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  • Preparing Net Zero Energy for cities and regions

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    The URB-EN PACT project will develop a method for city-regions to prepare Net Zero Energy action plans.


    The Paris Agreement covers greenhouse-gas-emissions mitigation, adaptation, and finance. Its  terms were finalised at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP 21, held in Paris, France. It was signed in 2016. The 196 participating countries agreed to a global pact, called the Paris Agreement or Paris Protocol, to reduce their carbon output "as soon as possible”. They also committed to do their best to keep global warming "to well below 2 degrees C” compared to pre-industrial levels. Countries also agreed to "pursue efforts to" limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C where possible. The 1.5 °C goal will require zero emissions sometime between 2030 and 2050, and this is what is driving cities to take action now.

    Cities and energy consumption


    In 1900, just 13% of the global population lived in cities. By 2015, the figure was more than 50%.  So it is not surprising that it is cities where most of the world’s population live. This explains why   around 70% of total global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions comes from urban areas.

    Some cities are already well advanced in their implementation of Net Zero Energy processes.  For example, Copenhagen has a plan to become a Net Zero Energy city by 2025 .  But Copenhagen has been at the forefront of sustainable urban policies for many decades.  What about other cities - “typical cities” - whose experience of implementing environmental policies is less developed? 

    The URB-EN PACT Project


    URB-EN PACT is a partnership project for “typical” European cities, not just those that are well advanced in achieving energy sustainability. The Project’s partners are diverse in terms of their geographic location, size, demographic profile, industry profile, and experience of implementing energy efficient measures.  The nine partners represent seven European nations, each of which has distinctive energy policies and energy mix. This can be seen clearly from the following table that provides summary data for each partner.


    The diversity of the partners is a key strength of the project. It ensures that the challenges faced by quite different city regions in reaching Net Zero status can be assessed. For example, at least one of the partners has a steel-making plant (carbon generator) within its boundary while another has a large urban forest (carbon sink). The profile of stakeholders who must be engaged in each of these cities will be very different.  Having the opportunity to develop and test a process that is applicable to both of these cities will make the project output more robust.



    Country (and approx location)



    City-Region Type

    National Energy mix

    Alto Minho [Region]


    Portugal (region North of Porto)


    Urban, low density territory comprising several small cities

    Thermal (65%), Wind (20%), Hydro (13%), Other (2%).


    Poland (North East)


    Urban, medium density

    Coal (79%), Gas (5.8%), Renewable (7.2%), Hydro (1%), Other (6.1%)

    Clermont-Auvergne Metropole

    [Lead Partner]

    France (Central)


    Urban, medium density

    Nuclear (75%), Hydro (10%), Gas (7%),Wind (4%), Coal (3%), Solar (2%)


    Greece (West of Athens)


    Urban, low density

    Oil (49%), Coal (21%), Gas (19%), Biofuels & Waste (6%), Geothermal, Solar & Wind (5%)


    Romania (East)


    Urban, medium density

    Hydro (28%), Coal (27%), Oil & Gas (21%), Wind (14%), Nuclear (6%), Solar (3%)

    Metropole Rouen Normandie

    France (North West)


    Urban, medium density

    Nuclear (75%), Hydro (10%), Gas (7%), Wind (4%), Coal (3%), Solar (2%)

    Palma di Montechiaro [Region]

    Italy (Region South Sicily)


    Urban, Low density

    Gas (38%), Oil (38%), Renewables & Waste (13%), Coal (10%) [for Italy]


    Finland (South West)


    Urban, medium density

    Nuclear (33%), CHP (heat 20%), Hydro (19%), CHP (Industry 15%), Condensing (12%) Wind (1%)


    Broad Stakeholder Engagement is essential


    The scope or reach of the URB-EN PACT project is wide. The partners are focused on how energy is produced as well as consumed. They wish to stimulate a greater awareness of energy issues within their populations and to develop a culture of energy conservation amongst all consumer types (citizens and industry).  Like COP21, URB-EN PACT recognises that it is essential for there to be a ‘pact’ between all of the cities’ stakeholders - focusing on one group or area will not lead to the required sustainable change.

    URB-EN PACT’s goals include reducing demand for energy by both industry and citizens while also identifying how to replace fossil fuel generation with renewable sources.  Each city’s energy mix will be unique to their needs and available resources.  Already we have seen innovative solutions such as generating bio-gas from waste.

    URB-EN PACT will also focus on activities that minimise our broader environmental impact. Thus, carbon reduction and circular economy principles will be included within its scope.


    Although very early in the process, the kick-off meeting helped identify immediate areas of experience, which the partners could share.  These included high efficiency street lighting, hydrogen for mobility, commercialising University research, community energy production, energy storage, citizen engagement and district heating enhancements. After just two City Visits, we have a range of suggestions for Small Scale Actions.


    Active Engagement of Civic Leaders


    The project recognises the central role that strong civic leadership plays in driving change.  We are looking at how the partners’ Mayors can be engaged individually and collectively in an innovative way. URB-EN PACT is shaping up to be a very interesting project!

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    During the meeting celebrated last february in the city of Kortrijk, in the Crown Room of the Texture Museum, one session was also opened to other participants and live streaming through Facebook Live and included interactive Q&A.

    City Branding

    The theme of the session: How can a contemporary use of heritage buildings and sites add value to its conservation? "Conservation through development" from the point of view of:

    Ralf Coussée (Architect, Coussée & Goris), He showed greater concern to respond to the new function of the spaces in his projects of recovery of heritage sites, more attentive to new concepts than to nostalgia. Function can help to conserve and to reduce energy consumption

    Frederik Mahieu (Flemish Heritage Department), presented a rich inventory of monuments, landscapes and protected sites, with a diversity of examples.

    Lode Waes (CEO Vanhaerents Development) talked about the atmosphere of heritage spaces, and how heritage can be an inspiration for master planning, the connection of neighbourhoods and the incentive of place making.

    Leo Van Broeck (Bogdan & Van Broeck), “Heritage building cannot become ‘frozen’”

    Pascal Vandenhende & Annemie Bernaerts (Theoria Bookshop). A bookshop conceived as a house, open 7 days per week. A place with open walls and windows to meet, to create, to talk...

    Adriaan Linters (Heritage specialist). More sustainable building is this which always exists..., Don't fear promoting and accepting the opinion of the citizens..., time is quality and returns are more important than costs…

    Interactive Q&A

    To what extent should heritage be protected by the Government? (All types: 55,2% ; The most important: 44,8%)

    Important heritage should stay in public hands? This is the only way it will remain accessible to the public. (Agree: 17,1%; Disagree: 82,9%)

    Heritage is always on the losing and when opposed to projects which are deemed to have an economic importance. (Agree: 51,5%; Disagree: 48,5%)

    According to you which types of heritage are popular in heritage redevelopment? (Industrial heritage: 30%; Religious heritage: 27%; Castles, mansions…: 26%; Specific heritage: 17%)

    Please do not miss the video:


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  • Low-carbon housing solutions


    Encouraging climate friendly decisions in housing, renovating and construction.

    Ilari Rautanen
    Project manager
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    Targets to reach energy and climate standards are set at EU and national level, but it is cities who are on the front line, ensuring that these targets are met. Since 2015, the City of Tampere (FI) focuses on promoting low-carbon solutions in residential housing and urban dwellings through its TARMO+ project. It offers information about renewable energy, ways of monitoring energy consumption and other energy services for housing companies. It runs campaigns and competitions and participates in various events, in order to reach and inspire the relevant stakeholders. One particularly successful element is the Energy Expert, a resident in the building who is trained on energy efficiency and shares it with all other residents. There are now around 200 energy experts in the Tampere area. TARMO+ plays an essential role as a platform where all interested parties can operate, communicate and exchange information transparently, in order to reach the best renovation and complementary building results.

    The solutions offered by the good practice

    TARMO+ benefits from two earlier projects named TARMO and Ekokoti. Running in 2013-2014, TARMO was funded by the European Regional Development Fund. Its aim was to encourage residents from housing companies to participate in the energy control of the buildings. The Ekokoti project was funded by the Ministry of Environment, aiming at developing energy expert education. These previous projects gave knowledge about complementary building, and their networks are now utilised in the TARMO+ project. Goal no. 1 is to encourage residents to make climate-friendly decisions in housing, renovating and constructing, and to improve their attitudes towards complementary construction. Goal no. 2 is to promote the energy service supply by bringing together companies, clients, investors and researchers who can work together on more sustainable housing. One important element is the Energy Expert action. The TARMO+ project is developing tools that can be used in the Energy Experts' activity. The Energy Expert is a resident from the housing company who wants to learn more about energy-efficient housing, and then shares this knowledge with everyone in the same building. The Energy Expert action is not only connected to the TARMO+ project, it is currently also operating as an individual action, thus helping more and more housing companies to host an energy expert.

    Building on the sustainable and integrated approach

    URBACT principles are about making life in cities more sustainable and taking care of social, economic and environmental problems. TARMO+ and the Energy Expert action are dealing with these problems: making Tampere and its residential buildings more energy-efficient, and educating people on energy consumption. Citizens are involved and can be part of the solution. A well-timed renovation reduces energy loss. The TARMO+ horizontal integration is shown in the information offered to housing companies on renewable energy and other energy services, on ways of monitoring and reducing energy consumption, on running campaigns and competitions as well as participating in various events in order to reach and inspire the relevant stakeholders. Proof of the vertical integration is how this project works with businesses, housing companies, educational institutions and municipalities. Both make it easier to pursue infill-construction and development projects and to facilitate the formulation of a robust operating model, these being achieved through workshops, seminars and collaboration with educational institutions. TARMO+ also brings together energy service companies and their users, which helps to develop the demand and supply for the latter. The cooperation gives rise to new examples, operating models and innovative projects. The TARMO+ project yields concrete examples of how housing companies’ building processes can be made easier.

    Based on a participatory approach

    There have been around 250 housing companies attending TARMO+ actions, and many of them have a trained Energy Expert. There are around 200 Energy Experts in the Tampere area that have participated in energy expert courses. They have been involved in more than 50 different companies that offer energy services, and other services related to housing and constructing that promote the low carbon society. TARMO+ has offered several events where companies had the opportunity of straight contact with housing companies, energy experts and city officials. TARMO+ events have been designed to encourage open discussions between all stakeholders. According to surveys concerning participant satisfaction, all stakeholders declared that TARMO+ actions have been beneficial to them. The TARMO+ project established an interactive map on the projects' homepage. At any time, housing companies can add their building, but also information about future refurbishment necessities. The map can also contain the housing company's plans to acquire renewable energy systems, or complementary construction projects in the nearby future. There are over 200 housing company targets on the map that has been used to encourage housing companies to engage in renovation projects with other local housing companies, and obtain financial and quality benefits from bigger collaborative refurbishment projects.

    What difference has it made?

    TARMO+ has made a difference in addressing complex challenges in urban environments, by using the integrated and participative approach. TARMO+ offers an open, communicative and interactive platform for housing companies and service providers where information, thoughts and good practices can be shared. The project has gathered case examples encouraging housing companies and building residents to make more sustainable choices such as energy and material efficiency operations and using renewable energy sources, but also complementary building (some of these cases are presented in a support package). The project has opened the discussion about housing cooperatives responsibility, and on advancing and taking actions towards sustainable living. This has been the first step to change attitudes towards this matter. In order to improve some residential areas, a sense of community is needed. TARMO+ has made an impact by hosting multiple events, training and competitions. One of them is the Energy Expert training that educates a member of a household cooperative to find a way to reduce energy and water consumption. Expert activity creates a sense of community and social interaction between participants, which has been a well-being factor in their everyday life. Training and competitions had an essential impact on a sustainable way of living, and also on emission reduction in house cooperatives in a participatory way.

    Why should other European cities use it?

    Our project is gathering different stakeholders - the city, enterprises, housing companies, citizens, etc., in order to work together towards the low carbon city. TARMO+ is a project - a good practice - that no doubt is interesting for other European cities: it is adaptable, relevant and helps promote the EU 20-20-20 targets. The rapid growth of the urban population, both natural and through migration, creates overcrowding in the cities and their suburbs. This issue must be addressed in a sustainable way, so that cities embrace improved environmental conditions and safe habitats for all urban populations. This platform creates synergy between participants, but also generates a better sense of community in the area; it develops a foundation where sustainable operations are more easily conducted. With TARMO+ good practices, a consensus towards the sustainable operations in the area can be reached, which facilitates the planning and execution of energy efficient actions. The share of the building stock comes to almost 40% of energy end-use consumption in Finland. Buildings are responsible for 40% of the energy consumption, and 36% of the CO2 emissions in the EU (Energy Efficiency in Buildings - European Commission). Therefore, addressing complex challenges in urban environments, such as the energy end-use consumption in buildings, is a major factor. This is a sector where successful actions will help us achieve more sustainable urban living and meet the 20-20-20 targets.

    Is a transfer practice
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  • EUniverCities


    Project launch
    Project completed

    Improve the university-city nexus. By applying to the URBACT programme, they want to learn from each other's experiences and practices, and move forward as successful and inclusive knowledge cities to realise Europe's 2020 strategy.

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