City Scale Roadmapping: Achieving Limerick’s Bold 2050 Vision

Cities have a critical role to play in securing a net-zero future. Despite accounting for less than 2% of the Earth’s surface, they consume 78% of the world’s energy and produce more than 60% of greenhouse gas emissions. With global urban populations also on the rise, cities need solutions that help them balance the needs of growing citizen populations, in a way that is sustainable and consistent with a zero-carbon trajectory.

One city - Limerick in Ireland - is working with IES to do just that. As part of the EU Horizon 2020 project, +CityxChange, the city is leveraging IES’ digital twin technology to pursue its net-zero vision; their ultimate aim being to go beyond this to become Ireland’s first “Positive Energy City” - one which generates more primary energy annually than it consumes - by 2050.

Digital Twins for Decarbonisation Roadmapping

Building Level Digital Twins

During the initial phase, IES used their ICL digital twin technology to help create a Positive Energy Block (PEB) of five buildings that produce more local energy annually than they use, within Limerick’s Georgian innovation district.  The project team began by creating highly accurate digital twin models in the VE which closely replicated the actual buildings in operation, leveraging a combination of real building data, machine learning, AI and physics-based simulation, providing an incredibly reliable baseline for analysing different decarbonisation options.

Creating a Positive Energy Block

Next, they were able to identify simple operational measures to improve overall energy efficiency of the buildings at little/no cost, before simulating a series of shallow and deep retrofit measures in sequence to determine which would return the best outcomes in terms of energy efficiency, carbon reductions and costs. With the final integration of renewable energy sources, including solar PV installations (found to have a payback of just 9 years) and a tidal turbine, it was possible to identify surplus clean energy generation of 0.4GWh/yr, taking the block into the realm of positive energy.

Building Level Command Centres

Building level dashboards or ‘Command Centres’ were created for each of the buildings using iSCAN, allowing the building owner to see, in real-time, how their building is performing. The command centre leverages data from the building, along with the physics-based simulation, artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities of the digital twin, to enable continuous monitoring & verification (M&V); identifying faults and operational inefficiencies and advising what actions can be taken to improve the building’s performance. This includes colour coded alerts to help the building owner/ manager prioritise building upgrades and maintenance actions.

City Scale Renewables Analysis

Scaling up from a single block to the entire city centre, IES were able to provide a broader analysis of the potential for renewable energy generation across the city, using its iVN tool. In an analysis encompassing 756 buildings, it was possible to calculate the total energy demand of these buildings, before simulating within the digital twin how much of that demand could be met through the installation of solar PV panels on the roofs. Different scenarios involving the installation of PVs on 20%, 40% and 60% of the collective roof space were simulated and compared to see potential impacts and ROI.

Decarbonisation Roadmapping

More recently, the project team have been working with Limerick to formulate a detailed decarbonisation roadmap of the entire city centre. IES were able to simulate within the city-level digital twin what level of emissions reductions the city would achieve if following the decarbonisation guidance set out at a national level. In doing so, they identified that Limerick would fall short of its 2050 target by a significant margin (approx. 39%) if following the government guidance alone.

The project therefore highlights the need for rigorous testing of decarbonisation policies/guidance, and science-based analysis using appropriate digital tools to ensure that any proposed actions will in fact get cities (or indeed any other group of buildings) where they need to be by 2050.

Futureproofing the City

Now, having identified where the shortfalls lie, IES are working with the city to simulate and identify, via the digital twin, additional measures they can take between now and 2050 to adjust their climate action plan, ensuring they invest and accelerate action in the right places to achieve their goal of zero-carbon/positive energy by 2050.

Need a Decarbonisation Roadmap for your Buildings?

If you are responsible for a group for buildings - whether that be a city, development, large company or portfolio– and have a zero-carbon target in place, our zero-carbon roadmap services and digital twin tools are here to help. Don’t leave it up to guesswork. Get in touch with our team today to find out how our science-based approach can support your decarbonisation journey.