Benchmarking Energy Sustainability in Cities

Created by
Albana KONA Scientific Project Officer
European Commission - DG JRC, Directorate C - Energy, Transport and Climate
Policies and Targets
Urban Areas

Energy efficiency is a strategic component of urban sustainability. The aim of this workshop is to address benchmarking techniques in energy efficiency and sustainability as a management tool in the context of urban and local community actions towards sustainability. The workshop also identifies and discusses methodologies and tools to measure urban sustainable energy and energy efficiency in cities. It is well known that standard benchmarking techniques, such as per capita or GDP normalization, are missing important features of the collected data used for benchmarking. Rigorous benchmarking techniques are likely to play an increasingly important role for policy-making authorities and for local authorities to assess their energy efficiency actions, to monitor their performance, exchange experience and learn from each other. In order to develop reliable and robust benchmarking techniques, different databases on energy consumption and location should be integrated with statistical and energy performance assessment methodologies. A special session was dedicated to databases, methodologies and GIS based tools for assessing energy sustainability in urban areas.

Recommendations from "Benchmarking Energy Sustainability in Cities"

The scientific workshop “Benchmarking Energy Sustainability in Cities” was organized jointly by the European Commission-JRC and Politecnico di Torino on November 25, 2014 at the Lingotto Hall of Politecnico di Torino in Turin, Italy.

The Workshop brought together international experts to deliberate and share experiences on the challenges and issues of utilizing benchmarking techniques to measure energy efficiency and sustainability in cities.

The total of fifteen presentations that were presented in the three sessions of the Workshop provided different perspectives on the use of benchmarking techniques as a management tool in the context of urban and local community actions towards sustainability, including signatory cities under the Covenant of Mayors (CoM) initiative. Furthermore, the presentations allowed for the identification and evaluation of tools and methodologies to measure urban sustainable energy and energy efficiency in cities.

The three sessions of the scientific workshop were namely “Monitoring Sustainable Energy Action Plans in Cities” (Session 1), “Benchmarking Energy Sustainability in Cities” (Session 2), and “Databases, Methodologies and GIS based Tools for Benchmarking Energy Sustainability in Cities” (Session 3).

The Proceedings of this scientific workshop document the vast array of knowledge and expertise that was presented by the international experts from Europe and abroad together with the key findings and recommendations, which are as summarized below.

Monitoring Sustainable Energy Action Plans in Cities

  • Recommendation 1: Cities are increasingly in the forefront of making changes in Energy Sustainability. This momentum of cities needs to be supported with adequate policies and increased policy learning with robust benchmarking techniques. Small signatories in CoM need support from regional and provincial agencies through the Covenant territorial coordinators. In addition, there is a need to expand the usage of energy density maps for reliable data on cities and efficient thermal energy networks. Robust methods of benchmarking are needed to let those cities who are performing better inspire other cities.
  • Recommendation 2: The monitoring of results of Sustainable Energy Action Plans (SEAPs) in cities is necessary to follow-up on the progress that is made by cities towards reaching their CO2 emission reduction targets. The monitoring process is also necessary to keep the energy efficiency and renewable energy measures of the city dynamic and open for improvement with SEAPs being a “living document” Best practices have emphasized the usage of calls for actions to integrate new measures into existing strategies (e.g. Torino) and the matching of companion cities (e.g. Glasgow, Ghent, Riga and Gothenburg) to transfer experiences to relatively more novice cities. The concept of an “Enhanced SEAP” has also been proposed based on a pipeline of integrative approaches leading up to the monitoring stages, including scenario analyses. Beyond the signatory and submission stages of SEAPs, CoM signatory cities should benefit from these best practices in monitoring the results of the measures that are included in the SEAPs.
  • Recommendation 3: The diffusion of standards for the reporting and monitoring stages may increase spillover for policy learning and benchmarking. In the Workshop, experiences from the carbonn Climate Registry (cCR) and ACEEE City Scorecard among others provided key perspectives for reporting and monitoring practices. The cCR provides flexibility for cities in selecting the indicators on which to report. The ACEEE City Scorecard assigns grades to cities based on the extent of coverage of policy areas in local government operations, buildings, energy and water utilities, transportation, and community-wide measures. At the same time, progress is being made in the standardization process based on the Global Protocol for Community-Scale Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventories (GPC), which provides a robust framework for accounting and reporting city-wide greenhouse gas emissions, and ISO 37120:2014 on “Sustainable Development of Communities - Indicators for City Services and Quality of Life.”

Benchmarking Energy Sustainability in Cities

  • Recommendation 4: Benchmarking is a potentially valuable tool for stimulating the learning process from best practices and improving city performances in energy sustainability. At the same time, the techniques that are used for benchmarking, including the processes for data collection, any kind of index construction, selection criteria for the sample, indicator value aggregation, and weighting of the dimensions must be fully transparent since the results of such techniques can vary widely based on the chosen methodology. As a result, in a sensitivity analysis approach, there is a need to be able to compare the variation in the results when different benchmarking techniques are used. Consensus-building processes may further be used to justify the selection of indicators, the data sample, and benchmarking techniques.
  • Recommendation 5: Rather than comparing cities and/or airports servicing the cities to one another, benchmarking techniques may also be used to aid city planners, policymakers, managers, and researchers in choosing between different scenarios. The example of rating the energy efficiency of districts (e.g. Finland) and the case of various tools to provide a quick assessment of the magnitude and sources of a city's energy and carbon footprints (e.g. China) can indicate areas of possible policy intervention. The interfaces of such tools should allow for the entry of relevant data that will allow a fair comparison of scenarios across various policy measures, which may include local energy production and transport options for low carbon development in cities.

Databases, Methodologies and GIS based Tools for Benchmarking Energy Sustainability in Cities

  • Recommendation 6: Multi-criteria methodologies may be used to provide policy making support to evaluate the different options that are available to a city in reaching the same CO2 reduction target. These options may include a combination of different measures that define different strategies that may be pursued by the city. Principles based on the marginal mode of concordance and discordance can be useful in evaluating the different strategies that are available from the viewpoints of various stakeholders, including viewpoints of technical and decision-making interests. Multi-criteria methodologies may further be used to enhance the consensus-building process in determining the selection of strategies for cities’ energy systems.
  • Recommendation 7: Bottom-up methodologies and GIS based tools may be integrated into processes of benchmarking energy sustainability in cities. These may include the evaluation of winter thermal energy needs and fuel consumption, the creation of 3-D maps to pre-certify buildings at an urban scale for an energy assessment of buildings, and optimize energy consumption based on energy modelling of buildings. The regulatory framework and platforms for open source data sharing may further support related efforts.The INSPIRE Directive has already established an infrastructure for spatial information in Europe to support Community environmental policies, and policies or activities which may have an impact on the environment.
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