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WRI, Johnson Controls offer energy efficient pathway for cities

The World Resources Institute and Johnson Controls have launched an initiative that brings together their policy and technical expertise to help rapidly growing cities in developing countries plan a low-carbon built environment.

Non-profit policy research organisation World Resources Institute (WRI) and building energy systems firm Johnson Controls recently launched a new initiative that aims to improve energy efficiency in rapidly growing cities around the world.

The Building Efficiency Initiative (BEI), which combines the United States-based firm’s expertise in providing building efficiency solutions and WRI’s on-the-ground experience in building liveable cities, will provide practical resources to city planners and industry partners on how to accelerate their energy efficiency programmes, both organisations said.

Through the initiative, WRI and Johnson Controls will conduct research, facilitate discussion among experts, and engage with local practitioners in WRI’s global partner cities. “Specifically, the Initiative will engage public and private sector innovators to develop, test, and scale energy efficiency solutions like new finance models, and promote better approaches for integrating distributed energy systems at the building and community level,” Jennifer Layke, BEI’s director noted in a blog.

BEI supports the Energy Efficiency Accelerator Platform of the United Nation’s Sustainable Energy for All Initiative, which targets to double the rate of energy efficiency improvement around the world by 2030, WRI and Johnson Controls added.

With the extraordinary global shift toward an urban environment, success in sustainable development will largely be determined in cities

Dr Andrew Steer, president and CEO, World Resources Institute

WRI, which has been working globally on environmental and developmental policy issues for more than three decades, noted that cities will account for 70 per cent of the world’s population by 2030, nearly 20 per cent higher than it is today.

If not properly planned, urban development choices could lock-in cities in decades of high-carbon infrastructure or buildings that use up huge amounts of energy, the institute explained.

The World Bank has estimated that cities worldwide account for around two-thirds of global energy demand and greenhouse gas emissions.  

In a recent study of three cities in Southeast Asia - Da Nang in Vietnam, Cebu in Philippines and Surabaya in Indonesia, the financial instiution said improving energy efficiency is not just good for the environment, it is also good for economic growth as it supports local economic development through productivity gains, reduced pollution, and more efficient use of resources.

“With the extraordinary global shift toward an urban environment, success in sustainable development will largely be determined in cities. This new initiative will focus on the opportunities and challenges that rapid urbanisation presents, especially in major developing countries,” said Dr Andrew Steer, president and chief executive officer of WRI.

Johnson Controls vice president Chuck Harvey said that his firm has been tracking data and analysing technologies, policies, and building energy practices through the US-based Institute for Building Efficiency which the firm established since 2010.

“Working with World Resources Institute and its network of global partners, we can jointly scale innovative energy efficiency policies and solutions,” added Harvey.

Johnson Controls and WRI found that the potential for sustainable and efficient buildings is enormous in urban areas of emerging economies. An International Energy Agency forecasted that 60 per cent of buildings in China by 2020 have yet to be built.

The partners noted that there are six critical barriers to the adoption of energy efficient programmes by building owners:

  • lack of information and awareness on options that may be available when it comes to building efficiency
  • lack of technical knowledge to evaluate their options
  • uncertainty about how to measure or understand the energy efficiency performance
  • inability to meet financial criteria (return on investment rates)
  • lack of capital funds to invest in energy efficiency
  • landlord/tenant split incentives (the landlord does not have a reason to invest in efficiency if the tenant is the one paying the energy bills)

BEI, which is part of WRI’s sustainable urban development initiative Ross Center for Sustainable Cities, can help urban planners develop policies and improve the design of tomorrow’s cities, including through more efficient buildings and energy systems, stressed WRI and Johnson Controls.

“We are excited to work closely with Johnson Controls and other partners to develop innovative and practical recommendations on building efficiency that support a strong, low-carbon pathway,” said Dr Steer.

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