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Spanish cities, which consume 40% of all final energy, are responsible for 70% of the greenhouse gas emissions in our country, according to data from the report The Future of Sustainable Cities: Urban energy transition to 2030 published by Deloitte.
This has led to concentrations of particulate pollutants that exceed the legal limits on several occasions in some Spanish cities, such as Madrid or Barcelona, with the resulting risk to the health of its inhabitants.
What measures are Spanish cities taking?
Spanish cities, aware of the high levels of consumption and emissions for which they are responsible, have signed up to ambitious targets to improve their energy sustainability. By signing the Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy, the cities involved have promised to take action to reduce CO2 emissions by at least 40% by 2030. However, the data show that gradual change will not be enough to achieve this commitment, forcing municipalities to implement urban energy sustainability initiatives in the very short term, especially in the transport sector.
At the national level, the Spanish Urban Agenda, which proposes the strategy to be followed in sustainable urban development policies, was published in February 2019. This urban development strategy consists of 30 specific objectives and 291 action points, which are made available to municipalities so that they can draw up their own action plans.
“Spanish cities have committed themselves to ambitious targets to improve their sustainability, and several stand out as exemplars for their energy efficiency measures”
Best municipal practices in Spain
At the local level, Spanish cities have already implemented several initiatives for urban energy sustainability. Some of the best examples for future initiatives to follow include the following:
- Madrid regularly produces an inventory of its energy consumption and emissions, drawn up on the basis of the guidelines published by the European Environment Agency. This inventory serves as a basis for detailed analysis of actions to be implemented in the city, and for evaluating the effectiveness of measures already taken.
- In Barcelona the Municipal Administration is a public transport exemplar: of its nearly 1100 buses, more than 400 are powered by natural gas and 200 are hybrids, and a fleet of 10 electric buses is currently being rolled out.
- In Zaragoza, the City Council is making great strides in the building sector. Aid has been earmarked to refurbish more than 3500 buildings to bring them in line with energy sustainability criteria, while 10,000 houses designed with bioclimatic criteria have been built in the eco-city of Valdespartera, representing an energy consumption saving of up to 90% in these buildings.
- Vitoria, for its part, stands out for its promotion of non-motorised transport, which has increased from 52% of journeys in 2006 to 65% in 2016. This is due, among other factors, to the Sustainable Mobility Plan developed by the City Council and endowed with 60 million euro of investment, which includes initiatives such as restrictions on the movement of vehicles through the city centre, the construction of car parks at the entrance to the city and the creation of bike lanes.
- Meanwhile, Seville has promoted the use of bicycles, and is now the city with the highest use of this mode of transport. To this end, it has carried out measures such as increasing the number of bicycle parking spaces by 10% and the implementation of a strategic plan for 2020.
- Finally, in Málaga, exceptional efforts have been made to promote sustainable mobility. The Zem2All project deployed 200 electric vehicles and installed 240 charging points and, after 4 years in operation, these vehicles have travelled 5 million kilometres, preventing the emission of more than 330 tons of carbon dioxide, equivalent to the annual consumption of 50 households.
“The improvement of public lighting, the replacement of municipal vehicles and the promotion of self-consumption in municipal buildings are some of the main ways in which municipalities can achieve responsible consumption”
How can the efficiency of municipal energy consumption be increased?
Reducing emissions of greenhouse gases and pollutants should be a priority for Public Administrations.
In terms of the consumption for which each municipality is responsible, the following priority actions have been identified: the improvement of public lighting, through the renovation of equipment and smart lighting control systems, the replacement of municipal vehicles with more sustainable options, such as zero-emissions vehicles, and the promotion of self-consumption in municipal buildings.
But the role of the Administrations should not be limited to the optimisation of their consumption, as this represents a very small percentage of the total consumption of a city. In order to meet the challenge posed by the Covenant of Mayors, city councils need to establish sustainability governance targets and models in their policies and become exemplars of energy efficiency by promoting urban energy sustainability initiatives that mobilise the rest of the city's stakeholders.