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This Virtual Planning Tool Helped San Francisco Develop a Tech Roadmap for Its Sustainability Goals

A data-driven modeling tool is helping cities – including San Francisco – reach their sustainability goals by outlining which technologies will provide the greatest impact. According to a study released last week, electric car sharing alone has the potential to reduce emissions by half a million tonnes by 2050 – representing a 13 percent reduction in GHGs from a single technology.

The City of San Francisco commissioned the study to analyze the city’s emissions data in key sectors in order to inform decision-making around the city’s “80x50” goal to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 80 percent by 2050 based on a 1990 baseline. The city partnered with Siemens and used its City Performance Tool (CyPT) to analyze how improvements in infrastructure technologies could improve the environment and boost the local economy.

Siemens’ software program not only identified which low carbon energy, public transport and mobility, and building systems technologies could help San Francisco best meet its 80x50 goal, but also showed how their installation, operation, and maintenance could create thousands of jobs - up to 420,000 person-years of full-time equivalent employment over the 34-year time period.

“Siemens is proud to have worked with one of our nation’s leading cities in sustainability to help identify areas of greatest need and effectiveness for future resource allocation,” Siemens’ Chief City Executive for San Francisco Dennis Rodriguez said in a statement. “For cities, reducing carbon is really a test of how well you take advantage of technology. We’re proud our planning tool has allowed San Francisco to identify short-, medium-, and long-term technology investments that will not only make an environmental, but also a positive economic impact.”

Siemens explains that its CyPT is a proprietary, data-driven modeling tool that helps cities calculate the environmental and economic impacts of building, transport, and energy technologies. It is designed to reduce environmental impact of everyday activities and evaluate job creation in installing, operating, and maintaining city solutions. For this project, the CyPT model was configured with more than 350 data inputs from San Francisco’s transport, energy, and buildings sectors, which include the supply mix of electricity generation, transport modalities, and typical energy, travel, and building space usage.

“We regularly analyze and project the impacts of policies and incentives, but this is the first time we’ve been able to look comprehensively at how investments in energy, buildings, and transportation layer and interact with one another as the community makes progress toward 2050 goals,” said Barry Hooper, the Green Building Coordinator at the San Francisco Department of Environment. “Siemens’ City Performance Tool helped us identify technologies that need to be leveraged in order for San Francisco to meet our 80x50 goal, and documented the tremendous benefits that clean energy, buildings, and transport will continue to contribute to San Francisco’s economy.”

Existing programs and policies are expected to cut emissions up to 40 percent – only half way to the 80x50 target. The report found that 36 building, energy efficiency, transportation, and renewable energy technologies would need to be deployed “at aggressive rates” in order to have the necessary cumulative impact to reach San Francisco’s goal, and that no single action will be sufficient. Energy efficient buildings, renewable energy, and electric transport are recommended as the foundation of the city’s plans going forward. The highest-impact opportunities are in electrifying thermal loads and transport: converting 80 percent of furnaces and water heaters to efficient electric heat pumps would yield a 13.6 percent reduction in annual emissions; and electric cars and car-sharing were the highest impact transportation measures, followed by expanded congestion pricing.

The innovative city of San Francisco and the state of California, which recently passed ambitious climate legislation, are no strangers to electric cars, car-sharing, nor encouraging their citizens to live more sustainably. To name but a few examples, the University of California, San Diego is working with EVgo to promote electric vehicle charging and energy storage solutions, and earlier this year, a real estate developer in San Francisco partnered with Uber to encourage new residents to try car-free living for a month by providing them with monthly transportation credit.

Siemens’ CyPT software was launched in 2015 and is also being used by cities such as Mexico City, Mexico, Minneapolis, MN., Riverside, CA, and New Bedford, MA. In collaboration with the global non-profit organization Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance, the tool is also supporting Washington, DC, Boston, MA, and Portland, OR with their 80x50 planning.


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