The success of the clean energy transition will depend to a large extent on the actions of local and regional authorities. Sustainability officers from Paris, Sabine Romon, and Vienna, Bernd Vogl, explain what clean energy goals they have set themselves and how they are planning to achieve them. “The thing to start with is the infrastructure”, says Vogl. “The first task is to work on our public buildings”, says Romon, who warns that Paris’ ban on diesel cars from 2025 on will be strictly maintained.
It is one of the toughest challenges cities face today: how to speed up the adoption of clean energy technologies and innovation to help the climate – and improve their own environment. It involves changing the behaviour of their citizens – never an easy thing to do. “How to do this is the hardest question to start with,” says Bernd Vogl, Head of the Energy Department of the City of Vienna and charged with the management and coordination of the Viennese energy programs.
Sabine Romon, his French counterpart and Chief Smart City Officer at the City of Paris, agrees this is not easy. “Parisians working together on climate: That will be the big part of a new climate plan that Paris will issue next month,” she says.
“We have developed a solar power plant where the people can invest in solar power. That is really a good way to bring topics to the people and give people a chance to invest money in the right way”
Both Romon and Vogl will participate in a panel discussion at the Inno Energy Business Booster 25-26 October in Amsterdam, which will focus on the role of public actors in the energy transition (note: you can register at 50% normal price with code Energypost_TBB here). Although there is a lot of enthusiasm among the public for clean innovation, there is growing recognition that a ‘final push’ is needed to get people to act on their beliefs. Public actors are important in this process for two reasons: they can take measures to affect public behaviour – and they can set a good example by investing in their own property.
The climate plans of the Austrian and French capitals burst with ambition. Vienna (1.8 mln inhabitants) wants it greenhouse gas emissions reduced with 80% in 2050 (from 1990 levels); Paris (2.2 mln) has set itself a target of 75% reductions in 2050 (from 2004 levels).
No ambitious goals without a package of concrete measures to realise them. The report Vienna ahead! outlines the measures Vienna is taking, ranging from e-mobility to innovative re-use of waste heat, while Paris, Intelligent Durable (download in French) sketches a future city where clean energy technologies, big data and public participation go hand in hand to create a sustainable and resilient city.
“I think the first thing is to start with the infrastructure,” says Vogl. “For example, if you don’t have bikeways, you will not have cycling. So, we have a strong focus on developing infrastructure in the right way. This is also true for the energy sector. We own our energy company and we try to develop together with them solutions in the field of district heating, in the field of renewable energy. And we have developed a solar power plant where the people can invest in solar power. That is really a good way to bring topics to the people and give people a chance to invest money in the right way.”
“In collaboration with energy companies, we are collecting data on energy consumption. We want to be aware of what is really needed in the entire system”
“The first task for the city is to work on its public buildings, to give a good example to the public,” adds Romon. “Then it becomes easier to achieve results in the private sector. We created a climate agency that is working with co-owners of private buildings to convince them to renovate their buildings and reduce energy consumption. That is a long-term project, because we cannot force owners. But we have an incentive, because there is an obligation to clean the facades of the buildings. So when they do that, we can ask them to do it in a way that reduces energy consumption. We can also give some funding and advise them to find the best constructors.”
Paris is also trying to help reduce costs for homeowners who want to refurbish their buildings. “In certain areas in Paris we try to identify what buildings will need renovation. And so, if we find one building that is willing to do some renovation work, we look around if we find similar buildings, so they can share and reduce costs by doing the work around the same time. They can reduce costs on equipment like solar panels, heating, window insulation, wall insulation etcetera.”
Like Paris, Vienna’s city plan is strewn with big building blocks, subdivided into privately owned apartments. According to Vogl, that is a bottleneck in implementing energy efficiency programs. “It is in the building sector where you can reduce a lot of energy use. We have had a large renovation and refurbishment program since 2000, and we have done a lot to reduce energy use. It’s easy in some sectors, like social housing, which is controlled by associations. But if you want to go into sectors where flats are privately owned, it’s very hard to get a decision to invest in measures because every flat owner has to agree.”
So, next to programs focused on individual house owners, both cities resort to measures that include the districts as a whole. Energy management and big data are the key words here, say both Romon and Vogl.
“We have a program to look for hot water beneath Vienna at a depth of 6 kilometers”
One eye-catching project is the so-called Eco-district in the northeastern part of Paris, Clichy-Batignolles, a 54 hectare urban redevelopment project started in 2009 and still under construction. “Buildings in this district are heated with geothermal water,” explains Romon. “As for electricity, a lot of solar panels provide for energy for schools, houses and offices. We would like to follow the energy consumption in that district to be able to manage all the energy consumption of the district, and not only building by building. Therefore, in collaboration with energy companies, we are collecting data on energy consumption. We want to be aware of what is really needed in the entire system.”
Vogl knows of this project – and views it as a good example of smart city innovation. Vienna also experiments with district heating, he says. “The main topic in my department of city development is to find solutions in the heating sector and the building sector. Our heating system used to depend on oil and coal, then on gas and renewables, and now we have to change to renewables and to waste heat and geothermal heating. We like to force this into our energy mix. We try to find renewable energy for our district heating systems: that is waste heat and geothermal heat to be developed in the next 10 years. We have a program to look for hot water beneath Vienna at a depth of 6 kilometers. And the other focus is on waste heat, we have a lot of it in the city and we are looking for ways to use this also in our district heating systems.”
Another key issue for Vienna and Paris is smart mobility. This is an area where urban planning and clean technologies meet, say both sustainability officers. For not only is it important to get Viennese and Parisians out of their fuel powered cars, but also into other ways of moving around – walking, (electric) biking, electric car sharing, public transportation and the like.
Paris announced December 2016 that it wil ban all diesel cars from 2025, like other big cities such as Madrid, Athens and Mexico City. A measure that will be strictly maintained, warns Romon: “Those who do not comply with the regulations can be fined.”
In the meantime, Paris is unrolling a vast network of charging stations for electric cars. Next to the e-car sharing network Autolib with 750 stations spread over the city since 2011, Paris has been developing its Belib-charging system for private electric cars since 2016. This has now 100 loading points. All of this must help reduce CO2-emissions by 20% in 2020.
Vienna has about 500 loading points situated mainly in parking spaces. Both cities foresee a growth of charging points in the years to come, but important adaptations have to be made in the meantime.
Meet with Maroš Šefčovič and Bertrand Piccard at InnoEnergy’s Business Booster event in Amsterdam – and save €350 when you register with Energy Post
Both Romon and Vogl will participate in the InnoEnergy Business Booster 25-26 October in Amsterdam. Dozens of energy startups from across Europe will showcase their innovations and make pitches to attract the interest of investors. An accompanying two-day conference will feature many prominent keynote speakers and panellists, including EU Vice-President Energy Union Maroš Šefčovič and Bertrand Piccard of the Solar Impulse Foundation. We have agreed with organisers InnoEnergy that our readers can join for half price saving you €350. All you need to do is quote our unique code: Energypost_TBB when you register here. We will be there so we hope to see you in Amsterdam soon!
Romon: “These stations are slow or middle charging stations: fast charging is too heavy for the grid. What is needed is management of the grid, so that you can charge your car according to what is available on the grid. I don’t think we want to have a grid that can charge all the e-cars at the same time, but a more flexible grid to which people will adapt, for example by charging their cars at different moments. So here also we are working with companies like Engie to collect data for this purpose.”
Vienna already worked hard on reducing the number of cars, claims Vogl. The share of cars in Vienna’s total transportation modes went down from 40% in 1993 to 28% in 2014. The hardest part is yet to come, he says, from 27% to 20% in 2025 and 15% in 2030.
“We are starting to invest in the infrastructure of electric cars by now, although for companies it is not yet a very profitable market yet. But the business models of the energy supply will change. Within ten years, we will have a lot of electric cars on the streets, so we must have a plan. We are installing charging stations now, we have an electric bus in our public transport system and we try to develop electric taxis.”
Vogl says that “ten years ago, we had our strategies, but no electric cars. But the car industry is changing rapidly towards electric models, and I am optimistic this will change the transportation system in the city completely. For example: if you change the cars of Vienna completely to electricity, we will reduce our CO2 emissions by more than 50%.”
Some changes were made to this article on 16 October 2017.