Profiles in Urban Metabolism - Ecocity Builders

Profiles in Urban Metabolism

An educational multimedia series in coordination with the Global Initiative for Resource Efficient Cities

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To appreciate the impacts and results of utilizing the urban metabolism model, one must first understand how it works. Urban Metabolism is the study of resource flows through a city. It can be used as a tool for improving urban health and sustainability. Urban Metabolism......

Cape Town is in a precarious position. Like many cities around the world, it is experiencing an extreme water shortage, which has at once drawn attention to the importance of water, as well as to our difficulty in planning for, and managing, resources as well......

Feature Article

Urban Metabolism Case Study — Medellín

Over the past four years, Ecocity Builders has been supporting Medellín in its efforts to make the city more livable by bringing knowledge and action for sustainability down to the grassroots level of citizens. Through explorations of resource flows from source to sink as they move through neighborhoods and households, the work is connecting citizens with the roles they play in resource cycles of water, food, energy and materials.

Water

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Water profile is based on the assumption of consumption per capita of 152.4 liter per person per day.

Strengths

Water services in Medellín are supplied by Empress Públicas de Medellín (EPM, Public Enterprises of Medellín), a multi-utility company owned by the Municipality of Medellín to which it pays 30 per cent of its utility revenues. The company has been praised both nationally and internationally for its economic efficiency, quality of services, and low levels of corruption, and as a model to emulate in other Latin American countries.

Opportunities

To ensure genuine participation, low- income users should be recognized as active players capable of raising concerns, claiming rights, and discussing service related issues.

Weaknesses

Over the last two decades, EPM has been adopting a competitive and market-oriented logic. While EPM registered US$ 6.9 billion in total revenues in 2013 and reported 99 per cent water coverage (EPM, 2011), official statistics estimate that in the same year 36,560 households or 5 per cent of the city’s total households were disconnected from water services for non-payment of bills.

Threats

In the absence of affordable tariffs, many users will turn to different informal and illegal practices to reconnect, regardless of the strict sanctions imposed by the water company.

Materials

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Materials profile based on as assumption of approximately 72,904 tons/month total generated waste (Waste2Energy Medellín). Breakdown of flows by sector and materials are based on research published by Universidad EAFIT, Department of Organizations and Management.

Strengths

For a variety of waste streams, pilot programs for recovery, processing and disposal are being created, ideally as collaborative efforts between the public and private sectors.

Opportunities

Legislation and enforcement in solid waste management are becoming stricter, prompting industries and other players to take action and create fertile ground for innovative and potentially profitable ventures in waste management.

Weaknesses

To date there is not an integral approach to waste management. Waste streams tend to be collected and processed separately. Consumers and small businesses will still have to be educated about the importance of waste prevention and separation at the source.

Threats

All the best efforts could backfire unless the government enables strong participation of low income workers and supports the case for their inclusion in waste management services and businesses.

Energy (Electricity)

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Electricity profile is based on an assumption of 1,123 kWh per capita usage (2015).

Strengths

Since 2010, Colombia has been working on the conceptualization of smart electrical grids at strategic points in the country, as part of the Smart Colombia program. In 2016, Medellín allocated about US$10 million for technology transfer on the subject of smart grids. The city has generated innovations in multiservice and multiprotocol management systems. The flagship project to date is prepaid electricity meters, which in a subsequent phase will be applied to gas and water. There are 120,000 meters already installed in the city, in low-income sectors.

Opportunities

The country has significant small hydro, wind and solar resources that remain largely untapped. According to a study by the World Bank’s Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP), exploitation of the country’s significant wind potential alone could cover more than the country’s current total energy needs.

Weaknesses

There is a lack of existing supporting projects that demonstrate the advantages of demand-side management and smart grid technologies and that assess large-scale energy storage solutions to improve the high-voltage transmission and distribution network.

Threats

Industry sources express major concerns about the lack of progress with regards to environmental licensing and negotiations with local communities as these continue to affect all areas of infrastructure development, especially the energy
industry.