Welcome back to the second edition of our SMCNetZero blog, where we continue our journey toward a sustainable and carbon-neutral future. In this edition, our spotlight is firmly fixed on the pivotal realm of energy efficiency—an indispensable cornerstone in our quest for a net-zero world.

Energy efficiency isn’t just a buzzword; it’s a powerful catalyst for change. As we navigate the complex landscape of sustainable practices, it becomes increasingly evident that optimising our energy consumption is key to mitigating climate change. The less energy we use, the fewer greenhouse gas emissions we produce, and the lighter our ecological footprint becomes.

Nethe Veje Laursen, Program Director at CONCITO, a philanthropically funded green think tank, addressed our project recently, emphasising the pivotal role of energy efficiency in reducing the demand for expanding electricity infrastructure. Laursen highlighted the various benefits of energy efficiency, including significant cost savings, and low policy and technology risks, with a short payback period.

With empowerment and knowledge sharing of best practices at the heart of our mission, dive into the pages of this edition to find actionable insights and concrete steps to overcome barriers and incorporate energy efficiency into your journey to net zero.

Unveiling Strategies to Overcome Blocking Challenges

The SMCNetZero project has recently identified some significant roadblocks on the path to achieving net-zero in SMCs. When it comes to energy efficiency in small and medium-sized cities, there is a significant need to break down silo thinking, overcome procurement hurdles, and master data management.

Overcoming silo thinking

The need to expand and empower climate teams for effective collaboration echoes strongly throughout our project’s findings and our journey forward. Acknowledging the crucial role of skilled and motivated teams, leaders emphasised the need for targeted training programs to enhance not only climate teams’ capabilities but teams across all departments. Take your first steps to net zero by fostering a culture of collaboration across departments, breaking down silos that can hinder your progress.

Ewan Prentice, Strategic Energy Coordinator at Stirling Council joined us on our journey to net zero and emphasises the crucial role of local authorities in setting an example for Net Zero initiatives. He also stressed the importance of shared goals across departments, a unified direction from the council, and a long-term delivery plan for sustained progress.

Building a network of partners with aligned motives is a sure-fire way to break down silos for successful energy efficiency projects. Creating a structured blueprint for cross-organizational collaboration emphasises the need for a standardised approach. Workshops and multi-departmental project teams can help foster effective partnerships among municipal departments. We also see the need to strike a balance between positive incentives and regulations, creating a framework that motivates stakeholders while adhering to essential guidelines.

Regarding silo thinking, Prentice highlights the importance of leveraging knowledge and funding through overlapping thematic initiatives. Collaboration with neighbouring local authorities and joint ventures is recommended to share knowledge, risks, financial burdens, and benefits. Prentice emphasizes that achieving Net Zero requires collaboration not only at local level but also at national and international levels.

The importance of recognising and rewarding initiatives contributing to net-zero goals is another notable step. To further incentivise collaboration, we propose incorporating environmental and social costs into economic planning. This holistic approach would ensure that long-term benefits, including biodiversity, climate resilience, and social impacts, are factored into decision-making.

Check out the EU City Calculator designed to help cities in their decision-making and implementation of their climate strategy. It enables city administrations and other stakeholders to assess the implications and trade-offs related to the implementation of mitigation measures.

For example, how much GHG emissions can be saved in the building sector via improvements in energy retrofitting versus renewable energy expansion?

Data management as a foundation to support decision-making

A guiding principle for optimal results in energy efficiency projects is data-driven decision-making based on verifiable evidence. Ensuring this data accurately informs key performance indicators (KPIs) is also considered paramount. Implementing a simplified dashboard as a central hub for project tracking to streamline data visualization would ensure that all teams have real-time insights into project gains.

To enhance project effectiveness, transparency in both reporting and documentation is crucial for tracking progress and measuring the impact of energy efficiency initiatives. Establishing standardised approaches and methods is crucial to streamline project implementation and evaluation. Incorporating benchmarking practices, transparent use of tools and resources, and addressing financial aspects are identified as key components for success.

Seneco, a company focused on intelligent street light control is part of SMCNetZero and presents best practice cases with the Danish municipalities of Viborg, Bornholm and Esbjerg. Seneco’s street lighting control and platform ensure that there is light when needed. At night, light is dimmed to a minimum and only activates when motion triggers a sensor. These intelligent measures document energy savings of between 56-64% – demonstrating a successful SME and SMC partnership achieving energy efficiency.

Applying industry best practices like this, while also demonstrating adaptability to refine and optimise your energy efficiency projects through data-driven insights will ensure you stay at the forefront of advancements. Small and medium-sized cities have the unique agility to trial concepts with pilot projects, creating scalable and replicable blueprints.

In terms of data management, Ewan Prentice proposes the use of a platform to track progress in all themed areas. This platform would not only enable public engagement but also ensure transparent progress reporting. Additionally, it would facilitate project evaluation based on its impact, highlighting areas where resources may need to be focused. Prentice encourages others to learn-by-doing and emphasises the importance of sharing experiences with others. He recommends prioritising “profitable” projects initially to gain momentum and generate income for aspects lacking an identified funding stream.

Embarking on a digital transformation in public administration will have an undeniable impact on the way energy efficiency projects are delivered and how these initiatives and their results are communicated to the public.

Public procurement processes – allocating effort and time

One of the greatest challenges faced by Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) is public procurement processes. SMEs experience difficulties allocating sufficient time and resources to lengthy procurement procedures. Additionally, Net Zero considerations may not hold enough weight in the evaluation criteria, leading risk-averse cities to opt for low-risk options and short-term gains.

Potential strategies to streamline public procurement and support energy efficiency goals range from national-level government requirements to embedding Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and Net Zero Carbon (NZC) principles in public tenders.

Challenging short-term financial thinking in SMCs and developing innovative models to support energy efficiency projects are necessary. Long-term delivery plans can guide and motivate not only the procurement teams and potential suppliers but also foster more coherent project development and cross-disciplinary project teams. Feasibility studies and comprehensive five-stage business cases also ensure project success, whilst simultaneous progress of multiple projects also leads to more efficient procurement processes.

Public procurement of goods, services, and works provides municipalities with an important lever to improve and promote sustainability at local level. In addition, better governance of public procurement and the implementation of effective metrics systems for public spending and its impact also makes an important contribution.

Our project has uncovered a European-wide network called Eurotowns that supports Innovative Public Procurement for towns and cities.

City networking is an important practice for reinforcing European Cohesion and sharing of best practice. In addition to being an area of cooperation between communities, participation in such networks enables representation of local government in Europe. It also provides a privilege framework for promoting innovation and exchanging experiences at a transnational level.

Eurotowns supports medium-sized cities in Europe to strengthen their role as attractive, inclusive and sustainable places. Furthermore, Eurotowns provides a valuable mechanism for building reliable partnerships, developing innovative and sustainable projects, and effective collaboration on European Union funding applications.

Concrete steps to empowering SMCs for a Net-Zero Future

The collective knowledge shared, and strategies unveiled through our SMCNetZero Project so far signify a pivotal step forward in the journey toward a sustainable and net-zero future. As we strive for net-zero emissions, SMCNetZero remains committed to providing you with the latest insights, expert interviews, and success stories in the realm of sustainability.

Our journey is just beginning, and with each edition, we move closer to a future where our energy is clean, efficient, and sustainable. Remember, the impact of our individual and collective actions is profound. What might seem like a small step can create a ripple effect, contributing to a wave of positive change across cities and industries.

Thank you for joining us on this transformative journey. Together, we are shaping a world where net-zero is not just a target but a reality.

Interested in reading more about best practices from across Europe? Or want to showcase your own successful partnership? Join our Digital Forum now by following these simple steps here.



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