The epiphany of sustainable urban development

The energy transition process was initiated by the City of Heidelberg in the early 1990s, triggered by growing awareness of climate protection issues and, ultimately, a change in the leadership of the city. The first steps consisted in analysing emissions and redefining the municipality’s internal organisation so as to offer optimal working conditions with the creation of an environmental office and the allocation of additional staff. In 1992, the city council adopted the first climate protection concept and the energy concept prepared by IFEU, Heidelberg’s energy and environmental institute. The climate protection concept covered energy management in municipal buildings and city-wide, thus addressing all the energy-using sectors and players concerned. The originality of the concept lay in the fact that as well as providing technical solutions, it also included an analysis of the obstacles and avenues for raising key players’ awareness. Implementation of the concepts was monitored through periodic CO2emission reports.

The energy transition process has been built jointly with key local players through roundtable discussions. The city has developed a truly participative approach with the energy and climate protection circle as its most emblematic symbol. The city council wants Heidelberg to be a role model in energy management. The energy concept has led to the adoption of low energy standards for new municipalbuildings that are stricter than national regulations and to low energy requirements for building plots sold by the municipality. The climate protection concept and the energy concept were reviewed in 2004 and again in 2010. Between 1987 and 2011, CO2emissions in the public building sector dropped by 40%.

The municipality works in close cooperation with schools through various projects to include energy education in the curriculum and with SMEs to implement an environmental management system. The municipality considers communication as a means of raising citizens’ awareness and has developed an innovative communication strategy. Participation in regional, national and international projects has also enabled Heidelberg to benefit from additional funding andto promote further interest in the energy issue. The municipality has become a member of European local authority networks and has joined the Covenant of Mayors.

The world’s largest passive district is currently being built in the heart of the city. In 2012, Heidelberg became a model municipality for “Masterplan 100% Klimaschutz”, a climate-neutral-city programme led by the Federal Ministry of the Environment, with the following targets: reduce CO2emissions by 95% and cut energy use in half by 2050