While nations struggle to address global issues such as energy security and climate change, the future of economic, social and environmental sustainability must be shaped at the metropolitan level. But how will cash-strapped local governments be able to address today's complex and interrelated challenges? Many think a new paradigm is needed to create holistic solutions and replace planning and funding silos with regional innovation and strategic partnerships.

On January 25, 2011, the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI), the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), the Coalition of Urban Serving Universities, and the Virginia Tech Energy Efficiency Partnership held a briefing with officials from the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland to discuss city/university partnerships on projects such as high-performance buildings, advanced transportation systems, and smart grid development that are helping cities reduce energy use and improve livability. Speakers discussed novel technologies, strategies and policies that are taking hold across Europe by saving money for consumers and businesses, improving services and quality of life, creating jobs and addressing local and global environmental problems.

  • A number of cities in the U.S. and other countries have announced plans and projects for achieving “urban sustainability” –– prosperous, livable, healthful communities that sustain people, the economy, and the environment for current and future generations.
  • A common goal is to reduce urban greenhouse gas emissions. Many cities have created climate action plans for local and global sustainability.
  • These include specific strategies and policies to reduce energy consumption, enhance mobility, and increase the use of renewable energy. Projects include net-zero energy building design and construction, retrofit of existing buildings, development and improvement of public transportation systems, and application of smart-grid technologies.
  • Some municipalities are partnering with local academic institutions to collaborate on applied research programs, training and outreach, and the development of innovative, place-based sustainability solutions.
  • On January 25-26, 2011, the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU), the Coalition of Urban Serving Universities, and The Energy Efficiency Partnership of Virginia Tech brought together three U.S. city/university partnerships and three European delegations and their U.S. Embassies for a series of meetings in Washington, DC, to exchange information on best practices and create a transatlantic network for continued dialogue.
  • U.S. participants were Philadelphia and Pennsylvania State University; Portland (OR) and Portland State University; and Washington, DC, University of the District of Columbia and Virginia Tech. European participants were Stockholm, Sweden, and Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm; The Hague, The Netherlands, Erasmus University Rotterdam, European Metropolitan Institute (EMI), and Utrecht University; and Lausanne, Switzerland, and Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL).
  • Stockholm was named the European Green Capital in 2010 for its achievements in combating climate change with energy efficient district heating systems, clean cars, public transportation and congestion-reduction policies. Projects also focus on clean water, waste treatment, recycling, preservation of green space, and noise reduction.
  • With the goal of being fossil-fuel free by 2030 and reducing carbon dioxide to less than 1.5 ton per capita, the City of Stockholm is working with the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm to apply pioneering technology in home energy management systems, electric vehicles and charging stations, and renewable energy production, distribution and storage.
  • Lausanne's “2000 Watts Society” objective to decrease primary energy consumption has been adopted by many Swiss municipalities, cantons and the federal government.
  • EPFL supports the City of Lausanne with specific needs and currently is providing assistance in the use of Minergie, the voluntary Swiss energy efficient building design standard, and development of open-source, web-based planning tools.
  • The Hague, The Netherlands, is working with relevant EU legislation to improve energy efficiency and increase the use of renewable energy in Dutch cities. This includes full neighborhood retrofits.
  • The Rotterdam Climate Initiative seeks a 50 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions and 100 percent climate resiliency. Projects include the Duindorp Seawater Power Station, geothermal heating, coastal protection, a traffic circulation plan for The Hague city center, and improvement of school indoor environmental quality.

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