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Smart Cities and Communities


Integrated innovative solutions for Positive Energy Blocks/Districts will be developed and tested and performance-monitored in the Lighthouse Cities. Projects will consider the interaction and integration between the buildings, the users and the larger energy system as well as implications of increased deployment of electro-mobility, its impact on the energy system and its integration in planning.

Lighthouse Cities will closely collaborate with Fellow Cities[[Formerly called Follower cities]] and should act as exemplars helping to plan and initiate the replication of the deployed solutions in the Fellow cities, adapted to different local conditions.

As a sustainable energy transition will see increased electro-mobility, its impact on the energy system needs to be understood and well integrated in planning.

Definition: Positive Energy Blocks/Districts consist of several buildings (new, retro-fitted or a combination of both) that actively manage their energy consumption and the energy flow between them and the wider energy system. Positive Energy Blocks/Districts have an annual positive energy balance[[The data filled in the BEST table (available on the 'Funding & tender opportunities' portal) will be used by the evaluators to assess and compare the level of ambition of the technical measures for Positive Energy Blocks/Districts of the project proposals.]]. They make optimal use of elements such as advanced materials (e.g. bio-based materials), local RES, local storage, smart energy grids, demand-response, cutting edge energy management (electricity, heating and cooling), user interaction/involvement and ICT.

Positive Energy Blocks/Districts are designed to be integral part of the district/city energy system and have a positive impact on it (also from the circular economy point of view). Their design is intrinsically scalable and they are well embedded in the spatial, economic, technical, environmental and social context of the project site.

To increase impact beyond the demonstration part of the project, each Lighthouse City and Fellow City will develop during the project, together with the consortium partners, its own bold city-vision for 2050[[Building on and further concretising their i) Sustainable Energy Action Plans (SEAP) or ii) Sustainable Energy (and Climate) Action Plans (SECAP) or iii) a similar, at least equally ambitious plan. These shall be approved by the corresponding authorities by the end of the project.]]. The vision should cover urban, technical, financial and social aspects. Each vision will come with its guide for the city on how to move from planning, to implementation, to replication and scaling up of successful solutions.

Proposals should also:

  • Focus on mixed use urban districts and positively contribute to the overall city goals;
  • Develop solutions that can be replicated/gradually scaled up to city level. The technical, financial, social, environmental and legal feasibility of the proposed solutions should be demonstrated in the actual proposal.
  • Make local communities and local governments (particularly city planning departments) an active and integral part of the solution, increase their energy awareness and ensure their sense of ownership of the smart solutions. This should ensure sustainability of Positive Energy Blocks/Districts;
  • Promote decarbonisation, while improving air quality, also assessing the benefits of the implemented solutions by means of Life Cycle Assessment and air quality modelling.

Projects will incorporate performance monitoring of at least 2 years of deployed solutions from the earliest feasible moment[[In case of the same solution being implemented in different buildings, monitoring for 2 years must be done at least for one building of each category in the same city. Monitoring must in all cases be at least one year.]]. All relevant performance data must be incorporated into the Smart Cities Information System database (SCIS)[[]].

Projects should also deliver:

  • Effective business models for sustainable solutions;
  • Practical recommendations arising from project experience on:
    • regulatory, legal aspects and data security/protection;
    • gender and socio-economics (Social Sciences and Humanities);
    • storage solutions (from short-term to seasonal);
    • big data, data management and digitalisation;
    • electro-mobility: i) its impact on energy system and ii) appropriate city planning measures to support large scale roll-out;

Eligible costs are primarily those that concern the innovative elements of the project needed to:

  • connect and integrate buildings;
  • enable Positive Energy Blocks/Districts;
  • foster innovative systems integration;
  • complement the wider energy system.

Costs of commercial technologies are not eligible, for example:

  • Buildings: purchase, construction, retrofitting and maintenance;
  • Electric vehicles and charging stations: purchase, installation and maintenance;
  • City-level ICT platforms: purchase, development and maintenance;
  • Standard, commercially-available RES: purchase, development and maintenance.

Projects are expected to cooperate with other Smart Cities and Communities projects funded under Horizon 2020[[See also]] in the Smart city Lighthouse group as well as the European Innovation Partnership on Smart Cities and Communities (EIP-SCC)[[]].

Therefore, proposals will foresee a work package for cooperation with other selected projects and earmark appropriate resources (5% of the requested EU contribution) for coordination and communication efforts and research work associated with cross-cutting issues.

Projects can make use of financial support to third parties for up to 5% of the EU contribution to the project for the incorporation of relevant innovation boosting activities/actions (e.g. SMEs, start-up competitions, Prizes, etc).

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of between EUR 15 to 20 million[[Indicatively, EUR 6 to 8 million for a Lighthouse city and between EUR 0.5 and 1.0 million for a Fellow city.]] would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

Typically, projects should have a duration of 48 to 60 months.

The COP21 Paris Agreement recognises the role of cities and calls on them to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to climate change. The EU is committed to implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including Sustainable Development Goal 11 (""Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable""). Many forward-looking cities have set themselves climate goals whose achievement rests on wide scale roll out of highly integrated and highly efficient energy systems.

To achieve the necessary energy transition in cities, it is essential to increase energy systems integration and to push energy performance levels significantly beyond the levels of current EU building codes and to realize Europe wide deployment of Positive Energy Districts by 2050[[See also: Communication on Accelerating Clean Energy Innovation –]].

This call will also contribute to the specific objectives of the SET Plan action 3.2 - Smart cities and communities - focussing on positive-energy blocks/districts[[For further information please consult the SETIS website:]].

Projects should contribute to:

  • Meeting EU climate mitigation and adaptation goals and national and/or local energy, air quality and climate targets, as relevant;
  • Increased share of i) renewable energies, ii) waste heat recovery and iii) storage solutions (including batteries) and their integration into the energy system;
  • Lead the way towards wide scale roll out of Positive Energy Districts;
  • Significantly improved energy efficiency, district level optimized self-consumption, reduced curtailment;
  • Increased uptake of e-mobility solutions;
  • Improved air quality.

The higher the replicability of the solutions across Europe, the better.