Energy efficient cities: best practices

The net-zero carbon future that is today envisioned by both public and private institutions must necessarily involve a transition towards energy efficient cities

Today, cities are responsible for 78% of global greenhouse emissions, according to the UN. Even if approximately 3.5 billion people live in urban centers today, this figure is expected to increase to 5 billion by 2030. This means energy demand able to enable economic activity will also expand significantly. 

This increase must be tackled in the face of global climate change efforts that include decarbonizing urban processes, all in the aim of minimizing climate change impacts. 

There are a number of initiatives, however, experimenting with improving energy efficiency in cities: from smart city energy efficient efforts, to district heating enabling the use of renewable energy resources. Let’s take a look.

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The key changes for energy efficient cities

    • Public transportation: cities are acting to reduce the use of personal vehicles and their associated greenhouse gas emissions. This includes investing in public transportation systems as well as encouraging and easing the use of alternative transportation modes such as bicycles and electric scooters.
    • Energy-efficient buildings: cities are adopting building codes and standards that require the use of energy-saving materials, insulation, and efficient heating, cooling, and lighting systems. This applies both to new projects as well as retrofitting existing buildings with energy-efficient technologies.
    • Renewable energy generation: another key aspect is incentivizing the installation of renewable energy systems in homes and businesses. Cities can generate renewable energy such as solar, wind, and geothermal to power municipal buildings, streetlights, and other infrastructures.
    • Waste management: through efforts in waste reduction and recycling, cities can reduce the amount of waste generated.
    • Foster public awareness and engagement: a key movement for energy efficient cities implies fostering public awareness and engagement around climate change and decarbonization through education campaigns, community outreach, and other initiatives.
    • Smart cities: the use of Artificial Intelligence and other advanced technologies is allowing cities to better manage energy resources


Examples of energy efficient cities

1. Reykjavik

Reykjavik stands out as one of the most energy efficient cities in the world. Its energy consumption for heat, electricity and hot water relies on renewable hydropower and geothermal plants

2. Vancouver

Since 2012, Vancouver set out to become the world’s most energy efficient city by 2020, by relying on hydroelectric power, which now accounts for the majority of the city’s energy supply, and other renewables like wind, solar and wave power. 


3. Copenhagen

Efforts in the Danish capital towards achieving energy efficiency in cities include their big off-shore wind farm and public investments to promote the use of bicycles. 

4. London

London’s efforts to become a key player in this list of energy efficient cities began in the mid-2000s. Plans have been implemented to switch 25% of power generation to more efficient, local sources, via incentives to develop innovative District Heating models that incorporate renewable energy sources.

Renewable sources for heating and cooling: how to incorporate them

Energy efficient cities continue experimenting with achieving decarbonization through the use of renewable heating energy solutions. This is a particularly important issue considering heating accounts for around half of the total energy consumption.

In such a context, district heating systems have been hailed as a viable solution to achieve 100% renewable energy systems that are also affordable and reliable. District heating refers to heating models where heat is generated in a centralized location and then distributed through the use of pipe systems. 

We’ve already described the different ways district heating is helping smart cities become more energy efficient. While fossil-fuel based district heating has been around for decades, recent technological advances have meant it’s now possible to incorporate sustainable heat sources, including the ones that present low-temperature profiles. This advancement is enabled by 5th district heating models, which are able to work with lower temperatures: 5GDHC models are able to operate at around 50Cº, instead of the temperatures of around 80Cº that were needed by previous models. 

Additionally, operators looking to improve energy efficiency in cities are increasingly aware of the benefits of pairing district heating technologies with extremely efficient industrial heat pumps. Thanks to this equipment’s capacity to enhance low-grade heat to substantial heat, cities are able to generate useful energy from locally-available, renewable and clean energy sources. This is also true thanks to these heat pump’s outstanding efficiency value: with COP values of between 3 to 6 units, these heat pumps are able to minimize the amount of resources required to generate clean energy.

Finally, the incorporation of Thermal Storage Tanks or TES Tanks as well as Turbine Inlet Air Cooling (TIAC) are also generating additional efficiencies, allowing cities to face energy peaks more efficiently and economically.

As the quest for building energy efficient cities continues, operators are faced with the need to find reliable partners that can help them develop reliable, cost-efficient and environmentally-friendly heating structures. 

This is where Araner comes in. We’re committed to provide sustainable energy solutions, ensuring our work means the energy transition is accelerated. In fact, we see the transition towards energy efficient cities as an opportunity to improve efficiencies on all sides.

Want to learn more about our work helping operators improve energy efficiency in cities? Get in touch with us and speak directly to our team about how we can help you meet the needs of your project. 

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