Optimal Pathways for Regional Energy Transition

Author: 
William W. Braham, PhD, FAIA
Co-author(s): 
Multiple (view project listing)

What is the optimal pathway for the Philadelphia region to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?  The pathway for reducing GHG emissions is the crux of virtually every energy policy debate right now in the Philadelphia region and indeed in cities and regions around the world. Since the IPCC AR4 in 2007, many governments have adopted a policy goal of an 80% reduction in GHG emissions by the year 2050. The U.S. has stated this goal in national policy and in multi-national agreements with the G7 and the UNFCCC, and it has been adopted by 16 U.S. states and 37 U.S. citiesAt the Paris COP21, 185 nations made pledges (known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions or INDCs) to take actions calculated to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a stated amount between 2015 and 2030. These pledging parties represent more than 95% of global GHG emissions. Over 50 percent of the actions embedded in the INDCs rely on local and other subnational governments.

In Spring 2016, the Kleinman Center issued a call for proposals to develop a regional framework for evaluating greenhouse gas emissions reductions that maximize local net benefits. The need for this critical research grew from a multi-stakeholder process for structured decision-making around Philadelphia's energy strategy, led by the Kleinman Center and Drexel University over the fall of 2015 and spring of 2016. 

The Center is currently funding a multi-disciplinary team of Penn faculty from Design, Wharton, and Engineering who collaborated on the winning proposal.


Problem Statement

When cities and regions have the responsibility for achieving national and international greenhouse gas (GHG) goals, they need to assure local citizens and decision makers that policy goals are not just possible, but physically, financially, and politically feasible. Policy options and potential solutions are not “one-size-fits-all” and need to be adapted to support regionally specific social, economic, and environmental systems. How can the Philadelphia region achieve the “80% by 2050” reduction targets and what tradeoffs would that involve? To identify optimal pathways to GHG reduction and provide regional decision makers with usable guidance, the implication of the many choices facing the region need to be explored.

Faculty Research Team
Principal Investigator

William W. Braham, PhD, FAIA is a Professor of Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania, where he previously served as Chair, and is currently Director of the Master of Environmental Building Design and Director of the TC Chan Center for Building Simulation and Energy Studies. He has worked on energy and architecture for over 30 years as a designer, consultant, researcher, and author of numerous articles and books. He recently published Architecture and Systems Ecology: Thermodynamic Principles for Environmental Building Design, in three parts (2015). He has also co-edited Architecture and Energy: Performance and Style (2013) and Energy Accounts: Architectural Representations of Energy, Climate, and the Future (2016).  His most recent article is “The New Chautauqua Game: Designing the renewable city and region using e[m]ergy accounting (2016),” Journal of Environmental Accounting and Management.

Eugenie Birch is the Lawrence C. Nussdorf Chair of Urban Research and Education. She teaches courses in planning history, global urbanization and serves as chair, Graduate Group in City and Regional Planning , co-director, Penn Institute for Urban Research, co-editor, City in the 21st Century Series, University of Penn Press and co-editor, SSRN Urban Research e-journal. She is also currently Chair, UN-HABITAT's World Urban Campaign (WUC) and President, General Assembly of Partners, the civil society platform to facilitate contributions to Habitat III.

Tom Daniels directs the concentration in Land Use and Environmental Planning in the Department of City and Regional Planning. He also administers the Certificate in Land Preservation. Tom is currently working on a grant from the US EPA to study how to use green infrastructure to reduce urban storm water runoff. He is currently working on a book on the law of farmland preservation for the American Bar Association.

Erick Guerra is Assistant Professor and Assistant Chair in the Department of City and Regional Planning. Erick’s research interests focus on transportation and land use, including travel behavior, investments, informal transportation and developing-world cities. His most recent work, The Geography of Car Ownership in Mexico City: A Joint Model of Households’ Residential Location and Car Ownership Decisions was published in the Journal of Transport Geography.

John D. Landis is the Crossways Professor of City and Regional Planning. His research interests span a variety of urban development topics; his recent research and publications focus on growth management, infill housing, and the geography of urban employment centers. He is currently engaged in a National Science Foundation-funded project to model, forecast, and develop alternative spatial scenarios of U.S. population and employment patterns and their impacts on travel demand, habitat loss, and water use through 2050.

Megan Ryerson is Assistant Professor the Department of City and Regional Planning. Her research focuses on the design and management of resilient and sustainable transportation systems, particularly the air transportation system. Her recent work focuses on airport infrastructure planning, network geography evolution, and the growth of China’s aviation systems.

Barry Silverman is Professor of Systems Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania. His research has received over $40 million in grants, leading to the creation of state-of-the-art software tools and environments and the development of socio-cognitive agent models that help humans improve their learning, performance, and systems thinking in simulated worlds. Barry is the author of over 160 articles and is a Fellow of IEEE and AAAS and recipient of several research and teaching excellence awards.

Susan M. Wachter is the Albert Sussman Professor of Real Estate and Professor of Finance, The Wharton School; Professor of City and Regional Planning, School of Design; and Co-director, Penn Institute for Urban Research. She was recently co-editor of Shared Prosperity in America's Communities (2016) which examines place-based disparity of opportunity. Susan is currently researching the potential impact of key drivers of homeownership rates on homeownership outcomes by 2050.

Research Support

Alon Abramson holds an MS in Environmental Engineering and works as the Project Manager for Energy Initiatives at the Penn Institute for Urban Research. Alon has extensive experience developing knowledge sharing platforms to capture best practice case studies, including the design and build of the Energy Smart Communities Initiative platform for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation. He also led the development of a multimedia web platform showcasing the Philadelphia-based Consortium for Building Energy Innovation.

Nasrin Khansari is a Post-Doctoral researcher in Electrical and Systems Engineering Department. Nasrin has received the Ph.D. degree in Systems Engineering from Stevens Institute of Technology, the M.A. degree in Social Science from New York University and completed another M.A. degree in Social Development from University of Tehran. She works on an integrated conceptual framework to increase the efficiency of energy systems, facilitate energy consumption problem solving, and support the development of capacities based on socio-structural and techno-structural contexts.

Amanda Lloyd is a project manager at Penn Institute for Urban Research. She is currently the editor of the Global Urban Commons, an online knowledge platform for disseminating global urban research, and works with the Consortium of Building Energy Innovation on promoting innovative energy analysis tools. She holds a Master’s in City and Regional Planning from the University of Pennsylvania and over ten years of experience as a comprehensive land use planner with a focus on sustainability planning.

Alex Waegel is a post-doctoral researcher at the T.C. Chan Center, where he works full-time conducting research on energy efficient building modeling. He has a B.A. in Physics from Drew University and a PhD in Urban Affairs and Policy from Center for Energy and Environmental Policy at the University of Delaware. Alex’s primary interests are the conversion from fossil fuel based to sustainable energy sources; mathematics models of consumer adoption and energy consumption by large populations; and communication of sophisticated scientific ideas to an audience with minimal scientific experience.

Related Kleinman Publications

Policy DigestThe Stakes Are High for a Philadelphia Energy Hub Apr 07, 2015
Policy DigestOil Trains and the PA Public Utility Commission May 05, 2015