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From nearly-zero energy buildings to net-zero energy districts. Lessons learned from existing EU projects

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Source: Unsplash - Maximillian Conacher

The report, prepared by the JRC (Joint Research Centre), presents an analysis of the current situation based on:


  • an extensive literature review review from 1992 to 2018 on relevant articles dealing with zero energy/zero carbon community, sustainable communities, urban/local energy governance, citizen engagement, local energy planning, local energy production and local energy transition.
  • an insight on European projects databases (Intelligent Energy Europe, CONCERTO, FP7, Covenant of Mayors) to identify relevant case studies, In total 61 initiatives aiming at reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions of the built environment at a local level have been selected.


The main results of the analysis can be summarise din the following statements.


The transition of Europe’s neighbourhoods to net-zero energy districts is underway. The implementation of the EU 2020 energy and climate targets triggered the transformation of Europe’s neighbourhoods to net-zero energy districts. Frontrunner municipalities have set ambitious targets to reduce their energy demand and to increase the share of their energy supply from local renewable energy sources. European municipalities set their energy targets in different ways and the timeline to meet the agreed target at a local level varies from one municipality to another.


Municipalities consider the energy transition of their neighbourhoods as an opportunity to address their local socio-economic concerns. Municipalities positively regard the holistic transition of their neighbourhood to net-zero energy districts.,Building consensus around ambitious energy targets is easier if the energy transition complements other local projects and contributes to addressing local and regional socio-economic concerns, as shown by the seven case studies analysed in this report.


Public finance (EU and national) has been instrumental in unleashing the transition to net-zero districts. Identified projects have all benefited from receiving public finance. The municipalities usually leverage EU Finance, in the form of grants and/or loans, with national and local funds including such from private investors. In the identified projects, public finance allowed for the ambition of energy requirements to be increased, testing new technologies, building technical capacity, raising awareness and ensuring citizens’engagement in the energy transition.


Energy transition of Europe’s neighbourhoods has led to the emergence of new actors and to setting innovative governance structures. An important feature of the seven districts analysed in this report is the emergence of new actors and the innovative governance structures set by municipalities to ensure all necessary actors are involved and their roles as well as their responsibilities are well and clearly defined.


The involvement of actors varies from one municipality to another; whether the developers involve the entire population, local businesses and investors in the energy transition of their neighbourhoods differs from project to project.


You can access the whole report here.