The Nordic countries seem to have found the recipe for smart and sustainable development of their cities and municipalities.
They are moving in the right direction to cut greenhouse gas emissions in order to meet the Paris Agreement climate goals, they are doing this while increasing the quality of life for their citizens and educating the population on the benefits of a more sustainable future. Often, projects developed by Nordic countries are examples to be followed by others across the globe.
If you look closely you will discover that smart city projects developed in the Nordic region engage a series of actors, all equally important for the delivery of a successful result. Bringing together academia, local authorities, citizens, consultants and vendors together is proving to be a fruitful strategy when it comes to building cities of the future.
In part 1 of this 3 part feature, we want to show you how five cities in the Nordic region are working towards a smarter and more sustainable future.
Fossil Fuel Free City – Växjö (Sweden)
Växjö is a town in southern Sweden’s Kronoberg County and it is committed to becoming a fossil fuel free city by 2030. The city’s vision is more focused on finding sustainable solutions for climate and energy issues, including energy use and transportation. Växjö’s vision is also one of the first to be transformed into action. By 1980, the city had already started the transition towards renewable energy through their District Heating Plan which started shifting from oil to biomass making Växjö the first city in Sweden to make this transition. Today, all the district heating systems in the city are running on renewable energy.
In order to get make the vision a reality, the municipality is working on three main themes. First, on increasing the share of renewable energy, at the same time, to make energy use more efficient and shifting to more sustainable modes of transport.
When speaking of ongoing projects, the city is part of an EU-funded project, Ready, which deals with the renovation of buildings to make them more energy efficient and through which they are expecting to reduce energy consumption by at least half. Through the same project, Växjö is also setting up strategies for electric vehicle charging.
Moreover, the city is conducting an organic waste collection program. Right now, 85% of household are participating in the program in which the organic waste is transformed into bio-fuel which is then used in the public transport system.
Talking about public transport, authorities are currently working on setting up specific lanes for buses, which will limit the number of cars allowed to run in the area.
On the other hand, the city is going to regulate the process of construction by regulating the use of materials and the techniques used during the building process, businesses that want to build in Växjö will have to adjust their building strategies to the new regulations.
Collaboration is the Key! – Stockholm (Sweden)
We can’t think of smart cities and not include the Swedish capital. It is one of the leaders of smart and sustainable development, providing some of the greatest examples of good practice to the world.
The City of Stockholm has the vision to become more sustainable, innovative and the big aim of being world’s smartest city by 2040.
The inclusion process has been a focus from the start. The city’s strategy has been developed together with residents, academia, business and analysis of global developments. The strategy includes dialogues with inhabitants of all ages, a two-way communication between local authorities and the citizens held through social media with more than 3350 people providing feedback through digital channels.
The City of Stockholm is also taking collaboration to another level. Included in their strategy is an active exchange of best practices that have taken place in other cities that have made progress in their efforts to become smarter cities.
When it comes to innovation, The City of Stockholm, in cooperation with KTH (Royal Institute of Technology), Ericsson, Vattenfall, ABB, Skanska and Scania, has established the innovation arena Digital Demo Stockholm. The arena will run projects to develop sustainable and innovative, digital solutions that contribute to improving the quality of life for the people of Stockholm. Another partnership is the Urban ICT Arena in Kista Science City, where the City together with the industry and universities tests new technology and new services.
When it comes to infrastructure it is worth mentioning the city’s smart bins, which are fitted with solar-powered software, mobile devices and sensors that report in real time when they are about to become full and it is time for emptying.
In public transport, the city is using a traffic management system that reduces travel time and helps the blue inner city buses to keep the schedule, regardless of traffic conditions.
The Stockholm Public Library, in cooperation with Malmö City Library and through grants from Kulturrådet (the Arts Council) developed Bibblix, which is an app where children aged 6–12 can borrow ebooks directly via the app. Bibblix combines reading inspiration with a large, professional selection of children’s books.
Clean Energy City – Frederikshavn (Denmark)
In 2007, the northern Danish city of Frederikshavn set itself the ambitious goal of becoming the first European city to operate solely on renewable energy. To achieve this goal, they put together the pioneering Energibyen (‘Energy City’) initiative which aims to create a 100% renewable energy system by tapping multiple energy sources rather than only one.
In order to have 100% renewable energy supply and optimum energy use, the main points of the city’s strategy includes plans to increase the basis of resources by further development and promotion of local, renewable energy resources, continuous promotion of efficient utilisation of energy resources, for example, by supporting energy savings in buildings. Authorities are also working towards supporting the effort of the energy supply companies to convert to renewable energy production and are promoting the use of renewable fuels in the transport sector including public transport. Many of the city’s efforts are in support of innovation, development and demonstration projects in preparation for the promotion of renewable industrial development.
The Frederikshavn Energy City partnership between the city and university has developed into a close cooperation between researchers, practitioners and politicians. In this way, the city has been able to create a sustainable partnership with the university, which continues to act as a source of inspiration and as a potential developer of future activities.
The Frederikshavn project gives priority to large energy infrastructure investments with positive spin-offs for the local economy and labour market, as well as to the involvement of local communities and citizens.
In addition to facilitating the implementation of large-scale investment projects, researchers also put a special emphasis on civic dialogue, providing information for businesses and residents and guidance for those wishing to invest in renewable energy. The provision of expertise and guidance for property owners intending to improve the energy efficiency of existing private and public buildings is also a priority.
The Future is Smart – Tampere (Finland)
When it comes to vision, Tampere wants everything to be smart. Smart industry, smart healthcare, smart mobility, smart buildings, smart infrastructure, smart education and smart governance and smart citizens.
The city is making small moves in every direction. By collaborating with relevant actors in each field, like academia, consultants and private companies, the city is building up their vision to create one of the most digitalised cities in the world.
Every ongoing or future project developed in and by the City of Tampere is focusing on the digitalisation of the town’s systems. They believe that their strategy will add values to the city as a whole, inasmuch as the quality of life will increase, the services and information will have a higher quality and be more accessible. Tampere is also betting on the promise of digitalisation to cut costs and make the community safer and more secure.
The new city tramway system represents a testbed for smart mobility solutions as well as for smart building and smart infrastructure solutions.
Digital solutions will be put to test in a residential area that will be built on the site of an old pulp factory, Hiedanranta, right on the shore of Lake Näsijärvi.
Given that Tampere is home to some top technological universities it is no wonder its hunger for development focuses on advanced solutions that will improve the quality of life across the city.
Small Cities Solve Big Problems – Vejle (Denmark)
The city of Vejle is Denmark’s ninth largest city, yet a small lighthouse city that wants to demonstrate how small cities can take on the responsibility of bringing forth solutions to big problems.
Its vision is to become a resilient city, one that is robust, cohesive and sustainable by putting public authorities and private companies at the same table to find the best solutions that will help to achieve this vision.
The City of Vejle is basing their strategy on four simple pillars. Firstly, co-creation will enable the public and private sector to engage in prosperous partnerships. Secondly, they want to use climate change as a driver for sustainable development. Next, Vejle aims to create a socially resilient city by having a cohesive community. Finally, the city is tackling new technologies in order to become a smart city and to improve co-creation, efficiency, outreach and inclusivity.
Through the 100 Resilient City, an organisation dedicated to helping cities around the world become more resilient to the physical, social and economic challenges that are a growing part of the 21st century, Vejle has convened in Rotterdam for a Network Exchange on integrated water management. This will help the city find solutions that will tackle water crises, like droughts, floods, sea level rise and pollution, but also connect water to economic opportunity and recreation.