The future begins in Hyllie
Checking out Hyllie
Back in the good old days, when you boarded the ferry for the trip between Denmark and Sweden, the raw wind from the Baltic Sea would always cut right through you. Today, we’re sitting very comfortably in a regional train from the Copenhagen airport to Malmö, the largest city in southern Sweden. The trip now takes just under thirty minutes, which is made possible by the Öresund Bridge.
But even before we reach the train station in Malmö, we can see the water tower from Hyllie in the distance. It looks like a futuristic mushroom out of a cyberpunk novel. The tower, and the neighborhood around it, is our destination. Hyllie is one of the leading European showcases for sustainability.
Everyone is talking about sustainability, smart cities, prosumers, grids and smart meters – one trend follows the next. Most people describe these fuzzy concepts as future developments or abstract visions. It’s different in Hyllie. In this neighbourhood, the future of energy production has already begun.
Scalable. A concept you can run with
In short: after we spent two days with our colleague Peder Berne, project leader at E.ON Sverige, we had a very concrete idea about what a smart city of the future could look like – and that it could happen anywhere. Then, the requirements of the projects were clear right from the beginning – it needs to be scalable in a way that the blueprints of change can be transferred to any other district and city.
It all began in 2011, as the three project partners, E.ON, VA SYD (the local water and waste company) and the city of Malmö signed a climate contract. The contract outlined that Hyllie would be powered completely by renewable or recycled energy by the year 2020. And in this case, renewable energy was based on local generation from wind, solar, biomass and waste, where the organic compounds become biogas for fossil-free transportation.
A first in comparison to other smart city projects and a concept built around three pillars:
- Smart and efficient energy supply
- Active consumers
Energy, mobility, biofuel
Since then, Hyllie has picked up the pace. What was once an undesirable neighbourhood was transformed by the modern use of integrated energy solutions for district heating, cooling and power. Today, it’s a prime real estate destination, especially for young families. How do these changes impact the residents in their everyday life? We took a look for ourselves. From small, efficient one-family houses to the big, efficient apartment complexes, we examined everything.
We examined photovoltaic systems on top of green rooftops, saw smart kitchen appliances in the apartments and clever storage and heating systems in the cellars. The integrated systems can react to the weather, for example, by feeding energy into the storage systems when it is sunny and then using the energy later when needed. With the smart grid solution deployed in Hyllie, the renewable energy is better used, when available, and the distribution systems can manage peak-loads. Also the re-use of excess flows is mandatory. For example, organic waste is delivered to a digestion plant in order to optimize biogas production (it is also used for all public transportation and also for fuel for cars, which you can tank just outside of Hyllie).
The buy-in: only with trust and integration
All renters are satisfied, because they are independent and can autonomously decide when and what they would like to use from the smart city offerings. Further, their energy bills are lower, as the integrated systems are more efficient and save money. While eating a slice of delicious blueberry pie with Peder in the smart multi-family house built by E.ON, we asked him what the secret to success was for Hyllie. He thought about it for a second, then said that the most important factors are:
Good partnership, a proactive city, trust, open dialog and the integration of systems.
We took the buzzwords, “trust and integration“, along with us on our trip back to Copenhagen. On the long bridge over the Öresund, we saw the mushroom shaped water tower from Hyllie in the background growing smaller and smaller. At the exact same moment, we received a text message from our colleague Alex, who had spent the last couple days in Munich, back in Germany. On the grounds of the so-called workers‘ quarters there, E.ON helped to build another, smaller smart city project. He was amazed. All we could do was to shrug our shoulders.