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.
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.
“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.”
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.”