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ProjectZero: Good for the climate, good for business

How a city is looking to meet its environmental responsibilities and enjoy collateral benefits

| | Nov 25, 2017 | 1:08 pm
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Erik Lauritzen

Sønderborg, the 17th largest city in Denmark at 500 square kilometres, is home to 75,000 people and has a District Heating network and a Natural Gas pipeline. Its mayor, Erik Lauritzen, says he wants to increase the population by creating jobs and by making the city a great place to live and work through ensuring clean air and water. This translates to a need for eliminating emissions. Enter ProjectZero!

In 2007, the city emitted 772,000 tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere. “We let that much carbon go into the atmosphere – 7-8 tonnes of carbon per citizen,” says Peter Rathje, Managing Director, ProjectZero, a sustainable development initiative to wean the city away from fossil fuels.

For making the green transition, the city is investing Danish Kroner (DKK) 1 billion. The city’s approach to ProjectZero is holistic and includes Public-Private Partnership (PPP), technology, solutions, business, participation and a new way of thinking. The PPP element involves such entities as Danfoss Foundation, DONG Energy, NORDEA Foundation, SE Energy, Sønderborg Municipality and Sønderborg Utility.

ProjectZero’s broad goals are to harness energy from renewable sources; to use fossil fuels, if necessary, as efficiently and as cleanly as possible and to lower energy consumption in existing buildings. Starting from 2007 to date, the project has achieved 35% carbon reduction and, in the process, over-achieved its 2015 milestone of 25%, Rathje says. Enthused by that, it is targeting a 50% reduction by 2020, he adds. It has also created 800-plus green jobs in construction, industry, Green District Heating – by using solar heat, wind, geothermal and heat pumps – and energy consulting, he claims.

There is much money to be made through energy consulting and also through the selling of technologies that were evolved in meeting the needs of ProjectZero. Lauritzen says: “ProjectZero is not only good for the climate but also for business, because companies that develop solutions can export those in the future. There is also tourist potential. Business tourists from around the world travel to Sønderborg to learn about our vision. Some of the very big cities in China are coming here to see what we are doing.” For the record, Sønderborg has an ongoing Sister City Agreement with the city of Baoding, in China.

While the international participation and the monetary benefits are a blessing, an equally heartwarming narrative has to do with the people of the city. Rathje says the cooperation from the people has been a heartening feature. While the city set in motion a system where all new houses, schools and municipal buildings started going zero on fossil fuel consumption, the far greater challenge is in tackling the existing buildings, many of which are over 200 years old, making it difficult to rebuild them to a state where they can become more energy efficient. “The energy consumption of existing buildings was high,” Rathje says. “We created the ZEROfamily programme in 2009, involving 115 participating families. The impact was 25% energy savings and 45% water savings. We created the ZEROhome programme in 2010, engaging 18,600 homeowners. The programme involved visiting 1,600 homes, of which 65% have initiated retrofit with an average spend of Euros 21,000. The programme has brought energy savings up to 45% per household.”



The writer is Editor, Climate Control Middle East and Co-Founder and Editorial Director, CPI Industry.

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