Helping Global Cities Harness the Power of Energy Efficiency

May 14, 2014


  • World Bank grants to help 10 cities take on major energy efficiency improvements.
  • Outcomes to include reduced water supply system losses in Karachi, energy efficient public lighting in Brazilian cities, and a low-carbon strategy for Shenzen, China.
  • Another grant will support the IFC’s EDGE program, supporting standards and financing for expansion of green buildings.

Cities now consume about two-thirds of the world’s energy, and are responsible for about 70 percent of its greenhouse gas emissions. These proportions are growing as rapid urbanization drives soaring demand for energy to power economic activity and expand services and infrastructure.

Cities able to harness energy efficiency and sustainability practices can reduce their energy consumption and costs, while increasing their competitiveness and providing better services to their inhabitants.

" The World Bank’s support has helped us look at the entire city and find new areas for energy savings. This is critical as we work to put Belo Horizonte on a more sustainable path for the future. "

Délio de Jesus Malheiros

Deputy Mayor, Belo Horizonte

Recognizing this, the World Bank Group is supporting cities as they develop more sustainable municipal systems and services.  It took another step in that direction in April, with  grants to 11 cities and programs for energy efficiency initiatives in key sectors such as lighting, buildings, transport, and water.

The grants are the first under the City Energy Efficiency Transformation Initiative, led by the World Bank’s Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP).   The initiative seeks to integrate energy efficiency planning into city decision-making, build the capacity of city officials, promote learning and exchanges between cities, and facilitate financing—so that plans become realities on the ground.

ESMAP’s $4.3 million in grants will support activities in three cities in Brazil (Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, São Paulo); in Karachi, Pakistan; in Shenzhen, China; in three cities in Ukraine; and two cities in Macedonia.  Another grant will go towards the EDGE Green Building Market Transformation Program led by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), which works with governments and the private sector to stimulate sustainable low cost solutions for the buildings industry through green building standards and access to finance. 

“The World Bank’s support has helped us look at the entire city and find new areas for energy savings.  This is critical as we work to put Belo Horizonte on a more sustainable path for the future,” said Belo Horizonte Deputy Mayor Délio de Jesus Malheiros.

In Karachi, the World Bank team will help the government review opportunities in the water supply and sanitation systems, studying how to reduce system losses and exploring waste-to-energy options.  Work will also cover efficient street lighting, green building incentives and electricity demand management.

In Shenzhen, by contrast, work will focus more on the policy level, helping to develop a low carbon strategy for the city, along with a prospectus of investments to support sustainable growth.  Areas covered will include transport, public lighting, buildings, industry and urban planning.  ESMAP will also support Shenzhen’s ambitious goal to cap emissions at a peak to be reached by 2020.

In the Brazilian cities, ESMAP will build on earlier work in Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte to develop an expanded public lighting program that could be replicated in other cities.  It will also strengthen building energy efficiency programs, public transport-oriented urban development strategy in Rio and São Paulo, and industrial energy efficiency improvements throughout the Rio municipality.

“The ESMAP initiative allows us to be strategic about where support is provided,” said Anna Wellenstein, Urban Sector Manager for the World Bank’s Latin America and Caribbean Region.  “We are focused on cities and sectors where energy efficiency can drive transformational change, and which can serve as models for others.”

The IFC’s EDGE Program  (“Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiencies”), which has operations in countries across Asia, Latin America and Africa, works with a wide range of stakeholders to support a market shift towards energy efficient buildings.  Two main activities are covered under the ESMAP grants: the creation of a green building voluntary certification protocol and related training materials; and the launch of a voluntary green building certification program in South Africa.

“While city governments can lead through incentives and policies, the private sector is critical to scaling up energy efficiency investment,” said Marcene Broadwater, Global Head of Climate Strategy and Business Development at the IFC.  “ESMAP is supporting affordable green housing in high growth urban markets, by promoting stronger public-private collaboration.”

The City Energy Efficiency Transformation Initiative is a three-year technical assistance program with an initial budget of $9 million.  In addition to providing grants, the initiative’s training modules on lighting, buildings and water are designed to help develop understanding of the power of energy efficiency among city officials around the world.

The initiative builds on ESMAP’s extensive work on urban energy efficiency, including development of the Tool for Rapid Assessment of City Energy (TRACE), which has been deployed in 27 cities to help them identify potential energy efficiency improvements and prioritize interventions.  In Rio de Janeiro, TRACE was used to identify energy-saving investments in efficient street lighting using LEDs and retrofits to municipal buildings, such as schools and hospitals.