Grad Students Examine Applying DCSEU Model to Medellin, Colombia

Johns Hopkins SAIS graduate students present their findings on how the DCSEU model could be applied to Medellin, Colombia

By Danni Li, Batt Odgerel, Yuhan Shang, and Isabel Sitcov

Half of humanity now lives in cities, accounting for a vast majority of energy consumption. In order to reach a more sustainable future, tackling these issues at the city-level is an imperative step. The Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and the Institute of Sustainable Energy Policy (ISEP) was pleased to partner with DCSEU to study its unique combination of energy efficiency and social justice efforts in a city within an emerging market. As a team of four graduate students at SAIS, we took part in a year-long exploration of this model and how it could be expanded to a developing country to tackle social justice and energy consumption issues from the bottom-up.

Over the course of the year, we investigated how DC’s localized Sustainable Energy Utility (SEU) model could be applied to Medellin, Colombia to see what benefits and challenges could arise if the city adopted its own version of the SEU. We studied the potential impacts of the SEU model based on metrics such as energy and cost savings, economic growth, job creation, and the reduction in energy burden on vulnerable residents and public-serving institutions in Medellin.

Understanding the political structure at the municipal and national level as well as the interplay among the various stakeholders was critical to successfully applying the model to our target city. Over the course of the academic year, we had the opportunity to engage with key players in Medellin within the government, energy, and policy sectors. These meetings were pivotal to helping us gain a better ‘on the ground’ understanding of what an SEU could achieve in Medellin and what potential barriers it would need to overcome.

We found that there was a very positive environment for an SEU in Medellin and proposed several recommendations in terms of management, funding, and services which could be applied. Our team concluded that implementing a progressive surcharge on end-users which takes into account the economic stratification of the city’s residents would be the best way to raise funds, which would directly go towards the SEU’s program management and project subsidies. By creating a financial modeling tool, we were able to determine that an SEU could save Medelllin 50,000,000 kWh of energy in the residential and commercial sectors and generate costs savings of over $2 million for city residents.

Furthermore, an SEU could help to address Medellin’s glaring environmental challenges, namely the air pollution that plagues the city. A localized version of the SEU model has the potential to bring economic, social, and environmental benefits to Medellin. Our analysis has the potential to inform further research into other emerging markets as to how the SEU model can help to meet global sustainable development goals.

We had the opportunity to present our findings at SAIS to faculty, students, and independent experts on April 2, 2019 at Johns Hopkins. Our presentation was accompanied by several esteemed panelists including Anmol Vanamali (DCSEU), Colin Taylor from CLASP, Dr. Johannes Urpelainen SAIS, and Juan-Carlos Altamirano from the World Resources Institute. The presentation was followed by a lively discussion about energy efficiency in the developing world and key input from the audience.

We will produce our final report, which will be available to the public in May 2019.

This blog post was written by four graduate students in the Johns Hopkins SAIS program who participated in a year-long study into how DC’s localized Sustainable Energy Utility (SEU) model could be applied to Medellin, Colombia. 

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