Metropolis presents technique to attain carbon neutrality by 2035 – Evanston RoundTable

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The city presents three scenarios for the implementation of its strategies to achieve CO2 neutrality

By 2035, the City of Evanston hopes to achieve carbon neutrality or net zero carbon emissions for municipal operations, including city buildings, street lights and vehicles.

The city presented its newly developed strategy for achieving net zero emissions at a Zoom meeting on August 10, entitled Planning for Zero: Evanston's Municipal Zero Emissions Strategy.

CO2 neutrality is achieved either by offsetting CO2 emissions with CO2 removal or by completely reducing CO2 emissions. Evanston's strategy aims to reduce CO2 emissions through the use of renewable energies and the elimination of fossil fuels.

The strategy includes initiatives to electrify city buildings and cars, add solar panels to the roof of city buildings, create more efficient street lighting, find cleaner fuel for city vehicles, and more.

Urban operations only account for 1% of the community's greenhouse gas emissions, but it is important that the city show leadership by working to be carbon neutral, said Kumar Jenson, who resigned as the city's chief sustainability & resiliency officer that day .

“It is very important for us and our staff and city stakeholders that we walk every step and we show that we as a community can do what we would ask private sectors and community organizations to do,” said Jenson.

The City of Evanston developed the strategy with help from Elevate, a Chicago-based nonprofit committed to ensuring everyone has clean and affordable heat, electricity, and water, and the Center for Neighborhood Technology, a nonprofit the research and tools to create resilient and sustainable communities.

Greenhouse gas emissions in Evanston

In 2017, the City of Evanston began developing a Climate Action and Resilience Plan (CARP).

The plan outlines a path to carbon neutrality for both the community and municipal businesses by 2050. A large part of CARP is focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Buildings are responsible for 80% of the Community's greenhouse gas emissions.

Evanston buildings are responsible for 80% of the community's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions according to the 2018 greenhouse gas emissions inventory. This is mainly due to the electricity and natural gas consumption, said Jenson. Another 27% is accounted for by transport and 2% by waste. Evanston's excellent public transport system keeps transportation emissions low and creates this propensity for buildings, Jenson said.

Looking only at city operations, Evanston buildings account for 80% of greenhouse gas emissions, while the city's fleet, including all city vehicles and street lights, account for the remaining 12% and 8%, respectively.

The nine strategies for achieving CO2 neutrality

Due to factors like fuel efficiency and changes in heating and cooling systems, municipal operations are expected to be reduced by 2035, but not enough to meet Evanston's climate goals, said Lindy Wordlaw of Elevate, who led the presentation on the city's strategies.

The city's Carbon Neutrality Roadmap includes nine overall strategies, six of which are for buildings and streetlights and three for fleets. The city presents three scenarios, ranging from the most aggressive to the least aggressive, to implement these nine strategies. Even the least aggressive scenario represents a significant operational change, Worldaw said.

Building and street lighting strategies

  1. The first strategy involves Adaptation, or Reduce unnecessary urban square meters. This technology immediately reduces energy consumption. Even a small reduction makes a significant difference, said Wordlaw, who led the presentation on construction and street lighting strategies. Rightsizing is also an opportunity to discuss adaptive reuse and how that space can be used to support the community, Wordlaw said.
  2. The city also wants to reduce its reliance on natural gas in a fuel conversion strategy called electrificationwho have favourited technologies that use fossil fuels are replaced with technologies that use electricity.
  3. Another strategy is to make urban buildings more Energy efficient. This is an integral part of the neutrality plan, according to Wordlaw, and may include lighting upgrades, creating more efficient heating and cooling systems, and better air sealing and insulation.
  4. Evanston aims to maximize the roof area of ​​community buildings for Renewable energy on site. The city could support up to 4.6 million kWh with a rooftop solar roof, and as the cost of on-site solar systems drops, that strategy will become a key part of the climate neutrality plan, Wordlaw said.
  5. The city is also considering options for additional solar access outside of Evanston for external renewable energy. This will also help support the local green economy.
  6. Evanston has about 6,000 street lights and wants to enlarge them Street lighting efficiency by replacing older models, of which there are 1,800, with more efficient lighting fixtures.

Fleet strategies

  1. Jen McGraw from the Center for Neighborhood Technology presented fleet strategies. Evanston’s urban fleet includes more than 400 vehicles, and the city hopes to electrify a number of these vehicles to drive around the city clean fuel technologiessaid McGraw. To do that, Evanston will need new charging infrastructure and more information on maintenance and usage, but the payback will be big, McGraw said. A portion of the vehicles in the city's fleet are larger diesel vehicles, including fire trucks and construction equipment, that don't have electric options. For these vehicles, the city is looking for cleaner fuel options such as biofuel or renewable diesel.
  2. Another strategy involves that Management and rightsizing of the fleet. Many city vehicles don't have much mileage and there may be better uses for these cars. McGraw also said that thanks to the pandemic, many people have realized they don't have to travel as often, and reducing travel will also help move the city toward carbon neutrality. Improved maintenance, increased car pooling and tracking of vehicle usage will also increase fleet efficiency.
  3. The final strategy aims to reduce the number of kilometers driven through the city fleet by reducing the number of trips, improving route efficiency and promoting other modes of transport.

Limitations of the strategy

The combination of all of these strategies will have a significant impact on reducing municipal greenhouse gas emissions. However, there will still be residual emissions in 2035, said Wordlaw.

Much of this is due to the city's water treatment plant, which accounts for 40% of municipal emissions. The water treatment plant is already quite efficient and there aren't many ways to improve emissions, said Wordlaw. The city will continue to rely on natural gas as the power plant's backup generator until new technologies emerge. Hopefully, the plant's consumption will be offset by renewable energy in the future, said Wordlaw.

In addition to the power plant, the electrification of cars and buildings will lead to a temporary increase in electricity consumption, but this will eventually decrease as the grid becomes more clean.

Evaluate costs

Another aspect of this strategy is understanding the cost of achieving carbon neutrality. Specifically, the strategy assesses two types of costs: one-time investments and operating costs.

One-time investments include building new infrastructure, electrifying buildings, exchanging technologies, and more. The total estimated cost for one-time investments ranges from $ 35 million for the least aggressive scenario to $ 75 million for the most aggressive scenario.

Operating costs, which are continuous annual costs, are net positive due to savings from efficiency gains and improvements. The net savings range from 1.4 million per year for the least aggressive scenario to 3.7 million per year for the most aggressive scenario.
The August 10th meeting ended with a question-and-answer session. For those interested in learning more, the meetup is available on the City of Evanston YouTube channel.


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