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Energy Transition

Energy Transition

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Energy transition can be defined as a shift from a system dominated by finite energy (chiefly fossil-based) towards a system using a majority of renewable energy sources, also optimising the effective use of energy and minimise primary energy demand. As with many challenges, urban areas are places where the greatest progress can be made on energy transition and efficiency. Indeed, how cities grow and operate has a huge impact on energy demand as they account for 60 to 80% of global energy consumption and produce around the same share of CO2 emissions. For years’ cities have been pushing ahead with local initiatives and projects on sustainable energy and have been leading from the front on the issue of transition to a more efficient energy production, distribution and consumption to secure its supply, affordability and support industry and competitiveness of the EU economy. The first UIA call for proposals in 2015 invited urban authorities to elaborate innovative solutions to tackle:

  • Distribution and production issues, especially regarding renewable energy at local level.
  • Energy efficiency issues, in order to minimise the risk of energy poverty and its consequences (e.g. poor health, child poverty, educational under-achievement etc.). Thus, it was recommended to develop energy retrofits, buildings’ energy renovation and smart energy management in public infrastructure and the housing sector.
  • Energy demand issues by promoting behavioural change and increasing the adoption of low carbon technologies such as nature-based solutions to heat/cool buildings and neighbourhoods.

Energy transition thus encompasses technological, societal, cultural, economic and environmental aspects and also requires an active role for citizens and communities.

FED gothemburg

UIA projects, solutions implemented and common issues

Out of the 113 applications submitted under the Energy transition topic, three projects were selected.

  • FED - Fossil Free Energy Districts, Gothenburg
  • CoRDEES - Co-Responsibility in District Energy Efficiency & Sustainability, Paris
  • Vilawatt, Innovative local public-private-citizen partnership for energy governance

Overall, the three project develop a range of tools with the twofold aim of developing greener energy sources and optimizing energy consumption. They look at different but complementary elements of energy transition in urban areas: energy governance, community participation, smart energy systems, energy efficiency renovations, renewable energy. Looking at the three projects selected gives an overview of the major trends in the urban energy solutions that cities are implementing smart energy strategies and low-consumption incentive mechanisms.

In order to monitor a greener and more efficient production, storage and distribution the selected projects develop a wide range of solutions with different approaches that manage the whole energy loop; including innovative cooperation schemes (CoRDEES, Vilawatt), financial mechanisms (Vilawatt), and smart energy management solutions (CoRDEES, FED).

When it comes to energy transition, energy sources, production and storage are among of the crucial challenges. Indeed, peak loads and inefficient storage can cause energy waste and affect the energy production process. In Gothenburg, the FED project implements a set of solutions through a district energy system in a university campus. With this project, the city of Gothenburg aims to develop, demonstrate and replicate a novel district  level energy  system,  integrating  electric  power,  as  well  as  heating  and  cooling.  This solution  embraces  and  enhances  the  use  of  technologies  such  as  PVs,  heat-pumps  and wind into  a  larger  system. The FED district integrates different energy vectors (electricity prosumers, district heating and cooling), optimises building’s energy use to replace primary energy use. In short, one building’s energy needs will be balanced with the surplus of another. As storage is also a major cause for energy waste, the project develops an intermediate storage solution that consists of heating storage and an innovative cooling storage (using phase changing material and batteries for electricity). The project also implements a local energy market, which integrates energy demand, supply, and an ICT trading system to enable stakeholders to exchange temporary energy excess and needs.

The municipality of Viladecans take a different approach to energy transition tackling first the major issue of fuel poverty. The Vilawatt project seeks to secure a stable energy transition process through deep energy renovation of residential buildings in one of the most deprived districts of Viladecans. It will create a Public-Private-Citizenship-Partnership (PPCP), a Local Energy Operator (LEO), respectively a governance and executive body and an Energy Savings Company to develop a set of financial mechanism to renovate buildings. The project started with the energy renovation of 60 dwellings  while optimizing their energy contracts. The energy savings generated through contracts with households having benefited from initial investments, are used to further invest in deep energy renovations in the municipality.




In Paris, the CoRDEES project also tackles buildings’ energy consumption. The project implements a new energy ecosystem in the Clichy-Batignolles eco-district to reach energy efficiency objectives. In order to reduce 90% of the district CO2 emissions, CoRDEES builds low-consumption facilities and housing units and monitor their energy consumption. The Community Energy Management Platform (CEMP) combines and analyses energy data for all buildings (electricity and heat) and public facilities (electric vehicle stations, street lighting and automated waste collection) to manage energy in an efficient way. To monitor these three layers, the project will establish a multi-stakeholders energy governance system: the Urban Energy New Deal (UEND). It defines on a collective basis the energy commitments and the contractual, financial and regulatory conditions necessary to the projects’ successful implementation.


To raise awareness about energy issues and foster a change in energy consumption habits, the three projects implement strategies to widen users’ energy culture, proposing actions ranging from behavioural change campaigns and participation processes to incentives and carrot-and-stick approaches. In Viladecans, the municipality opted for a combination of both options. First, the Vilawatt project is deploying an engagement campaign using a gamification strategy to reach a broader range of organizations and citizens. In parallel, several capacity building and stakeholder engagement initiatives train energy consumers (i.e.  the  citizens)  and  workforce,  generating  awareness  on  energy  efficiency  matters  and a local specialised  industry  cluster.  Secondly, as part of its retrofitting strategy, it develops an incentive scheme based on new energy local currency and a related cooperation strategy (notably including the Spanish national bank and the business community). More specifically, the  savings  generated  will  be  converted  in  an alternative  currency,  the  Vilawatt,  that  will  be  used  locally  by  the  citizens  and,  therefore, re-injected to boost the local economy.

In Paris, CoRDEES builds on the CEMP data collection to develop performance indicators and individual savings assessment. The aim is for end users to visualize and monitor their energy consumption and then encourage them to reduce their energy consumption. In parallel, the project set up new services through an Energy Support Service provide main consumers (building owners and operators, energy companies) with technical recommendations, ensure stakeholder cooperation and user empowerment. As for the FED project, local actors and market players are incentivised to invest in local renewable  production;  reduce  peaks  in consumption;  and  to increase  the efficiency  of their  assets  through  investments  and/or more efficient operations. Indeed, the projects involve third party actors (mainly local businesses) to use FED as a testbed, thus ensuring that the investments of FED will have a greater reach.


Get inspired and find more with UIA experts and UIA knowledge lab

UIA experts capture, analyse and narrate the main findings, lessons learnt and experiences coming from the different Energy transition projects. Look for their journals (analysis on main challenges for implementation) and zoom-ins (focus on a crosscutting dimension or specific component of the project) to get deeper knowledge about energy transition and related topics (adaptation to climate change, housing). 

Explore the UIA Knowledge Lab and search for key words such as: low-carbon energy; local energy production 

Read about the Energy transition projects synergies with the EU Urban Agenda.

Have a look at our YouTube playlist and learn more about Viladecans project:

Additional useful information


proposals received


projects approved

€ 13.2 M


See all resources on this topic Go to the UIA Knowledge Lab

Energy Transition's projects