Improving energy efficiency isn’t just good for the environment; it’s good for economic growth, says a World Bank report, “Energising Green Cities in Southeast Asia – Applying Sustainable Urban Energy and Emissions Planning.”

The new book contains advice and case studies for cities in Southeast Asia (SEA) wishing to reduce their carbon footprint by using energy efficiciency and renewable energy.

These cities have a growth rate double that of the rest of the world. By 2030 70 per cent of the area's population is projected to live in cities.

Worldwide, cities account for around two-thirds of global energy demand and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. While cities have always been the engines of economic growth, now they also hold the key to a sustainable development in SEA.

According to the book, there is a clear correlation between investments in energy efficient solutions in infrastructure and economic growth.

The book examines three cities – Da Nang in Vietnam, Surabaya in Indonesia and Cebu City in the Philippines. By improving energy efficiency and reducing GHG emissions, cities not only help the global environment, but they also support local economic development through productivity gains, reduced pollution, and more efficient use of resources. 

In Da Nang, a small amount of hydro power is used but the majority of energy is sourced from fossil fuels. The city’s development plan has sustainability and efficient resource use at its core.

The city is also pursuing a wastewater management strategy, an energy efficiency and conservation program, and looking at ways to use renewable energy technologies and public transport development. 

Da Nang energy flows

"There is a clear correlation between investments in energy efficient solutions in infrastructure and economic growth, based on a study of three cities" – Da Nang in Vietnam, Surabaya in Indonesia and Cebu City in the Philippines

Cebu City already gets some energy from renewable sources, but there are significant opportunities for increasing this percentage, as can be seen in the energy flows diagram below.Cebu energy flows

The city government is cutting fuel use in the transportation sector by 15 per cent simply by using an ethanol additive in its motorised vehicle fleet. The city has also worked to improve the energy performance of city buildings by using more efficient lighting technologies and smarter air conditioning schedules. To improve household efficiency the city has partnered with a paint company to provide homeowners with materials to create “cool roofs” for their homes. 

Surabaya relies even more heavily on coal, oil and gas, as can be seen below, but it is developing plans for a mass transportation system and looking at ways to harness energy from landfills.

Surabaya energy flows

While these Southeast Asian cities are making inroads towards greater energy efficiency, planning for a more energy efficient development path is by no means easy. Cities face a number of hurdles including lack of coordination and planning across agencies and sectors and lack of technical know-how and funding, just to name a few.  

Sustainable Urban Energy and Emissions Planning or SUEEP is a system advocated by the World Bank whose purpose is to help cities get on the green growth path by facilitating the development of comprehensive urban energy policies and investment strategies to enhance energy efficiency.

It is a framework that helps identify the principle energy and emissions issues a city faces; establish a road map for city government to maximise energy efficiency outcomes; integrate energy efficiency into wider city planning processes; coordinate across sectors to prevent duplication or conflicts (for example in land use planning and transportation development planning); work with stakeholders; and establish the monitoring and reporting processes that are essential for good management of energy and are prerequisites for attracting financing. 

Applying the SUEEP process helps city leaders evaluate potential infrastructure investments comprehensively across sectors and against financial, social and environmental returns. The result of this assessment and analysis is a well-defined high-quality pipeline of bankable green investment that can be readily presented to potential investors and financiers.

Decisions made today will define the region’s energy use and its greenhouse gas footprint well into the future. Given the scale of energy demand and emissions growth in East Asian cities, city governments’ decisions to enhance energy efficiency not only contribute to their economic development, but also bring benefits beyond the region. 

The report is available for free hereOstojic, Dejan R.; Bose, Ranjan K.; Krambeck, Holly; Lim, Jeanette; Zhang, Yabei. 2013. Energizing green cities in Southeast Asia : applying sustainable urban energy and emissions planning. Directions in development : environment and sustainable development. Washington DC ; World Bank.