City Performance Tool: A road map to 80x50

In this metropolis on the west coast of the USA, city planners are using the Siemens City Performance Tool to find a sustainable path towards the stated goal of cutting San Francisco’s greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent compared to 1990 levels – within the next 33 years.

 

Like many coastal cities, San Francisco is especially vulnerable to the predicted impacts of global climate change – not only from rising sea levels, but also because the city’s drinking water supply depends on plentiful snowfall in the Sierra mountains, which could be adversely impacted by rising temperatures. Recognizing the threat, San Francisco has set an ambitious goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050, a program dubbed 80x50.

 

To help San Francisco chart the best path for achieving its target, Siemens recently collaborated with the city’s Department of Environment and nine other agencies to identify technologies and practices that will make the biggest contribution to mitigating carbon dioxide equivalency, improving air quality, and adding new jobs, using Siemens’ City Performance Tool (CyPT) software.

 

“For cities, reducing carbon is a test of how well you take advantage of technology,” explains Dennis Rodriguez, Siemens Chief City Executive for San Francisco. “CyPT quantifies the relative contribution of various technologies, helping cities establish the most effective policies and priorities.”

US$51 billion CAPEX for 420,000 new jobs?

 

To test several different scenarios, CyPT was configured with more than 350 data inputs from San Francisco’s transport, energy, and buildings sectors. The resulting analysis, which calculated the cumulative impact of 34 building, energy efficiency, transportation, and renewable energy technologies, showed that under the most ambitious but still feasible scenario, the city can reduce emissions by 80.6 percent from the 1990 baseline by the target date of 2050.

 

“For cities, reducing carbon is a test of how well you take advantage of technology,” explains Dennis Rodriguez, Siemens Chief City Executive for San Francisco. “CyPT quantifies the relative contribution of various technologies, helping cities establish the most effective policies and priorities.”

The model found that widespread adoption of electric heat pumps to replace 80 percent of carbon-based heat sources had the single biggest impact on meeting the CO2 emissions goals. “That came as something of a surprise,” says Julia Thayne, Director of Urban Development, Siemens Center for Cities, Americas, and author of the CyPT report. “In fact, the model showed that without widespread adoption of electric heat pumps, the city would not achieve its goal of 80x50.”

 

The scenario also calls for covering 80 percent of rooftops with photovoltaic panels, as well as aggressively expanding the use of electric vehicles (EV) and EV sharing. Reducing traffic congestion through the use of tolls, installing intelligent traffic light management, and improving home and business automation designed to reduce energy use are also part of the mix.

Meeting the target goal will require a significant investment. The analysis found that operating and capital expenditures between today and 2050 would total roughly US$51 billion. But the model also showed that the effort would generate more than 420,000 full-time equivalent jobs (defined as the amount of work done by one full-time employee in a year). 

Priorities point the way

 

San Francisco has already taken a significant step towards achieving its goals. By 2012, as a result of new energy codes, energy efficiency investments, a cleaner electricity mix, and the growing presence of rooftop solar, the city’s greenhouse gas emissions had fallen by 23.5 percent from 1990 levels. During the same period, the city’s gross domestic product increased by 40 percent, and its population grew by 11 percent, demonstrating that greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced without jeopardizing economic growth.

 

Although San Francisco has performed a number of modeling exercises in the past, the CyPT model is the first to take a comprehensive look at energy, buildings, and transportation and how investments work synergistically across sectors. 

 

Unlike other models, CyPT includes actions taken by both public and private sectors – a critical perspective, since achieving 80x50 will be a collaborative effort involving residents, businesses, and local government. One of the goals of the analysis was for the tool to inform the city leadership about the most effective greenhouse gas-reducing measures for the city to consider when regulating the sale of one-to-four-unit buildings. At the same time, by highlighting the powerful impact of technologies like electric heat pumps and rooftop solar, the analysis encourages residents and businesses to make informed choices about the best way to contribute to a sustainable energy future. 

 

“CyPT gives cities an objective road map about which infrastructure choices and policies make the biggest contribution to sustainability,” says Rodriguez. “It helps establish priorities, which is really crucial when you have ambitious targets like San Francisco’s 80x50, and resources are limited.” 

Author: Peter Jaret, journalist based in California.

Picture credits: Siemens AG

How can decisions by San Francisco to invest in energy-efficient buildings, clean energy, and a multi-modal transport network accelerate the city’s strong record of reducing GHG emissions while creating jobs and improving air quality?

 

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