How prepared are Spanish cities to lead the green energy revolution?
By 2050, more than 65 per cent of the world population will live in cities. While today the focus of carbon reduction and energy-efficiency policies remains at national and international levels, local authorities have substantial influence on some of the key levers to achieve significant and concrete results. Indeed, Arthur D. Little’s study of Spain’s 15 largest cities found that, with the right local policy levers in place and without any major refurbishing of citizens’ homes, Spanish cities could achieve a c.40 percent reduction in consumption by 2027. This represents annual savings of €3.3 billion, an 18.8-million-ton reduction in CO2 emissions, and a 25 percent drop in particulate matter. So, which Spanish cities are set up for success, and which risk falling behind in the race to provide sustainable-energy solutions?
Spanish cities leading in energy efficiency
To understand which Spanish cities are poised to make the most significant energy savings, we looked at current energy usage in the residential sector, the services sector, and transportation. In Spain today, urban dwellers make up 43 percent of overall energy usage, mostly in heating and cooling their homes, and keeping the lights on. Businesses, or the services sector, consume 31 percent of energy to power everything from the retail sector to commercial real estate and the hospitality industry. Finally, transportation makes up the remaining 26 percent of cities’ total energy needs – largely in private transportation.
Considering overall energy consumption, current efficiency practices, and the city’s commitment to sustainability, Bilbao is Spain’s most energy-efficient city, with Zaragoza a close second. Large cities such as Madrid and Barcelona perform in the middle of the pack, underscoring that a city’s size has little to do with its energy efficiency. Gijón and Valencia are Spain’s least energy-efficient cities, largely due to high home-heating costs and limited public transportation options.
Like in so many cities around the world, Spanish city-dwellers have the potential to dramatically improve energy efficiency in their homes and transportation choices. In old homes and apartments, modest upgrades of energy-consuming equipment can lead to around 40 percent of residential energy savings – for example, by replacing inefficient heating systems with more advanced systems such as low-temperature boilers, or by improving household insulation. Households can use a mix of actions that make economic sense and do not require major refurbishing. In the transport sector, as more cities incentivize public transportation, we expect to see 27 percent energy savings, mainly driven by the shift away from private-vehicle use and the rise of electric vehicles.
For businesses, energy efficiency makes economic sense, so we expect consumption to drop as prices rise. Specifically, the services sector could achieve 41 percent energy savings by improving the efficiency of heating and air-conditioning systems and installing better building insulation. The remaining savings will come from lighting improvements in offices and commercial centers, as well as efficiency gains in the hot-water systems of hotels and hospitals.
Smart cities in Spain
As the younger generation flocks to Spain’s urban centers, local and regional authorities must align their priorities to reduce overall energy consumption through comprehensive policies that incentivize residents and businesses to invest in energy-efficient homes, operations, and modes of transportation. Working with technology experts, energy companies, and the automotive industry, urban policy makers can develop smart-city initiatives that guarantee Spain becomes a leader in low-energy urban living.
By David Borràs, Partner at Arthur D. Little
All but two UK regions failing on school energy efficiency
Most schools are still "treading water" on implementing energy efficient technology, according to new analysis of Government data from eLight.
Yorkshire & the Humber and the North East are the only regions where schools have collectively reduced how much they spend on energy per pupil, cutting expenditure by 4.4% and 0.9% respectively. Every other region of England increased its average energy expenditure per pupil, with schools in Inner London doing so by as much as 23.5%.
According to The Carbon Trust, energy bills in UK schools amount to £543 million per year, with 50% of a school’s total electricity cost being lighting. If every school in the UK implemented any type of energy efficient technology, over £100 million could be saved each year.
Harvey Sinclair, CEO of eEnergy, eLight’s parent company, said the figures demonstrate an uncomfortable truth for the education sector – namely that most schools are still treading water on the implementation of energy efficient technology. Energy efficiency could make a huge difference to meeting net zero ambitions, but most schools are still lagging behind.
“The solutions exist, but they are not being deployed fast enough," he said. "For example, we’ve made great progress in upgrading schools to energy-efficient LED lighting, but with 80% of schools yet to make the switch, there’s an enormous opportunity to make a collective reduction in carbon footprint and save a lot of money on energy bills. Our model means the entire project is financed, doesn’t require any upfront expenditure, and repayments are more than covered by the energy savings made."
He said while it has worked with over 300 schools, most are still far too slow to commit. "We are urging them to act with greater urgency because climate change won’t wait, and the need for action gets more pressing every year. The education sector has an important part to play in that and pupils around the country expect their schools to do so – there is still a huge job to be done."
North Yorkshire County Council is benefiting from the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme, which has so far awarded nearly £1bn for energy efficiency and heat decarbonisation projects around the country, and Craven schools has reportedly made a successful £2m bid (click here).
The Department for Education has issued 13 tips for reducing energy and water use in schools.