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Energy and smart cities

Smart cities integrate physical, digital and human systems in traditional networks and services for a better and more efficient use of energy resources.

Given that roughly 75% of Europe’s population lives in cities, the EU’s urban areas are important contributors to the EU’s energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, which have a huge impact on climate change. At the same time, cities are the main drivers of the EU’s economy, opening effective pathways to economic growth and jobs.

Several EU policies promote more sustainable, healthier and competitive urban areas, while also tackling climate challenges. The energy union strategy sets out targets and actions to help provide secure, affordable and clean energy for EU citizens and businesses. With a focus on buildings renovations, the Energy performance of buildings directive promotes the integration of smart technologies in buildings to increase their energy performance and efficiency. Since 2016, the Urban Agenda for the EU brings together EU countries, the European Commission and other stakeholders to stimulate growth and innovation in EU cities and to tackle social challenges.

The promotion of research and innovation efforts are key to implement EU climate and energy objectives in cities. The Strategic energy technology plane (SET Plan) supports the most impactful technologies in the EU's transformation to a low-carbon energy system and fosters cooperation among EU countries, companies and research institutions.

Smart Cities Marketplace

The Smart Cities Marketplace, formerly the Marketspace of the European Innovation Partnership on Smart Cities and Communities, aims to serve as a hub for pivotal practical knowledge, capacity building support and facilitation of finance. The hub works across areas such as sustainable urban mobility, districts and built environment, citizen focus and integrated infrastructures and processes in energy, information and communication technologies and transport. Through its “Explore-Shape-Deal” process, this initiative has been able to match approximately 130 projects with financing opportunities of more than €615 million in private investments.

Besides supporting the roll-out of sustainable smart city solutions, the Smart Cities Marketplaces aims to improve citizens’ quality of life, helps increase the competitiveness of EU cities and companies and contributes to reaching the EU energy and climate targets. 

Horizon 2020 Smart Cites & Communities Lighthouse programme

The Lighthouse projects were funded through the Horizon 2020 Smart Cities and Communities programme. Their objective is to bring together cities, industry and citizens to demonstrate solutions and business models that can be scaled up and replicated, and that lead to measurable benefits in energy and resource efficiency, new markets and new jobs.

The Scalable Cities secretariat is in charge of supporting the participating cities with outreach and communication as well as harvesting the results for further replication and upscaling via the Smart Cities Marketplace’s Matchmaking process.

Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy

Launched by the European Commission in 2008, the Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy brings together local and regional authorities who voluntarily commit to implementing the EU’s climate and energy objectives on their territory. Currently, the community includes close to 11 000 signatories who work on the development of sustainable energy and climate action plans in a joint effort to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5℃, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55% until 2030, strengthen the resilience of local and regional communities with access to affordable, secure and sustainable energy, and alleviate energy poverty. The Covenant of Mayors office is operated by a consortium of city networks.

In May 2022, the Covenant launched the Cities Energy Savings Sprint Covenant to accelerate energy savings under the REPowerEU plan.

Horizon Europe Mission on Climate-Neutral and Smart Cities

Launched in September 2020, the “100 climate-neutral cities by 2030” mission seeks to promote system innovation across the value chain of city investment, targeting multiple sectors such as governance, transport, energy, construction and recycling. With the support of digital technologies, it aims to ensure that participating cities act as innovation hubs that enable all European cities to follow suit by 2050.

In April 2022, the Commission announced the selected 112 participant cities. In the area of energy, the mission sets as starting point on the way to 2030 improvements in clean and sustainable urban mobility, near-zero or positive energy buildings and green energy production.

Three new calls of a combined value of EUR 115 million will contribute to the implementation of the Climate-neutral and Smart Cities Mission. They will cover areas such as zero-emission mobility, positive clean energy districts, urban greening and re-naturing, as well as associating Ukrainian cities to the climate-neutral and smart cities Mission.