Marten Bunnemann looks at the urban energy transition in Berlin and notes: Neighborhoods play a key role.
We'd like to push the newly elected members of the Berlin city parliament around a bit. After the election, the German capital is under pressure from the energy sector. It is true that Berlin has all the resources it needs to implement the energy demand and the long-term goal of achieving climate-neutrality in the city by 2050?
The urban energy transition from the autumn of 2016 is characterized by good projects, ideas and initiatives, but there is still a lack of dynamic and coordinated implementation. The challenges are huge. The inhabitants of a growing city need affordable living space, modern public infrastructure, and a functioning transport system. As far as climate protection is concerned, work must be done at all levels in order to ensure that Berlin is achieving its climate protection targets.
But that's not a reason to despair, quite on the contrary! If the energy transition is done well, it presents a lot of opportunities. As an international climate protection lighthouse, Berlin could become the world's green metropolis of the 21st century - including creativity and innovation, modernized infrastructure and new jobs. The prerequisite, however, is consistent implementation.
Time for Berlin to take action!
In order to drive the urban energy transition and coordinate the cooperation of all participants, the proposal of a central energy development platform should be implemented. The platform would have to ensure the that a dialogue takes place on the best solutions for the city. A continuous exchange about different activities in the city, the accumulated experiences and best practices is only at the beginning. Together, the country’s climate protection targets could be broken down into individual fields of action, by coordinating the efforts, avoiding duplicative work and implementing concrete lighthouse projects for the energy transition.
Everyone must work together.
Everyone - from politics, business and society - must now work together. The parties involved have shown that there is a willingness to cooperate - and there are also sensible concepts in place for next steps. We should therefore no longer discuss the last subtleties of the different energy platform concepts, but start with cooperation and then develop the platform on concrete projects.
The urban energy transition belongs in the neighborhoods.
An important starting point, in terms of concrete projects is, from our point of view, the city neighborhoods - the germ cell of sustainable, urban development. In the neighborhoods, we are implementing energy developments in the city, testing new approaches and making green technology directly accessible to our citizens.
The concepts for local, sustainable energy supply in neighborhoods are often extremely complex and vary greatly. Many years of experience and technical expertise, as well as creative and financial opportunities, are demanded. With our current projects in Malmö or Munich, we show that this is precisely our expertise - and that there are quite different models for energy supply in sustainable neighbourhoods. And the projects also show that our solutions not only help to reduce CO2 emissions, but also reduce the energy costs for the residents. Climate protection and cost reductions are not contradictions.
For the successful implementation of the energy transition in the neighborhoods, we all must cooperate closely and decisively. This is where the energy transition platform can be lived on a small scale. This can be demonstrated by way of example in some fields of action.
Example of new energy networks: In the coming decades, the number of hot days in Berlin will rise sharply. This makes the provision of refrigeration - even in residential areas - more and more important.
Local stamp of approval:
Prosumers produce and consume their own electricity - or feed excess energy into the grid.
New Low Ex-low temperature networks create a system which can provide warmth as well as cold. In addition, a large number of renewable heat generators can be integrated efficiently.
Although the technology is already usable, it also requires high, quite risky investments. Here, strong partners from the industry need to design such projects in a technological and energy-efficient manner, and make the necessary investments. But there is also a need for local craftmanship in implementation, an administration which accompanies the project under license law, and a federal policy that creates the appropriate framework conditions.
The federal government should also place special investment incentives for new technologies that are not yet economically viable. This can lead to the development of an innovation cluster, which Berlin scientists can use to explore the next innovation for urban energy development.
However, it is particularly necessary to involve the inhabitants of the neighborhoods. Only they can make the urban energy transition successful. In the future, they will increasingly be our end clients. They will generate electricity with solar energy and heat with heat pumps and consume or feed the excess energy into the energy grid. In the not too distant future, they will be able to provide their neighbors with their surplus energy on digital platforms. Energy is then given a “local quality seal” and the awareness of ecological consumption behaviour in the district is strengthened.
The energy transition is created by everyone
Like the implementation in the district, the energy recovery platform can only be successful if we all pull together.
This includes a policy which is not hidden behind abstract, long-term goals, but which now creates the necessary incentives for investment and begins with the implementation in concrete terms.
In the end, everyone benefits.
For Berlin it's time to act!
Finally, it needs citizens who are open to new ideas and approaches. People who are committed to a sustainable change in their city - and who demand it in politics, administration and the economy.