Innovative solutions for sustainable cities and neighbourhoods

TNO supports municipal boards and other stakeholders to arrive at a innovative solutions together for the transition to more sustainable, future-proof and smart cities. National and European targets have been set for the transition to a sustainable energy supply. The question for cities is how they can also make their own contribution. This is a complex issue in which energy, spatial planning, building, the economy and environment converge, and this is problematic in terms of practicability.

Collaboration leads to innovation

Area development advisor, Nienke Maas of TNO: ‘In practice, we often see that a city council implements its own policy, corporations make investment plans to create more sustainable housing and network operators, in their turn, do the same when replacing cables and pipelines. Separately operations are highly inefficient. We have shown that sharing information and collaborating on plans for investment in the long term result in more efficiency and lower costs. The chief benefit is that parties that had hardly collaborated before are now joining forces with great enthusiasm. And ideas are generated that would otherwise never have come to light.’

Rotterdam is a concrete example of where the municipality, the network operator and a housing corporation became convinced that only through collaboration could optimum solutions be created. This resulted from a series of sessions supervised by TNO experts. TNO made use of the Ecodistrict Planner for this.

The ecodistrict planner for future-proof (co-)investment

The Ecodistrict Planner is a method and tool to explore and evaluate investments in the built environment in terms of both sustainability and economic viability. The planner offers the parties insight into the effects that specific investment decisions will have on sustainability, financial flows and the key priorities and ambitions of each party. The planner shows, for example, the reduction in consumption of electricity, gas, heating and water that results from a particular measure; the reduction in CO2 emissions and the related costs and profits. So in sharing the information, the respective parties make the right decisions after careful consideration, and be assured that their investments in sustainability are future-proof.

Effects of investments in sustainability accurately pinpointed

TNO is also working on the development of a Smart Urban Energy Dashboard, part of which is PICO, co-developed with other parties, in which the energy and built environment of the entire country is mapped out. Administrators and corporations can determine which neighbourhoods or streets are suitable for taking specific measures to cut energy consumption. It also shows how much of an energy saving a measure produces and how long it takes to break even. Entrepreneurs can use the information from the dashboard to offer energy services. It also helps residents make decisions about energy measures for their own homes.

Infographic Smart Urban Energy

Connecting city and local initiatives

The collaboration between municipality, network operators and housing corporations is often related to local initiatives from citizens or companies to save energy. Many cities do not have enough insight into what these initiatives contribute to sustainability and how well they can be aligned with municipal policy. We helped the municipality of Utrecht to connect its sustainability agenda with the activities of citizen collectives and corporate initiatives. ‘By creating this connection, the parties can cooperate to get much more of an environmental benefit, and faster,’ says Nienke Maas.

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