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Data leads cities towards carbon neutrality

Many cities lack knowledge of their CO2 balance and have no overall view on their emissions in general. So how can it be ensured that when reducing emissions, the focus is put on the right things?

26 February 2021

Cities and municipalities play a big role in de-carbonisation. According to a UN report, cities worldwide are responsible for up to 70% of harmful greenhouse gas emissions even though they only take up 2% of the land area.

The world is addressing a situation where nearly every city is working with a roadmap to reducing emissions and doing it in the most efficient way. It is not an easy task to get an overall current view and build a roadmap based on it. Climate goals are easier to achieve when action taken is based on the cities’ measurable data.
 
In an experiment conducted in the Vaasa region in the spring of 2020, TietoEVRY, Wärtsilä, Vaasan sähkö and the City of Vaasa started a pilot where data was used to gather information of carbon emission sources of the city. It brought together needed data from its three biggest carbon emission sources – transportation, heating and electricity consumption – enabling the parties involved to scrutinise the impact of different actions on emission levels.
 
– It’s only natural that an experiment like this takes place in Vaasa, considering the cluster of energy technology and strong expertise in the region. This experiment strengthens our aim to make the city carbon neutral by 2030 and slow down climate change, says the mayor of the City of Vaasa, Tomas Häyry.
 
The proof of concept demo version for Vaasa came second in IDC Awards 2020 Proof of concept and proof of value made with Wärtsilä, Vaasan sähkö and the City of Vaasa in 2020, proved that a data-driven approach to the decarbonization steering model of a city is possible.
 
– One of the biggest achievements of the year was that the proof of concept demo version, verified with different partners and the City of Vaasa, came in 2nd on IDC Industry Insights Innovation Awards 2020, states Fredrik Jansson.
 

With the help of the new tool, it’s possible to demonstrate where and how the city’s emissions are generated, which allows the efficiency of different measures to be simulated and verified, says Fredrik Jansson.

What would happen to emissions if the temperature in schools was dropped by one degree, or a car-free day was organised? In the first phase, the experiment includes approximately 30% of the city’s carbon emission sources. The project was a building block for both TietoEVRY’s internal work in building products, and also going forward with a bigger continuation project with a larger group in 2021.
 

The demo app made 30 % of the test group change their behaviour in Trondheim

Also in Norway, data was used to reduce carbon emissions. In the city of Trondheim, there is an app in development which helps citizens to track their actual climate related emissions. The data used in the app comes from different systems. Banks, local stores and public transportation services are brimming with useful data. With the user’s consent, their data is shared with the app to help enlighten them about their personal climate impact. Citizens also get suggestions on how to reduce their carbon footprint. In the beginning of 2020 proof of concept was concluded and the app had its first test run.
 

We have been working with data for 30 years. Reapplying it to a new context and creating new value by it has been pretty inspiring. In the test group 30% of the people actually changed their behaviour, says Kim Remvik-Larsen.

The app was done in collaboration with two other companies. The initiative was by SAS Institute which is a global leading software suite for analytics and AI. The project got a silver medal in Nordics and late winter it got grand for Norwegian research consoul to build the functionality for any municipality: first in Norway due to funding, but to be applied everywhere.
 
– In the end of 2020, 3 cities and 3 municipalities signed for the service, says Remvik-Larsen.
 
He states that the app will be available for all Nordics soon. Cities will be fronting the app forward, since it drastically improves the use of the app, instead the frontman being an individual company.
 

Cooperation is the way forward

Jansson admits that addressing a sensitive matter and doing business at the same time is not always easy, but the drive and enthusiasm have been amazing.
 
– It takes an effort of many people to build this; co-working and consortiums. Top management needs to be onboard, all players need to be aligned and decision making on different levels needs to be there. That way you ensure that the city’s money is spent on the right issues, says Jansson.
 
Both Jansson and Renvik-Larsen believe that in data-driven value generation the way forward will be finding new ways of collaboration. When different companies join forces and share their learnings, experience and success stories, in matters like sustainability, business and technology, the completely new ways to tackle the climate crisis will rise.
 
– In both cases, the companies and the city committed to sharing information and offering access to data that has traditionally been held internally. Neither case Vaasa or Trondheim could have been done without cooperation, says Remvik-Larsen.

Want to learn more?

Fredrik Jansson

Principal Consultant, Data Transformation, Tieto

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