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Analytica > Case studies > Analytica climate action model: city of Santa Cruz (ACAM-SC)

Analytica climate action model: city of Santa Cruz (ACAM-SC)

Cities around the world are starting to take seriously the need to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.  The City of Santa Cruz in California has been in the forefront. It has already made considerable progress towards its climate action goals, including lowering its community Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions in 2020 by 48% since 1990. However, most local governments don’t have the inhouse staff to quantify the GHG abatement potential of each intervention or climate action. As a result, they are not able to forecast with confidence how they will achieve their goals. On top of that, they don’t have the technical tools to assess and manage the inevitable uncertainties in their estimates. 

The challenge

Santa Cruz is already part of a global climate action initiative, sharing information via international digital platforms . However, it tends to be difficult to assemble structured data at the local level. Local digital platforms would allow access to the more granular data needed to support bottom-up policy discussion. We used the Analytica software for a pilot analysis to analyze municipality level data and GHG reduction programs to support the city’s climate action plan update process.

Why Analytica?

The Analytica Climate Action Program for the city of Santa Cruz (ACAM-SC) has assembled data sources from all areas of city government at the community and municipal scale. These inputs are a diverse range of spreadsheets. It is not uncommon for each entity to organize information differently because they come from separate databases with different objectives (transportation, energy, etc.).

Analytica allows the user to standardize all data entries and associated metadata. It also provides an online interface to display the analytics performed with easy to follow explanations of how the model works. This allows the model to be easily understood by analysts, decision makers, and stakeholders.

Analytica uses influence diagrams to make transparent the cause-and-effect relationships underlying the models. The Analytica Cloud Platform (ACP) makes models accessible online for easy review and feedback by stakeholders.

“The City partnership with UC Santa Cruz’s Coastal Science and Policy program continues to produce collaborative real world solutions to complex local climate challenges. David Torres’ capstone project is an exemplar of this approach. His development of the ACAM-SC prototype with Lumina aided our climate action plan 2.0 scoping process, providing new and different ways to think about our emissions data and to visualize relationships.”Tiffany Wise-West, PE, PhD, Sustainability + Climate Action Manager, City of Santa Cruz, Cli

The solution

The first step was to integrate Santa Cruz’s GHG data to explore its Business-as-Usual emission scenarios through probabilistic projections. Next we developed marginal cost estimations of the City’s renewable energy projects via an abatement cost curve. Once the information was standardized in a hierarchical or nested work environment, we applied models using standard formulas, optimized by Analytica built-in functions, to estimate the effects of selected actions.

ACAM-SC was published as an online dashboard containing all the analytics processed in the desktop version, making easy the presentation of its results during (physical or remote) workshops, as well as, sharing it through a link via email. In other words, ACAM-SC provides a medium for stakeholder interaction around the models’ inputs, decisions, and outputs.

The ACAM-SC pilot provides an example of how Analytica can be leveraged during participatory planning exercises without limiting the technical aspects of the quantitative analyses. 


The lead author on the ACAM-SC case study was David Torres. David completed the ACAM-SC study as an Intern Analyst at Lumina Decision Systems while performing a capstone project during his time in California. David is now a Watershed Services Analyst at Forest Trends, based in Lima, Peru, where he synthesizes hydrological and economic models in order to generate a clear investment thesis for natural infrastructure projects across the Peruvian Andes aimed at securing water supply. At the beginning of his career, he spent 4.5 years as Operations Manager at Nature Services Peru, a forest carbon developer and consulting company, where he helped organizations to develop their carbon neutral strategies which covered GHG inventorying and community-based rainforest conservation through Regenera. David holds a BS and a PE in Forest Engineering from Peru’s National Agrarian University, La Molina; and, a MS in Coastal Science & Policy from the University of California, Santa Cruz.


This study was part of David Torres’ Capstone thesis for his Masters in Coastal Science and Policy at University of California, Santa Cruz. He thanks his committee members: Tiffany Wise-West (Sustainability + Climate Action Manager, City of Santa Cruz), Max Henrion (CEO, Lumina Decision Systems), Gary Griggs (Distinguished Professor, UC Santa Cruz), and Marianna Grossman (Managing Partner, Minerva Ventures). 

For more

This pilot served as a preliminary resource for the update process of the Santa Cruz Climate & Energy Action Plan 2030. More details about this ACAM case study can be found in the author’s capstone project report.

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