Most developed cities have an action plan or target date in place for the reduction of carbon emissions. Copenhagen has one of the most ambitious plans as they aim to be carbon neutral by 2025, most other cities are a little bit less ambitious, with targets ranging from 2030-2050.
It is recognised by most cities that if energy demand levels stay as they are today then it will be almost impossible for them to reach their carbon neutral targets, so there needs to be a big reduction in demand from business and citizens as a first step to achieving their targets.
One of the best ways to start reducing demand is to make buildings more efficient in their use of energy. Retrofitting of buildings with better insulation and windows is a starting point and should be a priority for all cities & municipalities, but there are smarter technology-driven solutions that can also be implemented to make housing stock more efficient: integration of low-carbon energy stores and digital controls are just two ways that demand for energy from the grid could be reduced.
The responsibility for achieving a decrease in demand cannot only be placed on the city, it must also fall on private homeowners and business to make sure that their properties are as efficient as they can possibly be. On the business aspect City Hall must take the lead with this and engage with business to encourage them to make improvements to their buildings – they should be financially motivated to do so as it will mean a decrease in the energy costs and a positive to the balance sheet.
Cities must also engage with private homeowners to promote a sustainable agenda, most people now recycle all of the waste that they produce in their homes and the success of this system should be used as motivation to change attitudes and behaviors when it comes to energy. Firstly, governments and cities need to put in place incentive schemes to encourage homeowners to implement renewable energy systems and to make sure that their homes are as energy efficient as they can possibly be.
These schemes should also be promoted to those in the rental market as they could put pressure on their landlords to make updates to their properties with the view that if it is energy efficient you will be able to charge more for the rental as the energy bills for the home will be cheaper.
Smart meters are another part of the solution, a lot of the time we do not really understand how we use energy and what we can do in order to decrease the demand that we put onto the grid. By installing smart meters citizens will be able to understand more about their behaviour and hopefully make the necessary changes to put less demand on energy systems. I come back to the recycling example here, children now are raised knowing that they need to recycle and with some time and investment the next generation can be raised knowing that they need to monitor their energy use behaviour in order to make a positive impact on the planet.
There is not one solution that can help to decrease demand, but a lot of different factors that can come together to help cities reach their carbon neutral targets over the coming years. The one thing that is for definite is that the city need to lead the way in making changes to buildings and behaviour and this will then stimulate behavior change from businesses and citizens.