Technology and knowledge transfer for the energy transition at municipal level

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What steps can Swiss municipalities take to achieve the energy transition? Probl
What steps can Swiss municipalities take to achieve the energy transition? Problems and solutions were discussed at the Empa Academy. Image: Empa
Under the motto "Idea generation and co-creation processes to promote technology transfer", around 60 participants from research, business, cantons and municipalities discussed innovative approaches to the energy transition at Empa in Dübendorf on 24 November. New ideas in the areas of mobility, heat production and renovation were discussed in the context of practical solutions for municipalities.

During the course of the networking event, it became clear that many municipalities still lack strategies and effective measures in the three key areas of mobility, heating and renovation. Experts from Empa, among others, showed how precise operating data on the Swiss vehicle fleet (cars and trucks) can promote the conversion of the fleet, the addition of charging stations or shared mobility concepts and how building simulations can support energy-efficient renovation strategies. The canton of Lucerne presented how a publicly accessible online tool with GIS data in the heating/cooling sector can promote the phase-out of gas and oil.

A common problem: outdated and inaccessible data

In the discussion, the participants emphasized that there is a lack of good data in all areas. For example, the local building and housing register (GWR) is often not up to date. Municipalities often have far better data. However, it is usually not digitized and therefore difficult to make use of. Municipalities lack financial and human resources to electronically process this crucial dataset. Moreover, much of the data is not accessible to the public due to data protection and thus cannot be used to raise public awareness, which is urgently needed.

"Those who are willing look for solutions. Those who don’t are looking for reasons (to do nothing)," one of the speakers concluded their presentation. Overall, the participants agreed that more courage to take risks is needed in all areas and that waiting for the perfect solution is often counterproductive.

The City of Zurich demonstrated the importance of acting quickly by expanding its thermal networks. The comparison between an optimized conventional expansion (90% CO2-neutral) and an "ideological" expansion (100% CO2-neutral) shows that the final expansion step of the second variant would only be realized at least three years later. This means that, in terms of total CO2 emissions, this variant would not have an advantage until the year 2048. The conclusion of the city: Variant 1 with possible subsequent improvements is preferable.

In the course of the network event, it also became clear that rapid action requires a more intensive exchange with all stakeholders and interest groups. As it became clear in the workshop on mobility, sustainable mobility does not simply mean switching to electric cars. It means less mobility with one’s own car - or even less mobility in general. And this, like many things related to the energy transition, can only be achieved through a far-reaching dialog with all stakeholders.