Almada: on the way to becoming a low-carbon role model
By João Cleto, Pedro Gomes and Sílvia Remédios, Local Energy Management Agency of Almada
Located on the south bank of the river Tagus, opposite Lisbon, Almada City Council is one of 18 municipalities within the Lisbon Metropolitan Area, with 180,000 permanent residents living in an area of 72 km2. Despite being mostly urban, Almada still manages to preserve 25% of its territory as a natural protected area of great richness and biodiversity. The city’s Atlantic beachfront extends for approximately 13 km and is a popular leisure destination, attracting an estimated 8 million visitors per year.
Due to its urban nature, transport and buildings (services and residential) are the biggest energy consumers in Almada, as can be seen from the figure below. Almada signed the Paris City Hall Declaration during the COP21 climate conference in 2015, committing to reduce its CO2 emissions by 80% by 2050.
Sustainable Development Strategies in the past
Almada has adopted a Local Development Strategy, which has been used as the framework for local development for the last four decades. Each decade has had a particular theme and for the decade 2010 to 2020, the theme was ‘Almada+: Sustainability, Solidarity and Eco-Efficiency’. Many of the city’s climate actions originated in this time. The aim was to pursue a develop pattern with the following guiding principles:
- Establish Almada as a territory of high environmental quality, whose identity is based on the Tagus estuary and the Atlantic environment.
- Consolidate Almada’s green infrastructure, to safeguard its biophysical functions.
- Achieve an efficient and smart use of natural resources.
- Reduce the environmental impacts of its activities and promote efficient use of energy, to foster a progressive transition to a low carbon city.
These guiding principles are expressed in the different development axes that implement this strategy. In the field of ‘Environment, Biodiversity and Energy’, Almada has a Local Strategy for Climate Change, which comprises mitigation and adaptation, as depicted in the figure below. The mitigation component addresses the reduction of carbon emissions by reducing energy use through improved efficiency and the replacement of fossil fuels with renewable energy sources.
The adaptation component involves planning solutions that underpin the resilience of the natural, urban, social and economic systems in Almada. Its monitoring and evaluation is supported by the local Climate Forum which was initially set up with Almada’s municipal energy agency, AGENEAL, and includes representatives of the main energy consumption sectors in the city. The Forum is now being expanded to include the Local Stakeholders Climate Platform (more about that below).
Almada’s Local Strategy for Climate Change contained a number of measures targeted at reducing the energy consumption of buildings and the transport sector. To support these, the ‘Almada Less Carbon Climate Fund’ was created in 2009, supported by a specific budget line for energy efficiency and renewable energy investments based on an evaluation of the CO2 emissions from municipal activities the previous year.
Examples of projects funded until 2016 include LED lighting for the contemporary arts museum and several schools, power factor correction of several municipal facilities, installation of thermally broken frames and double glazed windows in municipal office buildings, solar hot water in sports facilities, 100% LED traffic lights and public lighting telemanagement systems, and solar photovoltaics and solar hot water for the facilities in Parque da Paz, a 60-hectare park that is considered the lung of the city.
After the first seven years of successful operation, and leveraging more than €1.5m of investment for energy efficiency and renewable energy (reducing 953 tonnes of CO2/year and saving €375,000/year in energy costs), the climate fund became a revolving fund in 2016. It continues to finance energy efficiency and renewables (LED lighting in sport facilities, large photovoltaic system on cultural buildings, deep energy renovation of social housing, among others) with part of the savings to be reinvested in the fund for future projects.
Almada has also been active in retrofitting buildings to improve energy efficiency. A social housing building was retrofitted with state-of-the art technologies developed under the HERB (Holistic Energy-efficient Retrofitting of residential Buildings) project, funded under the European Commission’s FP7 programme. It encompassed two main interventions: improvements in the building envelope and using solar energy to produce hot water and electricity in a hybrid system.
Highly efficient indoor lighting and ICT monitoring of the building pre- and post-retrofit were also developed. The pilot building is one of many similar buildings in a large social housing neighbourhood. There is great potential for replication testing as these buildings are representative of the majority of multi-apartment buildings in Portugal. The creation of a nearly zero-energy social housing district is a medium- to long-term objective which addresses poverty alleviation as well as energy conservation.
Almada is also a front runner in Portugal in the use of efficient public lighting telemanagement systems. This system has been introduced gradually and now encompasses 5% of the total public lighting system, with the potential for expansion to cover the whole system. As well as allowing dimming of lights at night and according to user needs, reducing energy consumption dramatically, it is an integrated tool for management and maintenance operations.
The public lighting system in Almada is currently in line for overhaul, using an Energy Performance Contract guaranteed savings approach, making the system 100% LED with at least 25% in telemanagement. The project is expected to be finished in 2021. It can also be integrated with other systems, including GIS, irrigation systems coupled with weather sensors, and traffic lights. The drinking water infrastructure also has a telemanagement system, which has allowed significant reductions in energy use and optimization of management and maintenance operations.
Almada’s Sustainable Transport Policy has changed the way citizens move around the area in the last 20 years, especially after the introduction of a tram system. The tram has allowed a profound regeneration of the urban design along its catchment area and brought the City Council opportunities to intervene in other dimensions of travel, such as sustainable urban logistics, making public transport more integrated and linking public transport with active transport modes, based on Almada’s Cycling Plan. Also, e-mobility is being promoted, with 29 public charging stations in the city.
The Almada BUS Saúde (Almade Health Bus) is a bus service which allows a quick, convenient and safe connection between the centre of Almada and the main hospital, health centres and other public services. There are no fixed stops – passengers can board and leave anywhere on the route simply by raising their hand. This service is part of the municipality’s inclusivity policy and mainly serves elderly citizens, making services and the public transport network accessible.
A digital Guide to the Public Transport of Almada aims to reverse the recent decline in public transport for everyday travel by providing useful information about routes, connections, timetables, tariffs and conditions for carrying bicycles.
Establishing an energy community
Almada is working to develop a local energy community. The PLAC (Local Climate Platform for Almada) is a voluntary participation forum in which stakeholders discuss, share and disseminate information and knowledge to support local action to contribute to decarbonization. It will address the gap between the municipality’s commitments (especially the 80% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050) and the responsibility of the community as whole, without whom the targets are unachievable as the City Council itself is responsible for only 5% of greenhouse gas emissions in its territory.
The first participants in PLAC are some 70 members from sectors including commerce, large and small industry, universities and public institutions who have committed to take action towards the overall municipal targets and will develop the PLAC together in a participative approach. The first step will be to build the conceptual framework for the local energy community, combined with investments in municipal buildings such as schools.
AGENEAL, is the lead partner in the European INTENSIFY project that was approved in May 2018. The project involves nine municipalities from various countries and aims to achieve carbon reduction through intense community engagement.
The project’s main outputs will be focused on new methods of community engagement using local stakeholder platforms to improve local policies to incentivize carbon reduction behaviours, and improve governance by delivering carbon reduction policies that have citizen support.
With a broad spectrum of climate action and a motivated municipality and energy agency, Almada is well underway not only to become a low carbon city but also a lighthouse and role model for other cities in the region, and, through European projects such as INTENSIFY and mPOWER, all over Europe.
About the authors:
João Cleto is an Environmental Engineer. He started working in a research institute and since 2008 has been at AGENEAL, coordinating several local, national and European projects in climate change local action. João supports local climate and sustainability policies with the ambition of transforming the city into an inclusive, sustainable, lively, participative and open territory.
Pedro Gomes is an Environmental Engineer. Since 2014, he has been employed at AGENEAL coordinating several local, national and European projects in the fields of climate change, citizen engagement and promotion of sustainable forms of mobility including walking and cycling.
Silvia Remédios is an Industrial and Production Engineer. She has been working at AGENEAL since 2000, in the fields of energy and environmental education, stakeholder engagement, renewable energies, greenhouse gas emissions inventories, energy certification and energy audits. She has coordinated several local, national and European projects on public awareness, energy efficiency and renewable energy.
This blog article was co-created by Josephine Valeske and is part of the mPOWER blog series in which cities and towns share how they are building better energy futures.