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The Magazine

City Performance Tool

Measuring performance, gauging results

Three cities showcase the use of the City Performance Tool (CyPT) instrument for achieving policy and climate targets through changes in areas such as buildings, transport, or energy. Policymakers can select specific levers based on the goals they prioritize.

The City Performance Tool (CyPT) is a planning instrument that allows urban decision makers to select tailored technologies that offer their own cities maximum environmental and economic benefits. It indicates development trajectories for carbon emissions, air quality, and job creation based on technology and policy choices and predicts how changes to specific “levers” will affect the achievement of climate targets. Three examples – Helsinki, Minneapolis, and Shenzhen – illustrate how this can be done.

Helsinki: carbon neutral by 2050

Helsinki has set itself a target of carbon neutrality by 2050. It plans to meet this predominantly through the supply of cleaner electricity and heating. Due to Helsinki’s cold climate, the share of total GHG emissions directly attributable to residential buildings currently stands at one megatonne, accounting for almost 42 percent of total emissions – considerably higher than in other European cities.

The capital of Finland aims to become carbon-neutral by the middle of this century by switching to cleaner electricity and heating.


Using CyPT, Helsinki and Siemens identified a number of technologies in the building sector that can deliver over 23 percent in citywide emission savings compared to business as usual. The total investment for these technologies stands at €1.9 billion, but in return, over €2.2 billion of energy savings will be delivered in a 15-year period; although this is a long payback period for investors, the city could look at setting up a warehousing loan facility to increase the total loan value for retrofits.

Although transport emissions account for only 24 percent of emissions in Helsinki’s BAU scenario, a share that will not change over the next 15 years, two technologies provide considerable savings as they target the largest emission sources: City tolling, which targets over half of the transport-related emissions, delivers 2.5 percent of savings city-wide, and onshore power for vessels provides 1.9 percent CO2-equivalent reductions and cuts more than one third of the city’s NOx transportation emissions.

The economic benefits of the ten technologies in the CyPT scenario are considerable, with more than 23,000 full-time equivalent jobs created in Helsinki during the next 15 years. Perhaps the greatest opportunities lie in the city being able to cross-subsidize investments between sectors, so that revenue generators such as city tolling could provide loan facilities to energy and building projects that are more difficult to fund.

Minneapolis: Thirty percent less GHG by 2025

Minneapolis, a metropolis of 404,000, adopted a Climate Action Plan in 2013 that identifies a roadmap for meeting its near-term 2025 goal of a 30 percent reduction in GHG emissions. CyPT modeling is being used to analyze the potential for meeting the even more stringent target of an 80 percent reduction in emissions by 2050 – and the analysis drawn from it may form the basis for updating the City’s Climate Action Plan in future years.

Comprehensive analysis using the tool ultimately shows that 40 building and transportation technologies will have to be implemented and adopted at their highest implementation rates by 2050 to ensure that targets are met; a tough challenge. Minneapolis-based utility Xcel Energy already plans a move to 65 percent clean energy sources – a significant step toward achieving the city’s sustainability goals.

In order to achieve its goal of a 30 percent reduction in GHG emissions by 2025, Minneapolis is shifting its energy system towards green power sources and more efficient operations.


CyPT analysis shows that even with this step, Xcel will have to continue greening its electricity mix through to 2050, despite having reduced CO2 emissions by 22 percent since 2005. If the electricity mix gets significantly cleaner, the top-performing technologies for reducing carbon emissions include electrifying both passenger and freight road transport as well as improving energy efficiency in buildings, particularly in commercial and government buildings.

The city, its utilities, and its inhabitants must work aggressively, however, to clean the local energy supply, adopt electric transport and public transit, and improve energy efficiency in buildings. As the energy mix gets cleaner, Minneapolis could pursue a stepwise approach to reaching its even more ambitious target for 2050, with the municipal administration taking the lead to green its own buildings and fleet and install electric charging infrastructure, while encouraging inhabitants to purchase electric vehicles, ride public transport, and pursue energy efficiency projects in their own homes and businesses. It is estimated that such measures could create over 30,000 new jobs, directly and indirectly.

Shenzhen: a model of sustainability

Shenzhen, the coastal metropolis in southeast China that borders Hong Kong, was a modest town of fishing villages when it was declared the country’s first special economic zone in 1979. Four decades later, it is a technology hub known as China’s Silicon Valley with a population of over 10 million, a metro network of 131 stations, and the fastest-rising house prices in the world.

The award-winning Shenzhen International Low-Carbon City (SILC) in the metropolis’s Longgang District is a comprehensive urban renewal project that aims to showcase China’s cutting-edge low-carbon technology, while serving the needs of local residents by upgrading existing buildings and factories to reduce their emissions. In 2014, the project clinched the prestigious annual City of the Future award from the Paulson Institute and the China Center for International Economic Exchanges. By applying CyPT, SILC aims to further clarify the concrete implementation plan for its low-carbon development target.

The Shenzhen International Low-Carbon City (SILC) is aiming for energy efficiency through microgrids, smart building technologies, and public transportation combined with electromobility.


Analysis using the City Performance Tool shows that by focusing on technology deployment and industry upgrading, SILC is highly capable of achieving its carbon emissions target of 5 tonnes per capita. Across CyPT’s three technology categories of building, energy, and transportation, the city’s most effective route toward its target will be, on the energy front, to develop an efficient distributed energy network managed by a microgrid; on the construction side, to leverage available intelligent building and wall insulation technologies; and in terms of transportation, to accelerate the development of public rail transit and electric car operation management.

Picture credits: Philip Lee Harvey, Jodi Jacobson, Lu Xi Zeng (Getty Images)