RGA Engineering y Projects

Mobility in cities: fundamental axis of energy efficiency

Energy efficiency in the context of the city is a very complex field of study, since it must evaluate not only the forms of energy generation (supply) , but also the mechanisms involved in its consumption (how and when) , the means to its distribution (transport) , and its effect on the environment (impact) . In the previous article The issue of energy efficiency was focused on the building segment, and the different existing certifications, dedicated to distinguishing those initiatives whose infrastructure provides the best possible use of natural resources during all phases of the life of a building installation: project, construction and operation. In this installment, mobility will be discussed as a measure of the consumption of fossil fuels that should be appreciated more than a mere indicator of the quality of life in the city, being a thermometer of energy expenditure in a town with a very high potential for improvement.

Venezuela in Figures

Venezuela is a country with a little more than 30 million inhabitants, this being a value that when considered with its neighbors: Colombia (48 million), Brazil (200 million) seems to be small (1 ) ; however, the issue should not focus on the absolute value of its population but on the rate of its growth. For the 1981 census, the country had 14.5 million inhabitants, which when contrasted with the current figure implies that the nation’s population has doubled in thirty years. However, this level of growth implies a very complex management of the nation’s infrastructure (roads, health, energy, etc.) since building a facility for a projected population in 20 years may be economically unfeasible.

Starting in 2005, the sale of private vehicles increased significantly, reaching a sales record in 2007 with 400,000 units, which generated a nationwide increase in land traffic rates and retention times, turning cities that they were reflections of a peaceful life in intricate redoubts of traffic jams, resulting in a significant deterioration in the state of the roads, both at an urban and interurban level, as well as an increase in the cost of their maintenance through the increase in the frequency of their repairs. .

From the point of view of the consumption of fossil fuels, this increase in the country’s vehicle fleet was notorious, for which incentives began to be developed by the State to reduce vehicle consumption, some of which were focused on strengthening mass transportation mechanisms. such as El Metro de Caracas, Bus Caracas, Transbarca, etc., others to direct demand towards a cheaper energy source such as Vehicular Natural Gas (2009) (2), or campaigns in favor of increasing the price of gasoline , whose new increases seem imminent and justified given the level of investment that their processing requires.

Mobility in Cities: Avoided Costs

As regards mass transportation, there have been significant investments in urban mobility infrastructure, mainly in large cities such as Caracas, Valencia, Maracaibo, and Barquisimeto, with the construction of metro lines, roads dedicated exclusively to the use of buses , counterflow channels, among others.

When the State undertakes this type of work, it does so using its own funds (budget item) or financing from multilateral banks such as the Andean Development Corporation (CAF) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), which means that Such investment must translate into an increase in income for the nation (taxes) or intangible benefits such as an increase in the quality of life of the population, reduction of poverty, fulfillment of the millennium goals, etc. Placing this in the context of mobility, how can the State assess the benefit of specific works in favor of the mobility of its citizens? Through the so-called Avoided Cost.

The Avoided Cost is an economic indicator that allows monetarily quantifying how much is left to spend under the current situation when making an infrastructure investment that improves the performance of an area. In the case of mobility projects, the State must evaluate how much subsidized fuel it stops spending per year by investing in: mass transportation systems, improvements in highway networks that increase vehicle speeds during peak hours, and intelligent traffic control initiatives. traffic lights.

An example that I always use when I teach the Sustainable Mobility module of the Emerging Sustainable Cities Management Diploma in the city of Valencia, focuses on demonstrating that only the savings in annual fuel consumption would cover the cost of the investments necessary to improve in 20% vehicle retention times, in a 12 km section where the greatest traffic of the Valencia motorway is concentrated, considering that the fleet that passes through this section per day is 200,000 vehicles and behaves like a VW Gol of 1.8 L (average vehicle). For an estimated international price of gasoline of 0.7$/L (3) , such savings on an annualized basis would be 7.7 MM$, which indicates that there is a pre-feasibility in the execution of these works.

It is important to note that the foregoing is an academic exercise, and in order to arrive at a fairly conclusive value, studies are required where the following can be identified: number of vehicles in the section of interest, weighted distribution of vehicle types (light, heavy , public transport), fuel consumption in the area and grounds for retention. Once this is defined, an investment program can be developed in the short, medium and long term that allows the effective reduction of bottlenecks, always prioritizing the options that imply a greater return on investment for the State. Without applying this tool, you are simply making a blind decision that can mean unpayable costs, and therefore long delays in the deliveries of these works.

In conclusion, for the Venezuelan State, mobility both at an urban and interurban level cannot be seen only from the perspective of the indicator of the quality of life of its citizens, but also as a way to reduce the increasingly high consumption of liquid fuels of the population, with the added improvements to air quality and the reduction of Greenhouse Gas emissions (Carbon Footprint). A city with high levels of vehicle retention is a portrait of wasted energy and infinite potential for improvements, which can include: investments in smart traffic light technologies for congested avenues, fast access to highways to free obsolete interchanges, among others,

Published in: Venezuelan Commodities Magazine, 15th edition, pp. 20-23 ( see post )

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