Why do we need to increase energy efficiency in the Baltic Sea region?
Following the EU Energy Efficiency Directive from 2016, Baltic Sea countries aim at 30% energy savings by 2030. This could be achieved by, among other things, improving the efficiency of heating systems, harnessing the energy saving potential of the existing building stock and involving consumers to better manage energy consumption. With more people living in cities than rural areas in the region, cities play an important role in improving energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions at the same time.
AREA 21: low emission district of the 21st century
Currently, countries around the Baltic Sea apply different approaches and measures that only partly contribute to achieving their energy efficiency goals. Obstacles include fragmented energy chains, concentration on sectoral practices and insufficient or lack of cooperation among public authorities, energy utilities and end users. The need for strategic cooperative approaches has often been neglected, focusing rather on technical solutions instead. "Up to now these [energy improvement] strategies are mainly developed by the administration or maybe by the energy utility on its own. And certainly also the housing cooperatives or housing enterprises have their single strategies," explains Jörg Knieling from HafenCity University Hamburg, project manager of AREA 21. This reflects the current inadequacy of existing energy planning instruments and cooperation strategies.
Ten partners from six countries within the project AREA 21 develop cooperative strategies to involve local and regional public authorities, energy providers and consumers in the processes of energy planning, decision-making and implementation in urban districts. Synergies created on a district level trigger new energy efficiency solutions that will be reflected in the Energy Improvement Districts, a transferable process model for integrated and collaborative energy efficiency planning. This new concept will be implemented in seven locations around the Baltic Sea region. The diversity of countries involved makes it easier to understand differences in energy planning culture and potential challenges, ensuring the development of more innovative, effective and open-minded piloting and knowledge exchange. According to Jörg Knieling, the compilation of such information and experiences helps "cross those planning culture boundaries" in order to identify concrete energy efficiency instruments. Another aspect is the project’s contribution to the climate mitigation: "I would really be very happy if we could contribute with new approaches and instruments to reducing CO2 emissions. That is one of my personal motivations to work in this project," admitted Jörg Knieling.