European Initiative on Smart Cities


Smart cities_flipped

Strategic objective

To demonstrate the feasibility of rapidly progressing towards our energy and climate objectives at a local level while proving to citizens that their quality of life and local economies can be improved through investments in energy efficiency and reduction of carbon emissions. This Initiative will foster the dissemination throughout Europe of the most efficient models and strategies to progress towards a low carbon future.

This Initiative will support cities and regions in taking ambitious and pioneering measures to progress by 2020 towards a 40% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions through sustainable use and production of energy. This will require systemic approaches and organisational innovation, encompassing energy efficiency, low carbon technologies and the smart management of supply and demand. In particular, measures on buildings, local energy networks and transport would be the main components of the Initiative.

The Initiative builds on existing EU and national policies and programmes, such as CIVITAS, CONCERTO and Intelligent Energy Europe. It will draw upon the other SET-Plan Industrial Initiatives, in particular the Solar and Electricity Grid, as well as on the EU public-private partnership for Buildings and Green Cars established under the European Economic Plan for Recovery. The local authorities involved in the Covenant of Mayors (more than 500 cities) will be mobilised around this initiative to multiply its Impact.

Specific objectives

  • To trigger a sufficient take-up (reaching 5% of the EU population) of energy efficient and low carbon technologies to unlock the market.
  • To reduce by 40% the greenhouse gas (reference year 1990) emissions by 2020, that will demonstrate not only environmental and energy security benefits but also to provide socio-economic advantages in terms of quality of life, local employment and businesses, and citizen empowerment.
  • To effectively spread across Europe best practices of sustainable energy concepts at local level, for instance through the Covenant of Majors.


In moving towards these objectives, local authorities will propose and implement holistic problem-solving approaches, integrating the most appropriate technologies and policy measures. This would involve ambitious and pioneer measures in buildings, energy networks and transport.


  1. Buildings:
    • New buildings with net zero energy requirements or net zero carbon emissions when averaged over the year by 2015, thus anticipating the requirements of the recast Directive on the energy performance of buildings (EPBD). This requirement could be anticipated (e.g. 2012) for all new buildings of the local public authority (city).
    • Refurbish of the existing buildings to bring them to the lowest possible energy consumption levels (e.g. passive house standard or level of efficiency that is justified by age, technology, architectural constrains) maintaining or increase performances and comfort. This would include innovative insulation material (solid insulation, vacuum insulation, vacuum windows, cool roofs, etc.)


  2. Energy networks
    Heating and Cooling

    • Innovative and cost effective biomass, solar thermal and geothermal applications
    • Innovative hybrid heating and cooling systems from biomass, solar thermal, ambient thermal and geothermal with advanced distributed heat storage technologies.
    • Highly efficient co- or tri-generation and district heating and cooling systems.


    • Smart grids, allowing renewable generation, electric vehicles charging, storage, demand response and grid balancing.
    • Smart metering and energy management systems.
    • Smart appliances (ICT, domestic appliances), lighting (in particular solid state lighting for street and indoor), equipment (e.g. motor systems, water systems)
    • To foster local RES electricity production (especially PV and wind applications).


  3. Transport
    • 10 – 20 testing and deployment programmesfor low carbon public transport and individual transport systems, including smart applications for ticketing, intelligent traffic management and congestion avoidance, demand management, travel information and communication, freight distribution, walking and cycling.
    • Sustainable mobility: advanced smart public transport, intelligent traffic management and congestion avoidance, demand management, information and communication, freight distribution, walking and cycling.


The Initiative will be modulated according to the cities’ ambition and risk involved. Ambitious cities could receive funding for technical assistance to facilitate access to loans and risk sharing loans. Pioneer cities, taking much greater risks through radical technology and organisational transformations, could in addition receive funding in the form of grants to support the implementation of the proposed package of technologies and measures.

The Smart Cities initiative will result on the following actions, spread across Europe but closely interlinked through the Covenant of Majors.

  1. Buildings:
    • Test 100 new residential and 100 new non-residential buildings for different design options for zero energy buildings in different climatic zones. In particular the focus should be on the design integration of the different technologies to prove cost-effective solution (no more than 5% of traditional construction costs), and on monitoring of the performance under real use (the monitoring being part of the R&D)
    • Test and assess through 5-10 programmes, strategies for the refurbishment of at least 50% of existing public buildings(including social housing, non-residential buildings, etc.). Besides technologies, innovative financing schemes, and refurbishment techniques will be developed and tested.
    • Test and assess through 5-10 programmes, strategies for the complete refurbishment of 50% of all existing buildings (e.g. residential buildings, public buildings, non-residential buildings, etc.). Besides technologies, innovative financing schemes, and refurbishment techniques have to be developed and tested. It is foreseen that these programmes will be allocated. A much higher amount of funds will be allocated to this action.
  2. Energy Networks
    Heating and Cooling

    • 5-10 demonstration programmes for large deployment of RES heating and cooling in cities supplying 50 % of the heat and cooling demand from RES
    • 5-10 demonstration programmes for large scale RES heating and cooling integration in energy efficient buildings in pioneer cities supplying about 50% of the heat and cooling demand from RES


    • development and deployment programmefocused on high efficient appliances lighting and smart metering
    • 5-10 development and deployment programmes for smart grids in cities, in cooperation all relevant SET-Plan Initiatives, including priority access for local generation and renewable electricity, smart metering, storage, and demand response. European cities piloting the smart grid concept in collaboration with local distribution companies will be given priority.
  3. Transport:
    • 10-20 testing programmesfor the large deployment of alternative fuel vehicles, from road public transport and municipal fleets to private passenger vehicles (electric vehicles, hydrogen and fuel cells, low consumption vehicles, natural gas vehicles, biofuels, etc) including the fuel/energy supply infrastructure
    • Development and testing programmes focused on sustainable mobility including advanced smart public transport, intelligent traffic management and congestion avoidance, demand management, information and communication, freight distribution, walking and cycling.

Indicative costs (2010-2020)


Actions Total (M€)
1. New Buildings & Refurbishment of existing buildings (for 20 millions citizen) 10 000 – 12 000
2. Energy networks (Heating and Cooling and Electricity)
3. Transport

This reflects the total sum of the required public and private investments.

Indicative Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

Overall Key Performance Indicator: participation of 25 large cities (>500 000 inhabitants) and 5 very large cities (>1 000 000 inhabitants) committing to implement the proposed demonstration, testing and deployment programmes in the 3 sectors – buildings, energy networks and transport and to go beyond the 2020 EU climate and energy targets.


Activities Key Performance Indicators
2. Energy Networks ·      Average RES heating cost at 15€/GJ by 2020

·      50% of the heat and cooling demand from RES for 10-20 programmes

·      Establishment of smart grids coupled with smart building and equipment, RES electricity and smart meters. At least 20 pilot schemes by 2015
3. Transport ·      In participating pioneer cities (20 cities) 100% for the municipal fleet running on alternative/clean fuels

·      In participating pioneer cities (20 cities), low carbon transport projects implemented by 2015

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