Systemic Efficiency


Systemic Efficiency is the optimization of energy to create a net-zero carbon future. Among all the primary energy used (~13,000 Mtoe), only 33% is converted into useful energy. The remaining 67% is lost due to the inefficiencies in electricity generation, transport, heavy industry and buildings. These inefficiencies can be addressed through sector optimization (e.g. electrification, grid efficiency, building and industry energy efficiency), as well as cross-sector optimization (e.g. optimized usage of energy mix through better design at the intersection of sectors).

How can leaders from energy and the built environment sectors collaborate to create more systemic efficiency in the city ecosystem? How can citizens proactively contribute to the sustainability transition when consuming energy and choosing services? 

Systemic Efficiency: Transitioning Energy and Buildings

To deliver on the UN Sustainable Development Goals, Paris Agreement and New Urban Agenda, it is important to have a city-centric approach which addresses the principles of the energy triangle – sustainability, resilience and affordability in both the energy system and buildings. 

Urbanization, growing populations and climate change are key challenges cities must address. There is a limited window of opportunity for cities to rethink urban planning, energy policy and the built living environment to ensure sustainable ecosystems and human wellness. This is crucial because growing populations in urban areas will face more frequent and extreme weather events, in addition to increasing average temperatures. 

Growing urban populations will also further boost energy demand due to an increase in materials necessary to build and improve infrastructure. Thus, solutions must also address embodied carbon and circular principles in architectural and engineering design. 

To accelerate the transition to more sustainable future in cities, stakeholders have identified the following key areas of focus that will activate systemic efficiency: 

─    Flexibility and energy optimization measures to reduce energy demand across energy, buildings and transportation, including solutions for heating and cooling; 

─    Accelerate electrification of buildings and transport, which is powered by clean, renewable energy; 

─    Digitalization to enable flexible use of city infrastructures from both a demand and supply side. 

─    Circularity of materials for buildings.

Systemic Efficiency aims to enable a decarbonized, highly electrified and resilient city ecosystem though ultra-efficient buildings and smart energy infrastructure.


The initiative aims to work with a coalition of cities and other stakeholders to reduce carbon emissions by 30% by 2030, by focusing on energy efficiency, buildings and clean electrification.

The objective of the initiative is to deliver impact by facilitating a platform and project accelerator to:

1. Raise the level of ambition of national, regional and city-level policy-makers, financiers and private sector to:

- address energy triangle principles – sustainability, resilience/security of supply and affordability in the city context

- to move away from one-off projects towards systemic change by maximizing energy effectiveness and efficiencies among the interfaces of energy, buildings and transportation

2. Spread the adoption of best practices, and identify and promote a menu of policies, standards and designs to enable deployment of the needed business models


For more information or to participate in upcoming workshops and activities, contact Philip Lake at, and Kalin Bracken at

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