The Eco Mileage System is an energy-saving program that engages citizens by giving incentives to member households and organizations who voluntarily cut back on use of electricity, water, urban gas and local heating. The name of the program comes from the words ecofriendly and mileage, suggesting that the program implements a mileage accumulation system.
Need for Citizen Engagement in GHG reductions
Households and Businesses, Two Biggest GHG Emitters
A 2007 GHG emissions report in Seoul found that households and businesses together emit 64.4% of GHG emissions, followed by 21.5% from transport sector. The finding enlightened Seoul that the most immediate and effective way to curb GHG emission is encouraging citizens and businesses to voluntarily join in the cause.
Multi-stakeholder Approach, Engaging City Government, Private Enterprises and Citizens
Setting up Institutions
In order to give a form to the eco-mileage system, the central government and Seoul went ahead with laying a legal foundation first so that they can provide support to a citizen participatory energy conservation initiative. With the amendment of the relevant law, Seoul also enacted the Low Carbon Green Growth Basic Ordinance in July 2011. Seoul also added provisions in the Climate Change Response Ordinance that stipulated that such a system can award energy-saving entities or individuals in the form of mileage, prize and incentives according to their level of participation or performance. It also states that a web-based system can be created to give online mileage points to users according to their contribution to city’s administration, visit counts and other activities pertaining to the energy saving cause.
Energy Consumption Data Sent to Participants
Energy providers send information of their energy consumption through an online platform to all households and businesses participating in the Eco Mileage program. Thanks to the platform, participants can check their consumption level by month up the 2 years back while the government can use the data to calculate the amount of incentive to each household.
Collaboration with Financial Institution and Corporate Social Contribution
Seoul collaborated with various stakeholders and signed MOUs with multiple companies to institutionalize the system, instead of having it as a one-off event. The system gives mileages instead of cash incentives, and members can use the mileage points to buy other ecofriendly products, basically incentivizing members with good energy-savings records to invest in driving further energy reductions. At the same time, Seoul extensively worked with private companies such as credit card companies, financial institutions and telecommunications companies to create a proper model for Eco-Mileage credit card.
MOUs with such companies gave members benefits such as a 10% discount on public transportation, 1-5% discount on purchases of green products.
Enlisting Greater Participation through Support Mechanism
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. In other words, in order to receive incentives, a household has to record a reduction in emissions for the past 6 months by more than 10% compared with the same period 2 years back. This means that a household has to continue to cut back energy use to continue to receive the benefits.
Reinvestment of the Incentives to Energy Conservation
A household with good energy-savings records receive mileage points, which can be used to buy products or devices that can further cut GHG emissions. For example, a household can use the mileages points to buy eco-friendly or energy-saving products, charge transportation cards, receive vouchers for traditional markets. They can also choose to use the mileage points to donate to energy-poor populations or to help planting trees for anti-desertification for better air quality. Participating entities such as school, apartment complexes or commercial buildings can receive financial support for planting/ gardening their facilities and improving their facilities with high energy-efficient devices.
Support for Citizens through Tailored Support and Two-Way Information Channel
At the Eco-Mileage Website, members can check precisely how much energy they have used for the month or over a period of time, other people’s valuable energy-saving tips as well as experts’ advice on energy conservation. This two-way communication channel promotes citizen participation even further while giving them a variety of information. The website also informs citizens of new city programs, such as the Energy Clinic that pays free visits to households or buildings to offer an energy diagnosis service.
Eco-Mileage Card to Promote Greater Participation
As the program expanded and membership continued to grow, Seoul looked further than simple incentives program. With the aim of embrace green consumption and green transport, in January 2010 Seoul decided to expand the incentive program to the eco-mileage card program. The city signed MOUs with companies such as Samsung Electronics to supply the manufactures’ goods as Eco- Mileage incentives and with BC Credit Card to issue Eco-Mileage Cards. In October 2010, Seoul signed another MOU with KT, communication service provider in Korea, to issue online points to active users on the net.
900,000 tons of GHG Reduction and Global Recognition
2 Million People Signed up for the Program
Since the launch of the program in September 15, 2009, the membership has increased to reach 1.91 million by 2014. The breakdown shows 1.87 million households, 1,400 schools, 2,000 multiunit housing complexes, 3,600 public institutions, and around 30,000 commercial and general purpose buildings.
Global Recognition as Exemplary Citizen Engagement Program
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 Seoul’s program.
In January 2010, the Ministry of Environment recognized the Seoul Eco-Mileage System as a model for the government-enterprise cooperation in the implementation of environment-friendly measures. Accordingly, the Ministry expanded the program to the Carbon Point Zero program for other municipal and provincial governments throughout the country to follow. The exemplary program won Seoul the UN Public Service Awards (UNPSA) in 2013, garnering global recognition.