3.1. Consistent Long Term Decarbonisation Target: General Absence of Long-term Full Decarbonisation Targets
Except for City A, who tentatively focuses on a long-term target-climate-neutral 2050-the other cities do not have a long-term target in mind (Table 5
). Neutral means net zero emissions over one year. In City A, this target is an intention, and every plan reflects on this target; the city vision and climate plan integrates the target. The interviewee mention that Covenant of Mayors does not go far enough and has set a climate-neutral goal by 2050 to account for all emissions.
City F has a goal of carbon neutrality by 2029, determined by a group of stakeholders in 2007, which they see as an end-goal target. City F has no target beyond the carbon-neutral target of 2029, even though carbon neutrality involves exporting energy to offset local emissions, and the reality is that emissions remain after 2029.
Most cities have a medium-term target to 2030 for municipal, residential, industrial, and transport sectors based on the SEAP ambitions, or their planning cycle. Some cities have not set the target yet. For instance, City E makes a new plan every ten years, and the target often follows this. In their new plan, City E will determine the target based on a recalculation of the baseline in 2017 to understand the progress so far and understand the real reduction to 2030. City D is also undecided for 2030.
Most cities do not aim for complete decarbonisation and have explicit opinions about this. They see medium-term targets (2030) as incremental goals from which to make a new target when the time comes and do not mention in connection to longer-term scenario creation. City D sees long-term targets with high decarbonisation is not realistic since the aim should be incremental targets. If they cannot achieve them, then they cannot set a more ambitious target. They see targets as stepping-stones from which to set new targets when the time comes, rather than a way to plan towards the long term. City D specifically stated them as not necessary, and there is no reason to make them.
Some cities simply align with the region or country. For instance, City H will likely align with the regional government target of 80% reduction by 2050. Furthermore, City B has set a carbon-neutral goal for 2037; however, the interviewee sees carbon-neutral as a political target and unrealistic and achieved with creative accounting. City B is in the process of making new targets and stated they are likely to follow the national government net-zero target by 2045. Although the interviewee of City B says that the EU 80% reduction by 2050 is very ambitious and before making these types of ambitious targets, they need to ensure it is achievable. They continue by saying they need to be careful when making strategy documents.
3.2. National to Local Coordination: Soft Links from Local to National Goals
All the cities have a connection to targets of other authorities but not always the national level (either national, regional, or other municipalities). For instance, in some cities, the national or regional level is not ambitious enough. For example, City A has Europe as a reference, not national or regional, since they are too slow and not ambitious enough. Also, City G is pushing the national level by having more ambitious targets along with the capital city.
A few cities follow national goals. City B tries to achieve national government goals in their local goals by aligning with the national government by focusing on sustainability, carbon reductions, and fuel poverty. City C link their climate program to regional and national goals. City F follows the national legislation about making commune plans, which contains a link with the national target. But not so much the EU.
City D collaborates with other municipalities and exchanges information and is in line with the goals and principles of surrounding municipalities. They are also part of the broader national framework and follow the national priorities and see how they fit with them. In general, they fit because they harmonize with the EU goals.
3.3. Holistic, Systemic Approach and Systemic Awareness: Scenario Outcomes Informing Traditional Urban Planning Actions and Problems
Cities D–H are moving beyond their SEAP 2020. They are following the Foresight method and are forecasting technology trends in their scenarios. The expected outcome from these scenarios is often similar in regards to understanding the effects of actions based on technology types, characteristics, and costs. For instance, City E sees the scenario foresight activity useful to give the possibility to identify and understand priorities and main action line strategies for the highly important but uncertain drivers of change, with the scenarios showing the drivers for future years. They will use scenarios to quantify the effects of actions. City F sees scenarios as a tool in the process of finding specific projects. City F quantitative scenarios partly inspired the commune plan with actions and have already taken scenario results and translated and integrated some actions into the commune plan.
City G also stated that scenario results and objectives go hand in hand with action plans. They mention that action plans are separate but need to suggest actions that will support the objectives when working with stakeholders. City G expresses that these people usually use a very practical approach to planning and do not function from pure theoretical concepts of energy and climate policy. They want to see what exactly will happen; therefore, they say they always discuss feasible actions together with ambitious targets. City G will try to include more social translation and visualisations of scenario results.
City D sees scenarios as rooted in economic reasoning and a way to quantify and determine economic feasibility and CO2 reductions from energy measures to determine the measures. They use scenarios to optimize for economics, finding the optimal scenario in terms of achieving targets with optimum resources. City D does not see it as possible to ignore economics within the scenarios since private entities need to know the economics of projects. Furthermore, the scenarios show which measures and costs to include in the urban plan and from where the money comes. Although City D mentions that they see scenarios useful for setting up future targets, they base it on finding the most sensitive variables and most influential end results from which the largest impacts can come.
City B has shifted from a technology focus to a problem-based approach focusing on scenarios for particular problems they face or related to the EU projects in which they participate. City B has done numerous scenarios for numerous components of the energy system. For example, one project focused on EVs and the effect on the grid. City B is now developing a local heating and efficiency strategy in response to its energy poverty challenges.
City A stressed they are now at a point where they are always trying to make the step from vision to action as short as possible. City A did an energy scenario for the city using a consultancy. They are now focusing on districts and replicating one plan from one district to another; therefore, they used the scenario results to “zoom” into certain districts going into detail about thresholds and possibilities. They state that zooming into districts gives better insights to tackle challenges and make tailor-made actions for investors.
3.3.1. Simple Scenario Calculations and External Support
Based on the action-oriented scenarios, cities often focus on simple approaches, continue from previous activities, or simply leave quantification to external consultants.
City G will utilize an Excel spreadsheet and use and modify calculations looking at several reductions and total CO2, based on assumptions for different scenarios. E.g., electricity reduction, recalculation of emissions from electricity. They also want an energy balance and flow chart of the city, with the primary sources of energy coming in and used inside the municipality.
City E is starting from SWOT analysis of the city and questionnaires (similar to the SEAP process and standard in the Foresight method), saying then they will have a useful input for scenario planning and the definition of main strategic actions.
In City D, new scenarios will build on the old ones and introduce the Foresight method, considering technical, economic, financial, administrative, legal, and administrative aspects. City D scenarios will investigate the achievements, what is the current status, and what are the different potential areas. They then look at what is economically feasible after choosing the potential actions in different areas and different technologies based on the previous plan.
City H will leave quantification up to a consulting company prescribing that they want impacts on CO2 quantified in the tender. City H will also hire a consultancy for developing the energy transition strategy. The consultancy develops the energy transition strategy from scenarios with budget and activities prioritized with estimated impacts. The strategy is used as the backbone of the system giving the timeline and roadmap over the next years for the city as a whole, integrating mobility, retrofitting, and renewable energies. The “energy centre” of the authority will assist and advise on the process and how to identify sector stakeholder activities and prepare the timeline and budget estimations with the consultancy help too.
City F also used external support for societal vision scenarios about the future to 2050, and detailed quantitative energy system scenarios for carbon neutral in 2029. Their detailed quantitative scenarios determined how the energy system would look when carbon neutral in 2029, and their qualitative scenarios looked into the future to start to think about how to act on that.
City B focus on specific problems leading them to focus on particular energy components. They work with external support for addressing different issues; for instance, they work with a University using modeling to understand impacts of energy efficiency on buildings, optimum charge and discharge efficiency of batteries concerning solar with the output being CO2 reductions.
Although some cities have made detailed decarbonisation studies, this has led to limited influence. For instance, City A has done detailed scenario work for the city, but the work emphasized biomass and therefore was not useful. However, they say it was helpful to have expert input, and they have utilised its detailed energy scenario to focus on districts.
City C has a fossil-free 2050 investigation, kept active in planning circles; however, its climate program does not integrate it well. The investigation suggested dozens of measures in different areas, e.g., car traffic, buildings, cycling, walking, mass transit, energy efficiency, air traffic, renewable energy, renewable fuels, and so on. Broad measurements for each measure were quantified rather than specific, with measures evaluated on either having a minor, medium, or significant impact on climate emissions. The cost of each measure was also estimated, with an additional aim to quantify the time horizon for when the measure reaches full potential. However, this investigation has a limited influence on actual planning and decision making.
3.3.2. Systemic Thinking versus Silo Thinking
Cities are not speaking about systemic integration and interconnection of technologies in an energy system. Rather than placing the measure or action in an energy system context, typical answers from the cities focus on off-the-shelf silo thinking where they see solutions as being available, and the only issue is purchasing and implementation. Which is likely related to the focus on actions and simple approaches. For instance, some cities stated that all or some of the necessary technologies are already there, such as district heating or ICT (City H, City G). City G says that it is not a question of technology since new efficient technologies are on the market for all sectors. They see technology implementation as a critical challenge and only about replacing energy-efficient technologies.
Some cities emphasise only one energy sector. For instance, City H emphasise reducing and electrifying demands by focusing on high capacity electric transport and electric public transport (e.g., 100% electric busses and electric trams), and EVs. They state that batteries are necessary for renewable energy, and costs are decreasing, and this has a significant impact on the city.
Cities appear to focus on the elements they have influence over; for instance, cities often focus on municipally-owned assets, particularly buildings (standard in SEAPs). City E mentioned the installation of micro-wind systems in public buildings (e.g., schools), installation of PV panels in public buildings (e.g., schools), retrofitting in public buildings for energy efficiency purposes. Generally, the cities focus on energy efficiency (i.e., converting boilers to biomass (City D)), improving insulation and windows, integrating renewable energy (e.g., PV on rooftops during retrofitting (City H)).
Some cities don’t know if it is essential to upscale or interconnect actions. City E is such a city; however, they mention that if going for 100% renewable in 2050, then they probably would shift from being a consumer to a producer of energy, so the focus should be on renewables and from waste, biogas, thus indicating some systemic thinking. Some systemic thinking is evident by City G saying that it is not just about technology; it is also about rearranging their processes to be more efficient and waste less. City G is looking at energy communities, collective production, collective ownership of energy production, and they say that if the aim is to develop PV or similar, then they need co-ops.
City D has a different concept of the energy system; they explain about systemic energy in terms of the building level, considering energy efficiency from insulation and windows, renewables on rooftops, and heat pumps.
City F took a systemic energy approach in their scenarios where they are focusing on integrating district heating, wind, solar thermal, solar PV, and biogas. They agreed to dozens of project proposals, and they developed an energy strategy to 2025 for 75% emission reductions. Despite the systemic scenario approach, the city authority of City F translated only some elements into the commune plan. The municipality abandoned the scenario since it served its purpose for the commune plan, however the external partner and stakeholders govern the holistic overview of the measures and technologies.
Some cities are implementing system integration technologies. For instance, City B is looking at ways to bring technologies together in a holistic approach using a smart grid and energy storage to maximize the local benefit from local innovation. A lot of work that City B does is about energy efficiency and heat decarbonisation, and they have implemented numerous technologies. Including ground source heat pumps, district heating islands in housing networks linked to gas CHP, renewable solar and wind, and solar thermal. They are also starting to deploy heat pumps from the river and water source as an alternative to gas CHP.