Topic 2: Towards the climate-neutral city: PEDs, system integration and urban strategies

Challenge Description

European cities are working towards climate-neutrality and PEDs are an important element for neighbourhood-oriented solutions for the urban energy transition. However, to overcome isolated PED solutions across the city, there is a need to strategically integrate these local solutions into an aligned strategic framework at the city level and to align local solutions with top-down city-wide strategies, such as urban development plans, heating and cooling strategies, sustainable urban mobility plans, etc., carefully considering the different needs on different scales. This topic focuses on city-wide strategies for the urban energy transition and the positioning of PEDs in overall urban planning processes. It asks for thorough analysis and conceptualization of energy system integration and putting different elements of a systemic energy transition into a strategic framework. Furthermore, the role of the public urban sector as a driver for the energy transition is in focus, by leading the way and setting examples within the public realm (public services and public building stock in general, infrastructure and public or subsidized housing in particular).



Local municipal governments are crucial in directing, developing and managing the local energy transition. The technical approach of energy planning has however prevented the integration of energy topics within a more holistic spatial planning strategy. Despite the obvious linkages between density, spatial layout, mix of uses and so on with possibilities to reduce energy needs, produce renewable energy and collective heating and cooling systems, energy planning and urban planning have not been fully integrated. The shift towards a more sustainable built environment and in the end a climate neutral city asks for a high integration between the level of a city and a neighborhood. A cascade of different instruments is needed which are mutually coordinated to facilitate a transition towards a climate neutral city.


City administrations need to manage and coordinate on the one hand very small-scale initiatives, like individual home renovations and on the other hand very large-scale initiatives like a city-wide heat network. Moreover, they need to make sure that the combination of all these initiatives (small and large) contribute to the end goal of a climate neutral city and will not cause crucial lock-ins. A comprehensive strategic vision combining several thematics is therefore needed. First, strategic approaches for energy system integration need to be developed to combine different energy carriers and energy consumption sectors, such as industry, buildings, mobility/transport. Secondly, this includes strategic approaches for cross-sectoral strategies (energy, mobility, circularity, greening, social sustainability, etc.), including a vision on future heating options for each district, a sustainable urban mobility plan, a greening strategy and an urban development vision. Combining these strategies will make synergies more visible where the strategies are mutually reinforcing, but they will also reveal tradeoffs where city administrations will need to make strategic decisions on which challenge will be prioritized. Specifically, systemic integration of PED developments in a city needs to be put into a strategic framework, supporting decision-making on the selection of suitable potential areas for PED development as well as the management of these PEDs within city-wide strategies and actions.


In terms of the above-mentioned challenge, urban public authorities need to be supported in finding effective ways of strategic approaches towards a comprehensive urban energy transition. At the same time, the general issue of scaling mechanisms in a city context needs to be addressed, and their transformation potential be explored.


Project proposals submitted under this topic should address one or several of the following issues:


  • How should cities strategically approach and manage systemic large-scale approaches, such as heating and cooling strategies, overall decarbonization strategies, sustainable urban mobility plans, etc., together with small micro grid/PED strategies? How can both new urban developments and existing structures be effectively addressed in integrated strategies?


  • How can cities be supported in decision-making regarding applicability and priorities for PED development? How can decision-making for specific technical solutions be supported? How are applicable areas for PED development chosen within a city?


  • How can technical solutions be integrated in new ways of stakeholder cooperation in a diversified context (wider set of smaller grid operators, end-users, energy communities, etc.)?


  • How can city-wide ambitions for system integration be put into a strategic framework, bringing together different sectors, but also different scales of activity?


  • How can urban public authorities be supported as drivers for the energy transition, in terms of systemic strategies that include all municipal activities – public building stock (incl. public housing), public space, public services (e.g., mobility services), the regulatory framework and planning instruments?


Expected Outputs and Outcomes

Rather than provide isolated technical solutions, projects are expected to address this topic in a systemic way. Project outcomes should be impact-oriented and process-oriented, and therefore as concrete and user-centred as possible. Expected outcomes include, but are not limited to:


  • Analysis of framework conditions in the context of this topic in terms of challenges, barriers and success factors


  • Analysis of the relevant stakeholder ecosystem, a methodology on how to engage key stakeholders and how to align their efforts with each other and the overall climate ambitions


  • Modelling for decision-making parameters and viable scenarios of managing different PEDs within a city


  • Modelling and developing viable scenarios of system integration approaches


  • Demonstration of viability of these models, including qualitative and quantitative arguments


  • Evaluation of added value and impact of suggested approaches and models


  • Recommendations and guidelines on how to integrate energy planning with urban planning


  • Recommendations and guidelines for mainstreaming, considering geographical and cultural context, as well as social and regulatory aspects