We hope that the SmartEnCity replication tour has inspired you to take action and that the SmartEnKIT has given you some practical tools to boost your own zero carbon journey. So what are the steps that you can take today to move towards a zero carbon future in your city? Here’s a wrap-up of some of the key tips that you might take with you from the SmartEnKIT.
- SHAPE the story of your city’s decarbonization journey. What is your city’s story, the one that creates a sense of commitment among its stakeholders? Who are the actors and how can they pitch in, co-creating your city vision and its actionable steps? Who are the champions, the early adopter, the financers, the influencers? Every city needs a solid narrative to bring together its community and effectively work towards its zero-carbon future. For instance, Sonderborg and ProjectZero have been engaging citizens and stakeholders since 2009, paving the way for the residents’ acceptance and commitment towards smart city investments.
- INITIATE a stable local working group. The working group should be underpinned by a strong quadruple helix partnership that is headed by the local authority to steer the urban transformation process as well as to decide and develop the governance and coordination approach that will guide activities throughout your journey. For this, it’s important to designate a specific office that can collaborate and coordinate actions across the working group and various departments involved in the planning process. Securing the commitment of the local working group maximizes the success potential of the project.
- PLAN your smart city projects in an integrated way. Smart city projects tend to be very complex and multi-layered, so they need systemic and integrated approaches that break silos. If you’re wondering what the purpose of an Integrated Energy Plan is at the end of the day, you can take our word for it – the IEP is like a compass for the municipality to not lose focus regarding the energy targets, something to always come back to, develop, apply and update throughout the energy transformation process. Several cities beyond the SmartEnCity consortium itself have already adopted the Cities4ZERO methodology and use it as a step-by-step guide to shaping their path to zero emissions. This includes our ATELIER sister SCC1 project partners Bilbao, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Riga, Bratislava, Budapest, Krakow and Matosinhos. Are you going to be the next one?
- ADJUST everything to your city context and needs. Even if smart city and energy planning methodologies look like rigid systems that need to be followed 100%, there’s no reason why you can’t make them your own. In the SmartEnCity project, some of the partner cities, for instance, decided to do a bit of mixing and matching with the methodologies, combining the Cities4ZERO and Covenant of Mayors methods to come up with even better SECAPs. Be the author of your own methods and solutions!
- READJUST strategies to move closer to the end goal. Some solutions don’t work out as expected, some solutions can be scaled up to other districts, some strategies become obsolete, some key projects need tweaking, e.g. because the market situation changes. The Cities4ZERO framework is a process, but not in the sense that the journey comes to an end once the defined projects have been implemented and assessed. It is a circular process that needs to be iterated again and again, all in the effort to reach your decarbonization goals!
- INVOLVE stakeholders right from the start. As the Deputy Mayor of the City of Tartu, Raimond Tamm said: “It is cooperation between sectors and different stakeholders that really makes a city smart”. Be aware, however, that strong engagement requires much more than just sharing information and presenting the business case – it’s also about creating commitment, developing the timeline and being flexible to changes (as the Covid-19 situation clearly demonstrated). In the SmartEnCity project, the cities benefitted from scenario and vision-building workshops with all the relevant stakeholders in drafting their IEPs. Lecce, for instance, successfully used a mixed approach for involving its key stakeholders, including a direct contact list and an official call for the expression of interest on the Municipality website. Next time, give participatory practices like foresight a try when planning smart city projects!
- MONITOR performance to make a difference. Fixing and monitoring indicators at district/city scales will enable to track to which extent your goals have been achieved and to adjust course for maximizing impact. The SmartEnCity partner cities used a set of KPIs to evaluate the Lighthouse City interventions, including energy, mobility, life cycle assessment, ICTs, social acceptance, citizen engagement and economic performance. Take it from us – we can’t improve what we don’t measure!
- ENGAGE with other cities and city networks. See what others have been up to, what progress and mistakes they have made and which solutions could potentially be adapted to your city context. Based on the SmartEnCity Network experience, we can definitely say that smaller regional/national networks that promote personal contacts and knowledge exchange work best, especially the ones that enable to regularly meet and discuss smart city topics with each other. Find the best support network for you or initiate one on your own! Getting into dialogue with other cities is not always easy, but with some dedication, you’ll see that facing similar issues and working together on one common goal is a powerful incentive to sustain smart city networks. Hopefully, our SmartEnCity Network experience and value proposition help you on this road.