Center for Environmental Building & Design

Optimal Pathways to Greenhouse Gas Reduction for the Philadelphia Region

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. Policy makers need to understand if and how the Philadelphia region can achieve the “80% by 2050” national reduction target and what regional benefits and tradeoffs that target would involve. To provide regional decision-makers with usable guidance, researchers will investigate possible pathways within the parameters of a set of future scenarios and identify optimal pathways that maximize regional net benefits.
 
The first phase of the Philadelphia Region Energy Pathways has seven parts: 1) a literature review of national and international energy and GHG reduction domains; 2) regional scenario development; 3) identification of drivers and policy strategies; 4) a gap analysis of available regional data sets; 5) an investigation into how to construct a decision support system (DSS) through agent-based modeling; 6) a preliminary identification of cost-benefit analysis options; and 7) scoping Phase Two of the project.
 
The literature review allows the team to understand the state of research and reporting that currently exists in these domains within the U.S. and internationally. The research shaped the development of the scenarios and drivers and helped identify conditions that would make policy actions ineffectual, politically infeasible, uneconomical, or otherwise impact regional GHG pathway options.
 
Framed by the scenarios, the team created an accurate picture of the drivers of energy use and emissions in the region to establish the baseline regional conditions and identify strategic lever points for policy actions. The team also examined existing baseline data for the region’s energy production and consumption and its demographic, economic, and environmental conditions and noted critical gaps that will limit the resolution or accuracy of the analysis of future pathways.
 
Investigating alternative ways to construct a decision support system (DSS) through agent-based modeling was a critical component of phase one. Team members explored and built several pre-prototypes to help evaluate the value of the role for Agent Based Models (ABM) using alternative data sources (Census, energy reports, DVRPC, etc.), GIS modeling, and various social science theories of human behavior (land value theory, economic disparity theory, cognitive learning theory, etc.). The results are included in the Phase II proposal for an ABM-based DSS that models population decision-making about transportation and building energy choices and how these could impact the GHG projections.
 
Finally, the team synthesized all the research to develop a preliminary set of pathways (collections of policy actions) and a set of cost-benefit calculation methods, models, and indicators that will be used in the second phase of this project to understand the regional net benefits of those GHG reduction pathways on the region.
 
This report serves as both a summary of the outcomes of the first stage of this project, as well as a proposal for delivering an evaluation of the energy pathways for the Philadelphia Region in a second phase.