely understood in developing countries.And, there are challenges integrating energy issues, which often span multiple city agencies and utilities, and coordinating efforts.
Working Towards Solutions

The city experts provided a number of practical examples during the roundtable, where ESMAP’s energy efficiency experts and the Urban Anchor’s expertise in city management could provide feedback.Examples included; small grants to support cities pilot projects in energy efficiency and a recognition program to raise awareness of successful energy efficient projects that could be scaled-up locally and replicated in other cities.
The ideas raised during the roundtable will form the basis of the Energy Efficient Cities Action Plan.The Energy Efficient Cities Initiative hopes the implementation of this plan will help cities to become more sustainable in their use of energy.
Click here to download the workshop proceedings.


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