Smart(er) Days: Climate Change – Taking it to the Streets.

By: Andrew Butcher

 Day 2: Amsterdam & The German Marshall Fund

Fun Fact:  Amsterdam has a land mass of 64 square miles and around 800,000 people live here.  Pittsburgh is around 55 square miles with around 310,000 people. (20% of Amsterdam’s  Municipality is water – 4 % of Pittsburgh).  Take away:  3x more people live a place the same size as Pittsburgh!  (we like math.)  *As a result, density, alternative transportation, intentional green space, smart policy and a thriving urban landscape is prolific.

Amsterdam has focused around the action steps and programs that the City has adopted in order to create an aggressive energy reduction program. TRANSFORM, a European Union-wide program focused on energy policy, sets aggressive goals in the arena of climate change, including:20% lower carbon emissions, 20% of energy from renewables and 20% increase in energy efficiency by 2020 in major European metropolises.

As a key partner in the TRANSFORM initiative, Amsterdam houses innovative programs under the Amsterdam Smart City (ASC), which serves as an aggregated resource for the citizens and businesses of Amsterdam on everything

In fact, historically Amsterdam has played the rule of centralizer. Patrick Lie from ASC claims, “[Amsterdam] is the original smart city since it was a convener of information and trade at the height of Dutch trading power.”

Recycled cooking oil picked up (ReFuel style) on the Climate Street.

Today, ASC’s mission remains with a focus on the end user, economic growth and resource-efficiency. They have dedicated themselves to coordinated partnerships and cooperation among different stakeholders who otherwise would independently purse these types of projects.

We got to see one such project of collaboration in action, Utrechtsestraat Street,  aka the Climate street, a seemingly conventional retail main street lined with shops, cafes and restaurants.  Over 40 entrepreneurs and business owners on The Street worked together to invest in and implement a range of energy efficiency tools, such as: smart meters, data management tools and conservation kits as well as a bundled procurement process. This has resulted in an aggregated 10% of energy savings.

The Take Home:

  1. Are there any streets in Pittsburgh that could do something similar? Forbes Avenue in Oakland, Murray Avenue in Squirrel Hill, Butler Street in Lawrenceville? Share your thoughts below.
  2. The Dutch dedicated themselves to coordinated partnerships and cooperation among the different stakeholders who otherwise would independently be pursuing smart projects. As Pittsburgh moves forward on similar strategies or policies, it should also take the lead but ensure all the stakeholders are included and engaged. Open Data is one such example. Amsterdam has been instrumental in getting organizations to come together and contribute data to support their Smart City initiatives. Pittsburgh is doing something similar, with the recent Open Data Legislation. With data open by default, it will pave the way for data to be released to the public in a meaningful way to drive decision-making. Data will not be ‘owned’ by any one entity. Instead, it will require collective contribution and action.
  3. One significant form of data sharing takes the form of Amsterdam’s Energy Atlas project which has conducted a baseline and mapping of the local context, energy consumption, and potential energy production. Cities like Berlin, New York, and London have energy maps that feed into their energy strategies. Amsterdam has taken it to the next level, and overlaid the spatial and social data with scenario building, building cases, and social policy. For instance, high energy use is correlated with high income not building type.  A few similar strategies are being pursued at a lesser level in Pittsburgh visa-vi ReEnergize’s Community Action Planning (ReCAPS)– seeking to help community partners take action where action is possible as it pertains to home energy upgrades.




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