Interview with Julia Egenolf, GrowSmarter Project Manager for Cologne. As the effects of climate change are being felt around the globe, the European Horizon 2020 programme seeks to mitigate the damage we have done to our environment. Through innovative ways that reduce CO2 emissions and end the relationship with fossil fuels, projects that meet the criteria of the programme are on the rise all across Europe.
German city Cologne has also taken up the challenge as one of the three Lighthouse Cities of the GrowSmarter initiative. In common with other Horizon 2020 projects, Cologne has committed itself to 12 solutions in GrowSmarter’s three areas of impact:
-Low Energy Districts
-Sustainable Urban Mobility
The demonstration area is based in the Stegerwald neighbourhood in Cologne-Mülheim. The goals of 70% primary energy reduction in the building sector and 60% CO2 reduction in the mobility sector have been achieved.
While energy efficiency via retrofitting old buildings and giving more control to citizens over their energy demand are part of the Cologne project, just as they are in many other European cities, the CO2 emissions produced by urban traffic are also a major headache.
Cologne has identified four possible solutions that, when implemented, should reduce traffic emissions by a targeted 60%:
-Reduction of private vehicles,
-Provision of e-mobility solutions,
-Improvement of parking via a parking app,
-Change of citizen’s mobility behavior.
While the technology and infrastructure required, such as a parking app or a car-sharing station, is already adopted in other cities and is relatively easy to implement, changing citizens’ attitude about mobility is a major challenge.
However, if alternatives to private vehicles are readily available, citizens who use them often might sell their cars and might adopt the trouble-free life of using a vehicle or a bike that does not need servicing, repairs or insurance.
After all, an efficient and well-connected public transportation network is the basis for car- and bike-sharing systems.
Cologne has many residential buildings that were built 30 to 60 years ago which require refurbishing to make them as energy-efficient as their modern counterparts.
The retrofitting is aimed at reducing heat loss by remedies such as building insulation, triple glazing, improved roof insulation and LED lighting.
By means of solar systems on the roofs and air/heat pumps, the district generates parts of the required energy re-generatively on site and stores it in local electricity storage facilities.
The entire energy system is controlled by a virtual power plant, the so-called neighbourhood management system.
It is an intelligent energy management system software that optimizes the electricity consumption of the facilities and the power generation of the energetically renovated residential area, thus maximizing the self-sufficiency of the area.
With the help of offers such as tenant electricity (mixed product from PV electricity and renewable energies from the grid) as well as SmartHome and SmartPlug systems, the residents get confronted with their user behaviour and are encouraged to change it.
Sensors within the building provide feedback on power consumption right down to device level.
All projects operating under the Horizon 2020 banner have the requirement to build an open data platform, where data about the city is stored. It is both for the benefit of the citizens and the city management.
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