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Musings about the environment and all it touches, from education to city planning

Energy management in Osnabrück

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Osnabrück from the air

Osnabrück from the air

Detlef Gerdts, the director of the environment of the German city of Osnabrück, was the speaker today at SFU’s Carbon Talks. His presentation was entitled Effective climate leadership in cities: Lessons from Germany.

You can see the presentation (mostly an informative Q&A) on the Carbon Talks website, or another version presented at Carleton.  I won’t summarize it, just highlight a few salient points.

Osnabrück is a city of 160,000 inhabitants in northern Germany.  Despite its moderate size, the city has five people working on the climate change file, full-time.  In fact, the city has employed full-time staff on the climate file since 1992.

Osnabrück, being in Germany, is doing its share of initiatives to contribute to the country’s very aggressive plan to reduce most of its CO2 emissions by 2050.  What do you do when you’re just a city?  You offer services to your citizens.  Two of these services are based on aerial surveys:

A Lidar survey was used to determine which roofs have the best orientations for producing solar power.  The results are given in kWhr per year, giving homeowners and businesses a way to calculate payback periods.  The survey has also discovered that the potential for solar energy in the city would be enough for all residential energy needs.

Solar energy potential survey map

Solar energy potential survey map

Another aerial survey was conducted in winter using thermal imaging to determine which roofs are well insulated and which lose a lot of energy.  This is given a dollar value and communicated to homeowners and businesses.  Coupled with this initiative, the city opened offices in target neighbourhoods, open in the evening, to provide free consulting services for anyone wanting to proceed with insulation.

Currently, in Germany, one percent of all homes are retrofitted with insulation every year.  In order to meet the 2050 deadline, the city estimates that tripling that rate is necessary.  This realization is the main reason for the thermal imaging initiative.

Thermographic survey map; darker blue surfaces are better insulated

Thermographic survey map; darker blue surfaces are better insulated

The surveys themselves are quite cheap, because of the economies of scale (it would be prohibitive to do so for a single house, of course).

Like everybody else, Germans make investment decisions based on the rate of return.  What is unique in Germany  is the extent to which their governments, like the municipal government of Osnabrück, go in order to provide the best data on which to base such decisions.

And, of course, the state and federal governments have incentive programs to encourage initiatives like insulation or solar energy.  These are not mere subsidies; they are truly investments in a more efficient, wealthier society.

Mmmh…when is the last time you heard governments mention such topics in BC?

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Written by enviropaul

June 7, 2016 at 5:49 pm

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