From nearly-zero energy buildings to net-zero energy districts

Communities in Europe are pioneering energy self-sufficiency projects, shifting from individual buildings to the neighbourhood level. 

A new JRC report explores the advantages and challenges of the net-zero energy districts approach.

Buildings are responsible for approximately 40% of energy consumption and 36% of CO2 emissions in the EU, making them the single largest energy consumer in Europe.

Almost 75% of the building stock is energy inefficient, but only 0.4-1.2% (depending on the country) of buildings are renovated each year.

By improving energy performance in buildings, the EU can more readily achieve its energy and climate goals.

Typically when talking about energy efficiency and renewable energy production in buildings, the focus tends to be mainly on individual buildings.

However now, the implementation of the EU 2020 energy and climate targets has been triggering the transformation of Europe’s neighbourhoods to net-zero energy districts.

Towards net zero energy districts – examples.

A new report by the JRC analyses seven frontrunner municipalities, with very diverse experiences, which have set ambitious targets to reduce their energy demand and to increase the share of their energy supply from local renewable energy sources.

  • In Cloughjordan, Ireland already 350 buildings have been renovated, leading to 3.5 MWh/year of energy consumption reduction. A new eco-village of 132 houses is heated entirely by renewable energy sources.
  • Helsingør, Denmark and Helsingborg, Sweden. Helsingborg wants to be a carbon neutral municipality by 2030 and 100% renewable energy district heating by 2035. Helsingør wants to reach carbon neutrality by 2050.
  • Croatian Hvar Island authorities want to achieve 20% of energetic self-sufficiency till 2020 and increase the security of supply on the island by optimising the energy consumption of the buildings in the private and public sector.
  • Austrian Stadtwerk in Salzburg region aims to become climate neutral, fossil fuel free and nearly energy independent by 2050. The heat demand for the new buildings is 75% lower than the current standard. Solar energy now covers about 35% of the annual heat demand, and the district uses 78% less of energy coming from fossil fuels.
  • Valby district in Copenhagen, Denmark wants to supply 15% of all electricity from photovoltaics. Almost 300 housing units and 13.500 m² of public buildings were renovated and 500 new energy efficient housing units were built in Copenhagen (40.000 m²).
  • In Zaragoza, Spain, 9650 social housings were built based on bioclimatic principles, with an average reduction of heating consumption of 75%.
  • Cernier, Val-de-Ruz, Switzerland, aims at reaching self-sufficiency by 2030. Already now energy savings in renovated buildings reached on average more than 70%.

The seven projects, described in the JRC report, are an impressive example of very ambitious climate and energy measures that can be achieved by local authorities with a pivotal role of citizen engagement and action.

All of these projects, selected among more than 60 identified zero energy districts in Europe, adopted a holistic approach to energy efficiency, with a special focus on energy efficiency in buildings (new and renovated).

They represent an important source of inspiration and valuable information for policy makers at different levels of the urgent energy and climate challenges.

Source: JRC

Further information and Report: HERE

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