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Positive Energy Districts and Neighbourhoods for urban energy transitions


Proposals will mobilise networks of national (and/or regional) research, innovation and demonstration programmes in the field of smart and sustainable cities and sustainable decarbonised integrated energy systems. They will pool the necessary financial resources with a view to implementing a joint call for proposals resulting in grants to third parties with EU co-funding in this area, and for related programme management, synthesis and dissemination of the results. Activities funded through the joint calls should focus on a circular, resource efficient and low carbon integrated system perspective. The joint calls should include the following three formats, which should be interlinked and integrated to achieve highest impact.

The joint calls will firstly include applied research, strategic innovation and demonstration projects to develop specific innovative approaches and solutions for the planning, implementation and operation of PED/PENs, which are relevant in many European cities and urban areas. Strategic innovation projects resulting from the joint calls should create opportunities for cross-linking and collaboration and target more than one of the following aspects:

  • increasing energy efficiency of neighbourhoods and reduction of performance gaps, reducing climate impact and facilitating energy transition at urban scale promoting integrated and holistic approaches through optimization of the energy system in the built environment, innovative building solutions and innovative approaches for interoperability of new and existing technologies;
  • integrating renewable energy production and transformation technologies to support and optimize storage and transfer of locally produced energy to other parts of the districts for synthetic on-site energy production and supply, including flexibility and resilience of PED/PENs through concepts for seasonal transferability of energy as well as PED/PEN integration in regional energy systems through flexible and optimised energy consumption within the district and through compensation measures and smart interfaces to balance real time energy supply and promotion of the prosumer concept;;
  • support integration and development of integrated and smart solutions for sector-coupling in PED/PENs with focus on innovation need across energy, mobility, and ICT in a systemic setting, including user involvement and different socio-cultural target groups, local governance aspects and balancing urban green-blue-grey infrastructures;
  • streamlining and alignment of the spatial planning processes and developing digital planning strategies and optimization tools (e.g. using building/neighbourhood information modelling (BIM)) along the entire life cycle of PED/PENs;
  • developing societal innovation, social entrepreneurship and citizen participation aiming to integrate all relevant stakeholders to spur the implementation of PED/PENs within an integrated urban transformation process, where relevant, aspects of gender and diversity, inclusiveness and accessibility should be addressed and
  • developing business models for implementing and operating PED/PENs on full scale that consider the whole process of planning, operation and operation of PED/PENs; as well as for refurbishment of existing housing stocks to safeguard accessible and affordable housing and sustainable mobility; engaging all actors such as users, owners, city authorities, real estate developer, operators of the energy infrastructure, and investors to create economically viable models for all parties.

The joint calls will secondly include the establishment of transdisciplinary and transnational innovation labs, innovation platforms and experimental areas for PED/PENs that facilitate the testing of prototypes, the co-creation and piloting of new concepts, approaches and urban designs, innovative formats and services in the planning, implementation and operation and replication phase of PED/PENs covering TRL 3-7. This should enable feasibility studies, field testing, sharing of test facilities, development of use cases and replication profiles for different PED/PEN types (e.g. new construction and retrofitting of neighbourhoods) to speed up the technology and service learning curves over the whole value chain. Particularly the PED/PEN innovation labs, innovation platforms and experimental areas shall bring together city administrations, PED/PEN business and industry, service developers/providers, and research organisations tying together actors bridging the whole value chain in different countries and regions.

The joint calls will thirdly include the development of formats to build local capacity and institutional learning in PED/PEN planning, development and operation with the aim to replicate and mainstream PED/PENs in a local, national and European environment. It should take into account the need to develop new public services and public innovation governance, in particular concerning effective public participation and challenge driven approaches in practice. This should enable sharing of experience, development of standardised packages, adaptation of regulations, human capacity building/trainings etc.

Proposers are requested to include other joint activities including additional joint calls without EU co-funding.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution of EUR 5 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

The ambition of the SET-Plan Action 3.2 is the planning, deployment and operation of 100 Positive Energy Districts/Neighbourhoods (PED/PEN) in Europe by 2025. This requires integrated and holistic sustainable system approaches including technological, social, urban planning, economic, financial and legal/regulatory perspectives. Tackling such challenges, calls for integrated and innovative solutions to spur the implementation of Positive Energy Districts and Neighbourhoods on larger scale. The aim is to accelerate the ongoing energy transition and to support the parties to the Paris Agreement to reach their national greenhouse gas emissions targets, and so contribute to achieve sustainable urban transformation process to decrease greenhouse gas emissions and ensure high liveability and affordability for citizens.

The ERA-NET Cofund will significantly support and contribute to:

  • the testing, implementation and replication of 100 Positive Energy Districts and Neighbourhoods in Europe by 2025 as set out in the SET-Plan Action 3.2 Implementation Plan;
  • transitions towards sustainable urban development, as set out in the UN SDGs and the Urban Agenda of the EU;
  • the fulfilment of the role of Europe in Challenge 7 of Mission Innovation, where PED/PENs - a physical aggregator of technologies/solutions collaborating each other with the aim of promoting the transition to a sustainable urbanization - would be a decisive asset for the climate and energy performance of the European built environment; and
  • an enhancement of European capacities and knowledge to become a global role model and market leader for the development of PED/PENs.