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Integrative energy planning of urban areas: collective learning for improved governance

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - URBAN LEARNING (Integrative energy planning of urban areas: collective learning for improved governance)

Reporting period: 2016-09-01 to 2017-11-30

URBAN LEARNING’s key objective is to mainstream and institutionalise integrative energy planning within the city administrations of Vienna, Amsterdam, Berlin, Paris, Stockholm, Warsaw, Zaanstad and Zagreb.

It targets energy planners and urban planners, local decision-makers as well as energy utilities. The project’s focus is set on the governance processes for the development of urban sites.

Without exact definition, ‘Integrative energy planning’ refers to the integration of energy aspects into the urban design and planning processes, where supply side and demand side are looked at together from the very early stage, involving relevant parties as early as possible, and where also infrastructure (particularly energy and mobility, and ICT) is looked at in an integrative way.

For effective learning the project pursued a dialogue process to build bridges between disciplines and departments, institutional learning within each administration and peer-to-peer learning from other cities (frontrunners, partner cities, etc.).
The backbone for the dialogue process were Local Working Groups (LWG), established in all cities. They served as interdisciplinary platforms for learning and institutional capacity building. Over the duration of the project, members from different city departments and perspectives debated the various aspects of the project.

At the beginning all cities thoroughly analysed the current situation. They identified how energy qualities are currently addressed in the urban planning of quarters. A key tool for the analyses were process flow charts, developed for all cities. In addition, a detailed mapping of related instruments and tools was carried out. In total, over 170 instruments and tools were identified. Due to the high number, the analysis concentrated on the most relevant 22 instruments and 22 tools. To understand better which low-carbon options are most suitable and which planning implication they have, existing lighthouse areas were assessed, supported by study tours to receive first-hand experience.

The analysis across all cities commonly showed i.a. that
• planning processes are strongly linked to legal and strategic frameworks as well as to planning cultures and traditions. Consequently, there is not only one way of doing;
• the legal and strategic framework needs more attention as it is the indispensable basis for integrative energy planning;
• there is a strong need for better data and models to soundly support a spatial differentiation of energy supply;
• there is a lack of continuity, and good intentions in master plans etc. get lost in the steps until realisation.

Based on analysis and intensive exchanges, the cities with their local working groups moved on to identify and assess options for improvements. Each city elaborated approaches for upgrading its urban planning process to better integrate energy qualities in support of decarbonised energy quarters. Finally, concrete implementation plans were developed. These plans outline priority actions and next steps towards integrative energy planning.

Overall URBAN LEARNING successfully prepared the ground for integrative energy planning in major European cities. It achieved
• a substantially increased understanding about the need to integrate energy and urban planning and enhanced institutional capacity of the administrations of leading European cities;
• an increased common understanding among key stakeholders (city administration, utility, developers) that already resulted in improved planning coordination between the city and infrastructure providers;
• eight upgraded governance processes and implementation plans equipped with clear commitment to realise them; in fact, in many cities first implementation steps already started;
• lasting structures for exchange between the key stakeholders as most cities confirmed to continue their local working group.

The local working groups involved about 100 people in this dialogue. In a first outreach the URBAN LEANING cities shared their insights with 15 cities from their countries. In a second round findings were disseminated to about 150 cities, reaching > 500 key stakeholders. Improving the governance processes around integrative energy planning for new areas is expected to result in significant long-term energy impacts: energy savings of at least 620 GWh/a and an increased renewable energy production of at least 1.500 GWh/a related to about three million new inhabitants, which are expected in the URBAN LEARNING cities within the next 20 years.

The Paris Agreement was a real booster to URBAN LEARNING and to the commitment of the cities as the Agreement enforced the need for the local level to steer the decarbonisation of its energy system, for which the integration of energy into urban (infrastructure) planning is a crucial step. URBAN LEARNING provides them timely answers. The European exchange was judged as particularly enriching. New bonds were created and exchanges will continue.

Overall, the project’s approach proved to be effective. The local working groups improved the working together with benefits beyond the actual project as city representatives convincingly expressed in the URBAN LEARNING video (

As the selected cities differ in many aspects replicability of results is valid for many European cities. Results from a web-based toolbox, process flow-charts, an animated video that explains integrative energy planning to a summary brochure and detailed deliverables are all available on the project’s website.
Generally, the project progressed by making the energy transition at the local level more operational and concrete, resulting in eight upgraded governance processes and implementation plans towards integrative energy planning. The new process flow-charts proved to be good tools to structure discussions and are much used also beyond the project. Also the new culture of working together between city departments has already benefits beyond the project. The project already triggered many new developments in the cities:
In Amsterdam/Zaanstad newly built areas will no longer get connected to the natural gas network. First changes in the urban planning processes in both cities have been made so that energy is dealt with as a specific topic of major importance in all stages.
In Berlin the project triggered the development of a new “Service point for Energetic Neighbourhood development” to improve governance in integrative energy planning and to overcome the identified lack of actors at quarter level.
Paris included the results from Urban Learning in the new Paris Climate Action Plan that states dedicated energy aims for urban development, including improvements of urban planning and energy planning governance.
In Stockholm the project led to the elaboration of a new energy handrail. a process tool used to coordinate the work of the different departments during the building process. The result is a more developed process model for integrated energy planning, which will be further developed.
URBAN LEARNING paved the way for two new working group with representatives of different city departments and external stakeholders in Vienna to discuss the energy supply of new quarters at the early stage.
Warsaw enhanced the development of the Low-Carbon Economy Plan for Warsaw.
Among other proposals Zagreb intends to establish a new Energy Planning Department.