Seoul , South Korea
The eco-mileage system is an incentive program for citizens and organizations to reduce energy consumption.
The eco-mileage system is a citizen participation program that gives incentives to member households and organizations who voluntarily cut back on electricity, water, or gas use per month by at least 10% compared to the monthly average of the previous two years. Incentives include household environmentally-friendly products, which can be reinvested toward energy conservation, public transportation card replenishment, gift certificates for use in traditional markets, and credit card points.
The program recognizes the necessity of citizens’ participation in the reduction efforts of greenhouse gas emissions. It aims at addressing a unified response to global warming through the involvement of city government, private enterprises, and citizens. The long term goal is to achieve a 40% reduction of the 1990 greenhouse gas emissions level by 2030. By strengthening citizen’s commitment to environmental protection, the card mileage system constitutes one of the corner stone of the program. The program also includes new communication channels to improve information to citizens. The Eco-Mileage System is being replicated and disseminated in other cities in the country.
Background and objectives
- Recognition of the Challenge Posed by Global Warming
During the 100 years from 1908 to 2007, the average temperature of the earth rose by 0.74℃ and that of Korea by 1.5℃. During the same period, the average temperature of Seoul jumped by 2.4℃, tripling the earth’s average. As of 2009, Korea emitted 564 million tCO2e of greenhouse gases, of which 8.7% (49 million tCO2e) came from Seoul. Unlike in other cities, 94% of greenhouse gas emissions in Seoul are generated by residential and commercial buildings and cars. Therefore, the best way to cut emissions in Seoul is to save energy in our homes and workplaces.
- Necessity of Citizens’ Participation in the Reduction Efforts of Greenhouse Gas Emissions
According to a survey on the characteristics of greenhouse gas emissions in Seoul, households and buildings account for 67% and transportation for 24%. Those two areas compose more than 90% of the total greenhouse gas emissions. Thus, the most effective way to reduce gas emissions in the city within a short period of time was to make households and businesses voluntarily take part in energy conservation efforts.
Decline in the Effectiveness of the Previous Incentive Program
A better incentive program was demanded by the public as the previous programs, including the Carbon Point Program run by the Ministry of Environment, were losing their effectiveness. The biggest problem of the existing programs was that they provided incentives for temporary measures to save energy. Thus, the citizens lacked motivation to save energy in the long-term, and consequently, their participation rate dropped significantly after a certain period of time. Also, the city budget was being spent on temporary measures that did not contribute to the lasting reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
The main objectives include
A unified response to global warming through the city government, private enterprises, and citizens;
Continuous energy reduction through citizen’s voluntary participation;
A reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in Seoul (a 40% reduction of the 1990 level by 2030)
The Seoul Eco Mileage System established at the Request of Civic Society. A number of civic groups called on the city of Seoul to come up with energy conservation systems. In April 2008, the city established the procedures for the implementation of the Eco-Mileage System along with the energy consumption quantity management system under the leadership of the city’s director of the Climate & Environment Headquarters. In January 2009, the Eco-Mileage System was put into effect and its aim was to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the city.
The key principles of the system are:
- Working in partnership with companies
To successfully implement the Eco-Mileage System, the Seoul Metropolitan Government signed MOUs with large and medium-sized companies, including Samsung Electronics, Hyundai Motors, and LG Chemical, with the aim of providing environmentally-friendly incentives. These companies offered their products to households that had demonstrated outstanding energy conservation.
- Evaluation System based on Accumulated Usage
Seoul changed the calculation method of energy consumption from “the quantity at a certain point in time” to “the average quantity used during six months,” encouraging continuous energy conservation. Currently, the city monitors households’ energy consumption from the past six months and selects households that have saved more than 10% per month compared to the monthly average of the previous two years. The incentives that Seoul offers include household environment-friendly products that are reinvested in energy conservation; public transportation card replenishment; gift certificates that can be used in traditional markets; and credit card points. For groups, like those in an apartment complex or a commercial building, Seoul selects those with excellent records in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and grants subsidies in amounts from 5 to 10 million KRW, which can be used to upgrade to high-efficiency facilities.
- Issuing Eco Mileage Card
As the program expanded and membership continued to grow, Seoul adopted the “Eco-Mileage Card” system to decrease the program’s fiscal burdens. So far, 793,679 Eco_Mileage Cards have been issued. Seoul promoted the benefits of the mileage card system to the rest of the country, and as a result, 3,249,252 cards have been issued nationally. The card mileage system benefits citizens remarkably and strengthens their commitment to environmental protection. This is a result of the collaboration of the city administration, a credit card company, financial institutions, manufacturers, and retailers. The system costs the city administration very little while leading to significant change.
- Support for Citizens through a Two-Way Information Channel
Along with the provision of incentives, the Eco-Mileage program promotes two-way communication with citizens. The Eco-Mileage website posts citizens’ energy conservation tips and experts’ advice. It also informs citizens of new city programs, like the Energy Clinic that pays free visits to households or buildings to offer an energy diagnosis service.
- Resident Centers Helping the Disadvantaged to Participate
Seoul arranged for those who do not own computers at home or cannot operate them well to visit a resident center and become members. In addition to in-charge officials, a temporary student worker at each center will help them apply for the membership online.
Financing and resources
The municipal government’s budget has been kept to a minimum. As the-Eco Mileage system has been benchmarked by almost all the local governments and implemented across the country, the profits generated from the system are then controlled by the central government. The private companies’ earnings from issuing the Eco-Mileage Card are being donated to and managed by the Ministry of Environment, and the ministry subsidizes the city government with 3.5 billion KRW annually. Even with minimal municipal input, the system can now run sustainably.
Results and impacts
- Seoul Citizen’s Positive Participation
After four years (2009-2013), the membership sharply increased to 1,480,000 households, 1,605 schools, 1,996 multi-unit housing complexes, 3,563 public institutions, and 31,543 commercial and general purpose buildings.
- Retrenchment of Energy and Reduction of CO2 Emission
By engaging private households, businesses, and energy-related entities, the “Eco-Mileage System” has demonstrated remarkable success not only in reducing energy consumption and carbon emissions, but also in raising public awareness. Since the launch of the program in 2009, Seoul has reduced 122,000 tons of oil equivalent (TOE) of energy consumption and cut CO2 emissions by 355,000 tons. Membership has surpassed 1 million, and more than 10 percent of users have received incentive points for their energy consumption reduction.
Barriers and challenges
- Technical Difficulties with Establishing a System to Identify Individuals’ Carbon Emission Quantities
Energy providers were reluctant to share their information on citizens’ energy consumption because they thought the information was confidential. Therefore, tighter security measures needed to be installed to ease their concerns. By establishing a safe security system, Seoul has succeeded in persuading energy providers such as Korea Electric Power Corporation and city gas companies to cooperate in sharing the necessary information.
Insufficient Public Awareness of Global Warming and Little Voluntary Participation
Since Seoul citizens showed little interest toward the global warming issue, it was difficult to attract the citizens’ voluntary participation. To address this problem, the city administration set up an organization with district offices, schools, civic groups, and enterprises at an early stage to raise citizens’ awareness about global warming. The organization toured the city and held 788 education sessions for 72,771 citizens including community leaders, environment teachers, apartment maintenance managers, and women’s association leaders.
Lack of Participation from People with Limited Internet Access
Since households and businesses could monitor their energy consumption through an online platform, those who had limited access to internet could not actively participate in the system. To resolve this problem, the city administration arranged for resident centers throughout the city to establish a system to help them. A full-time official or a volunteer helped them to navigate the internet and get an eco-mileage membership.
Difficulties with a Tight Budget
As memberships increased, incentives had to increase too, straining the city budget. Building partnership with 24 enterprises paved the way for solving the problem. The enterprises offered their environmentally-friendly products to the city for use as incentives. The Eco-Mileage Card system was made possible through cooperation with a card company, financial institutions, and manufacturers and retailers.
Lessons learned and transferability
Eco-Mileage System is being replicated and disseminated. The Eco-Mileage System is the first citizen-participating greenhouse gas reduction program implemented by a local government in Korea. The City of Busan, Gyeonggi, and Jeollanam-do Provinces have already benchmarked it. In January 2010, the Ministry of Environment designated the Seoul Eco-Mileage System as a model for the government-enterprise cooperation in the implementation of environment-friendly measures. It is preparing for the dissemination of the system to other municipal and provincial governments in the country. In July 2012, the ministry benchmarked the Eco-Mileage Card System and introduced a “Green Card” for national application.