The Scale-Dependent Behaviour of Cities: A Cross-Cities Multiscale Driver Analysis of Urban Energy Use

Hosting more than half of the world population, cities are currently responsible for two thirds of the global energy use and three quarters of the global CO2 emissions related to energy use. As humanity becomes more urbanized, urban systems are becoming a major nexus of global sustainability. Various studies have tried to pinpoint urban energy use drivers in order to find actionable levers to mitigate consumption and its associated environmental effects. Some of the approaches, mainly coming from complexity science and industrial ecology disciplines, use city-scale data to find power-laws relating to different types of energy use metrics with urban features at a city-scale. By doing so, cities’ internal complexity and heterogeneity are not explicitly addressed. Moreover, to our knowledge, no studies have yet explicitly addressed the potential scale dependency of such drivers. Drivers might not be transferable to other scales and yield undesired effects. In the present study, power-law relations are examined for 10 cities worldwide at city scale and infra-city scale, and the results are compared across scales. Relations are made across three urban features for three energy use intensity metrics. The results show that energy use drivers are in fact scale-dependent and are city-dependent for intra-urban territories.