THE PEOPLE WANT LESS! – LESS ENERGY
In 2008, the people of Zurich voted for the 2000-watt society energy initiative. Since then, the city administration has developed into an ecological role model and is preparing Zurich for change with instinct and reason.
Six years ago, a man was tasked with a mission to change the mindset and behavior of an entire city. Deadline: 40 years. Measures: Everything in his power. Sounds like Casino Royale? No, because the hero’s name isn’t Bond, it’s Hohl, Bruno Hohl. He is not a secret agent, but the director of the city of Zurich’s department for environmental and health protection. His mission is real, namely to turn Zurich into a 2000-watt society. That’s what the people of Zurich wanted when they voted for the energy initiative in 2008.
For the hero, this means getting the population of the metropolis of Zurich to use significantly less energy and minimize their CO2 emissions by 2050. To be precise: from the current 5000 to 2000 watts of primary energy continuous output per person and from five to one tonne of CO2 equivalents emitted annually. Bruno Hohl considers this to be anything but a mission impossible: “Because from an ecological point of view there is absolutely no way around it!” Never say never.
Hohl is a visionary realist, and he is at the forefront when it comes to making his city fit for the future and more livable. In his 30 years with the city administration, he has already helped to lift many a large project, albeit none of the dimensions of the 2000-watt society. Where does a city administration come in? First of all with yourself – because how can the population be expected to change if the responsible drivers, the authorities, do not set the example themselves? “That’s why we pursued ambitious goals when it came to making the city offices suitable for 2000 watts down to the furthest corners,” says Hohl, Bruno Hohl, looking back on the beginnings of his mission.
After the vote, in which the people of Zurich, to everyone’s surprise, mandated their administration to force them to save energy, the city first drummed up its 7,000 employees. The administration people should be made aware of and enthusiastic about the 2000 watt target. In anticipation of what will happen to the metropolis in the long term, the administration has had to adhere to energy-saving rules ever since. They require, for example, that the PC must be switched off before going on the lunch break. The room temperature for all buildings is also regulated centrally and uniformly low. If you’re cold, you wear a warmer sweater. “And that’s why I saw so many gloomy faces at the conference table,” remembers Bruno Hohl. Half a decade later, the director considers the internal renewal to be complete: “The initial braking attitude has changed into a hands-on culture,” says the 63-year-old. Today, his colleagues are leading their departments towards the 2000-watt society with conviction and commitment. This is essential, because after all, their goals affect every area of daily life and thus also all official areas of responsibility.
It soon became clear that this all-encompassing energy project would require significant coordination, so the city established a 2000-watt interdepartmental implementation organization. Bruno Hohl was appointed its director – you only live twice. Among the milestones of recent years is the establishment of a central location that keeps an overview of the many sub-projects. “At the moment, information on the 2000-watt society can be found on every department website and in a wide variety of brochures. The user can no longer see the forest for the trees,” says Hohl, criticizing the status quo. “We’re now merging this whole hodgepodge of information into a clear whole.”
At the same time, the city had to lay the 2000-watt foundation at the level of political objectives and regulations. To do this, she reviewed all existing strategies, such as traffic and energy plans, and adjusted them to the 2000-watt target. The Minergie standard is now the minimum requirement for the renovation and new construction of municipal properties, and the city administration obtains its electricity exclusively from renewable energy sources. The city has also made efforts at the citizen level. For example, due to the great demand from the people of Zurich, initial pilot projects such as energy coaching or the eco-compass for small and medium-sized companies have become permanent advisory services. “For example, we are increasingly being contacted by builders who want to know how they can build in a way that makes energy sense,” says Bruno Hohl happily. That was not the case two or three years ago. The citizens also reacted extremely positively to the many 30 km/h zones and routes, which the city was able to enforce thanks to the nationwide noise and air pollution guidelines. And of course Hohl fights for more to come.
In the service of his citizenry, however, the agent describes the reduction in motorized private transport as a “tough nut to crack”. “Because the energy and traffic laws are made by the federal government and the cantons, we as a municipality only have modest influence,” says Hohl, naming the biggest hurdle. But this is exactly where the possibility of more rigid control would be important, because the experienced administrator is convinced that road users can only be brought to their senses with laws. And with comprehensive mobility pricing, i.e. user-related prices on road and rail, in the sense of “who drives a lot, pays more”. But most politicians find that too unpopular. “No executive politician wants to waste their careers on this sensitive issue,” Hohl suspects.
However, these or other stumbling blocks, such as the currently tight city finances, do not dampen the enthusiasm of the 2000-watt hero. For example, he finds the “new” mood that he senses in the population encouraging: “The bike is becoming increasingly popular in the financial metropolis of Zurich, while the car is gradually losing its importance as a status symbol. And the proportion of more sustainable products in Zurich shopping baskets is also noticeably larger.” He thinks that consumers have become much more sensitive and critical in the last few years. For him, there are all indications that a cultural change is also beginning outside of the administrative offices.
The environmental expert is certain that the timing for the 2000-watt mission is the right one. In any case, now that the ground has been prepared, his new organization is working with all its might towards the next phase: the concrete city-wide action plan. At the same time, Hohl attaches great importance to maintaining and promoting Zurich as a place for experiments and laboratories, so that it can continue to be a model for other regions. Even though the 2000-watt society project in Zurich is still in its infancy, its luminosity beyond the city limits is already impressive. The list of communities that are turning into energy cities like Zurich is getting longer and longer.
Tomorrow never dies.
2000 Watt Society Zurich