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19 December 2019

Cologne blog: The future of GrowSmarter’s solutions

The work we have done in GrowSmarter will have a lasting impact on the City of Cologne, but hopefully also far beyond our city limits. The three ‘action areas’ all hold different promises and possibilities for our – and other smart cities – future work.

Low Energy Districts

The replication potential for refurbishment is high all over Europe, especially as public housing owners have the capacity to quickly cover a very large number of dwellings with a single action. There is also the possibility to have lower investment costs by contracting large projects based on our experience in GrowSmarter where we refurbished no less than 687 dwellings.

The City of Cologne is now looking actively into finding other quarters or neighbourhoods where similar measures could be implemented as the next pilots, both in areas with single-family owners and not. We are also developing new guidelines for sustainable city planning to include climate protection measures at an early stage, such as energy and mobility concepts, as part of the early planning procedure for new buildings and areas.


The development of mobility stations and the introduction of E-bike sharing and E-car-sharing as well as shared parking in GrowSmarter currently serves as a role model for the entire City of Cologne in order to improve traffic flows. The public transportation company KVB will purchase more bicycles in Cologne as a result of the successful implementation and will gradually expand the operating area to all of Cologne.

Expansion of charging infrastructure is a priority in Cologne, as in most European cities. The City has developed a comprehensive master plan for future mobility stations including e-vehicles with the plan to implement it as funding arises. Currently, the question of who will be running the mobility stations is being discussed within the various branches of public services.

Integrated infrastructure

The third action area of GrowSmarter was integrated infrastructure – looking into the possibilities of using data to better reach our ambitions of fighting climate change and make our cities more sustainable. In Cologne, the topic of a big open data platform has received much attention on a city-wide scale and is in the process of city-wide negotiations regarding the use and implementation of a big data platform with the entire municipality.

These discussions are based on the work we have done to successfully implement big data platforms in GrowSmarter.

City-to-city engagement to share our Smart solutions

The city limits of Leverkusen borders the project area in Mülheim. In Leverkusen, the company Bayer is the largest employer after Ford. Therefore, the commuter flows between Cologne and Leverkusen are an issue to be solved for the city administration of Leverkusen. The City of Leverkusen has been working on mobility concepts for five years and wanted to look at the GrowSmarter solutions in the Stegerwaldsiedlung. Representatives from Leverkusen’s city administration from the areas of urban planning, climate protection and traffic joined us on September 30, 2019 to learn more about our mobility solutions. The solution of a mobility station is currently not available in Leverkusen, but the representatives consider the concept to be transferable. The idea to make the common multi-ticket available for different means of transportation, as done in Cologne, will be tried in any case. Since Leverkusen still has a large buildable area near the city boundary, there are good reasons to begin cooperation with Cologne. The intensive talks will continue on a bilateral level.

GrowSmarter presented itself at InterGeo Stuttgart

The InterGeo Conference and Trade Fair is the largest SmartCity fair in Germany and had 22,000 visitors stop by in September 2019. The Cologne leader on mobility, Carsten Rickers, presented our mobility-solutions in a 2.5-hour session and discussed mobility concepts with representatives from other cities. At another session we shared our evaluation results and our outlook on how the smart city models we have used can be transferred to other cities to further the rollout of smart cities.

The city of Cologne was not alone in presenting our results at this forum and we were joined by successful start-up companies with different smart city solutions. We used our engagement at the conference to discuss how the cooperation between city, business and science can become even more successful in the future. This resulted in important inputs and possible new partnerships between Cologne and industrial partners in future projects.

Local celebration of GrowSmarter

Shortly before the end of the GrowSmarter project, it was important for the representatives of the City of Cologne and the industry partners to invite the residents of the Mülheim project area to a final event on November 7. Without the active participation of local residents, the implementation of the GrowSmarter measures would not have been possible. In particular, the tenants of the Stegerwaldsiedlung had to endure during the energy efficient refurbishment of their apartments; issues such as noise, elimination of parking lots, outsourcing of furniture in containers have been dealt with by the residents and the project partners wanted to thank them with this event.

We invited all the tenants and the District Mayor of Mülheim gave an outlook on what further developments are expected for the district of Mülheim and how the residents will benefit from it. Dr. Barbara Möhlendick, my colleague as GrowSmarter’s site manager in Cologne, briefly summed up the results of the project, emphasizing that residents can be proud of their neighbourhood being a role model for the rest of Europe.

We also had the opportunity to present  GrowSmarter at the local housing conference 'Wachstum-Wandel-Wohnen'. The conference was held with multiple internal and external stakeholders on December 7 in Cologne. GrowSmarter was presented in the session on 'Preserving good things and daring new things'. Those kinds of events are a good chance to reach the existing building sector which is becoming more and more important and interesting to all stakeholders.

Cologne at the final conference of the EU-project GrowSmarter in Stockholm

When we set out three years ago, together with Barcelona and Stockholm, to prepare our city to join the fight against climate change, the aim was to develop measures contributing to save energy, reduce CO2 emissions and improve the quality of life for citizens throughout Europe.

So being at the final conference of GrowSmarter was a great experience for Cologne. In the presence of the Mayor of Stockholm Anna King Jerlmyr, the Commissioner of the 2030 Agenda 2030 at the City of Barcelona Miquel Rodriguez and the Vice-Mayor from Cologne Dr. Heinen, the success of the project was clearly presented.

City officials agree that the project is a major milestone in sustainable urban development and will therefore be a model for other cities in Europe. This already applies to the five Follower Cities (Cork, Graz, Suceava, Valetta and Porto).

The results are so convincing that the project has won numerous awards and prizes, such as in Cologne the special award of the BMWi on intelligent regions in Germany of the initiative "Intelligent networking", the award as NRW climate protection neighborhood, the award of the VKU of the innovative software Siedlungsmanagement management of RheinEnergie.

In Cologne, here in the Mülheim project area and the Stegerwaldsiedlung, the ambitious targets for CO2 savings and for the reduction of primary energy have been achieved. The deployment of mobility stations in the project area with connection to public transport, Car-Sharing, Bike-Sharing, online parking reservation and public charging stations has proven itself as an alternative to private cars and will now be rolled out on city-wide-scale in Cologne within the framework of the Green City Master Plan.

The surrounding cities and communities are also working within the larger network to support and implement mobility stations.

The Stegerwaldsiedlung is the largest self-contained neighbourhood area selected for a project such as GrowSmarter. The savings of CO2 by up to 72 percent and the primary energy between 77 and 83 percent and the savings of about 60 percent in the area of mobility stations could only be achieved through the overall concept of the measures.

Responsible for our effort in Cologne was a consortium consisting of the Deutsche Wohnungsgesellschaft (e.g. energy-efficient insulation and lighting, as well as windows with triple glazing), RheinEnergie AG (control of energy consumption using the software "Siedlungsmanagement", equipment with photovoltaic systems, air heat pumps, battery storage), the KVB (BikeSharing, Multiticket), Cambio CarSharing, Ampido (Online Parking Space Reservation), AGT (Real-Time Smart Plug Measurement Data Consumption and Use Analysis) and ui!] (Urban Open Data Platform, Smart City Cockpit and GreenAir Room Climate Control) and the City of Cologne (overall project management and coordination of the individual work-packages in Cologne as well as the coordination work on the topic of integrated infrastructures on international scale).

Delegations from more than 28 countries have already experienced the measures for themselves, so the Stegerwald neighbourhood can rightly be described as a model for European cities.

Now, based on the success of the GrowSmarter project, the City of Cologne can continue the development of the sustainable SmartCity Cologne with the participating companies.

19 December 2019

Stockholm blog: Ending GrowSmarter and heating Stockholm with internet traffic

In the final days of GrowSmarter our team in Stockholm have been busy telling the world about all the solutions we implemented over the past five years. It has been a great experience with some major highlights. First, in Barcelona at the Smart City Expo World Congress, Stockholm won the World Smart City Award for our leadership of GrowSmarter. That kind of recognition for our efforts of course meant a lot to all of us involved with GrowSmarter.

Less than two weeks later we were also happy to welcome guests from all over Europe to Stockholm for the final conference of GrowSmarter. It involved speeches by our Mayor, Anna König Jerlmyr, Barcelona’s Commissioner for the 2030 Agenda Miquel Rodriguez Planas, Mayor of Cologne Dr. Ralf Heinen and Mr. Svetoslav Mihaylov from the European Commission. A lot of our industrial partners and the leaders of different technical solutions also had the chance to present the great work they have done.

On top of all the people coming to Stockholm for our final conference, I also had the pleasure of welcoming a news crew from Euronews visiting to Stockholm to do a story on the solutions we have implemented in GrowSmarter and the project as a whole. I spoke to them about why and how Stockholm worked with smart city solutions (read my previous blog detailing our many different smart city solutions and what future plans we have with them in Stockholm). The segment will be a longer one and will start airing on Euronews in January 2020.

Will the internet heat Stockholm in the future?

One of the solutions I showed to the visiting reports was the data centre, where a GrowSmarter solution implemented by Stockholm’s Exergi recovers heat and supplies it into the District Heating system.

According to Cisco the annual global internet traffic will increase threefold over the next five years and reach 4,8 zettabytes in 2022. The increase in internet traffic also means that more and more data centers must be built. Sweden is already very attractive for data center investments for several reasons. Sweden is a safe country, it has hydro power, extened optical fiber network and also a low energy tax, especially for data centers. Facebook built a datacenter in Luleå and is currently expanding it. Amazon has three datacenters near Stockholm nearing completion, Google has recently acquired 109 hectares of land in Avesta and Microsoft has acquired 130 hectares of land in Gävle for building datacenters.

The increase in global ip traffic will also increase the demand for electricity. According to the GrowSmarter partner KTH the global internet traffic is currently using 10% of the total electricity in the world so approximately 2 500 TWh per year. By comparison the total renewable electricity production was 2 100 TWh per year in 2017. Facebook has announced that it will purchase 100 percent renewable energy and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 75 percent by 2020 for their datacenters. So more and more of the renewable energy would be consumed by datacenters.

There is one very important isse that is often overlooked when these investments are mentioned: datacenters must be cooled down and in that process a lot of waste heat is produced. The size of a datacenter is defined in MW and in Sweden a datacenter of 1 MW will produce enough waste heat to heat up 1000 apartments if we can recover that heat. This can be done in cities with district heating like in Stockholm. But if you build the datacenter far outside the city, then all this waste heat is lost. Unfortunately this has happened with datacenter investments in Sweden. In Skellefteå a new data park is launched which will have a capacity of up to 120 MW and will run solely on renewable energy. It will be located on land owned by Skellefteå Kraft, next to a hydro power plant in Finnfors, Skellefteå. This village has less than 200 inhabitants, while the waste heat could heat up 120 000 apartments. The case is similar in the other large data center investments mentioned above.

Stockholm will need to build 140 000 new apartments until 2030, so how could these be heated up with waste heat from datacenters? Stockholm Exergi launched a service called ’Open district heating’ to recover excess heat from datacenters. Open District Heating enables customer to gain revenue on its excess heat that otherwise have been wasted and it was launched to market 2014. Today it has 30 customers and during 2018 a total amount of 113 GWh heat was recovered, corresponding heating of 31 000 apartments p.a. In the GrowSmarter project heat is recovered from GleSYS’s data center in Västberga in the southern part of Stockholm. Two heat pumps were installed in June -17. The heat pumps (Carrier 61XWH-ZE0501) are the first of its kind in Sweden with a heat output temperature of 85 °C and with refrigerant HFO R1234ze that reduces the environmental impact compared to traditional refrigerants.

Joakim Jarstorp, Head of the Data Center of GleSys. He is being interviewed by Cyril Fourneris from EuroNewsJoakim Jarstorp, Head of the Data Center of GleSys. He is being interviewed by Cyril Fourneris from EuroNews

We have now evaluated this installation both technically and economically. For Stockholm Exergi the recovered heat has been cost efficient compared to other ways of producing heat. With a large-scale implementation of heat recovery into the district heating network, Stockholm Exergi gains other values such as avoided peak production capacity investments and reduced operation and maintenance costs thanks to third party ownership of the production asset. For the data center, Glesys, heat recovery generates a revenue stream from the waste heat that otherwise would cost money to get rid of.

Glesys had expansion plans for the data center and an investment need for more cooling capacity. Instead of another conventional cooling machine the growSmarter heat pump solution with heat recovery was chosen. Comparing with the traditional option this measure shows economical gains for the supplier with a pay-back period for the supplier of about 5 years’ time. The economical values will sustain over the total technical lifetime of approximately 15-25 years.

If we do want to heat up the new apartments with waste heat from datacenters, Stockholm needs to attract investments into the city. Stockholm Data Parks is an initiative by the City of Stockholm, district heating and cooling provider Stockholm Exergi, power grid operator Ellevio and dark fiber provider Stokab. The vision is a data center industry where no heat is wasted. The City’s objective is to be entirely fossil fuel free by 2040, and invite data centers to play a key role in this transition. IP-Only Enterprise is one of the companies now investing in Stockholm Data Park. The data center size will be approximately 24 MW and this can heat up 24 000 apartments in 2022.

So to answer my original question. Yes, the internet could heat up most of the 140 000 new apartments expected to be built in Stockholm by 2030. All we need for that to happen is datacentes investments in Stockholm where the waste heat can be recovered.

Remember to check out all our GrowSmarter reports on or follow us on Twitter to be updated on the final announcements still to come from the project.


18 December 2019

Barcelona Blog: Using GrowSmarter solutions to achieve Barcelona’s ambitions

The solutions developed in GrowSmarter have made Barcelona smarter and more sustainable, and they have the potential to do the same for Europe. Here in Barcelona, the GrowSmarter team is sure of this and have spent the final months of the project sharing that knowledge with the world. Our solutions on Low Energy Districts, Integrated Infrastructures and Sustainable Urban Mobility are fully implemented and validated, so we were able to bring the solutions and the lessons learnt to a number of high level events.

Most recently (on December 12, 2019), we arranged a session at COP25 in Madrid showcasing how urban innovation can play a role in fighting climate change and fulfil the 2030 Agenda. At the session, Barcelona’s Commissioner for the 2030 Agenda, Miquel Rodriguez Planas, participated together with GrowSmarter’s project manager Lisa Enarsson (Stockholm) and Miguel Á. García from the European project Remourban. It was led by our partners from Anteverti led by Ana Alcantud.

They discussed the importance of building partnerships between different stakeholders when taking large scale action like what we have done in GrowSmarter. And they agreed that large scale action must be taken to fight climate change!

After the session on how innovative urban technologies can fight climate change, a group of political representatives took the stage to confirm their commitment to sustainable urban development. The Deputy Mayor of Barcelona, Ms. Laia Bonet, was joined by Mr. Oscar Puente Santiago, Mayor of the City of Valladolid, Ms. Ana Oregi, Deputy Major of City of Vitoria-Gasteiz and Mr. Mohammed Boudra, President of United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), all agreed that urban areas are important centres of action in the fight against climate change. 

This kind of high level commitment is a great promise to the future of smart city solutions, and the solutions we have implemented in Barcelona. Measures such as our distribution of freight in the inner city using e-cargobikes (reducing Co2 emissions related to freight delivery by 96%) and our work with local renewable energy generation, are ready to be upscaled and replicated throughout Europe.

Focusing on Low Energy Districts in Barcelona

An important part of the work we have done in Barcelona has been centred on the creation and evaluation of Low Energy Districts. Our partners, led by Naturgy and Catalonia’s Institute for Energy Research (IREC), have worked hard to complete energy efficient refurbishments of old cultural heritage buildings, public housing, private housing and in in different types of privately owned recreational buildings.

On November 18th, the day before the Smart City Expo World Congress started, we therefore invited participants to a day presenting all the work we have to implement energy efficient refurbishments in GrowSmarter. We presented the main conclusions of GrowSmarter’s work with Energy refurbishment and had a chance to showcase the large solar pagoda currently supplying almost 5 percent of the energy consumption at the 20-storey building skyscraper Mare Nostrum Tower.

The day after, during the Smart City Expo World Congress, we momentarily stepped away from the congress at Fira Barcelona to show more smart solutions to interested congress-goers. We had an opportunity to see our e-charging infrastructure – set up by our partner Endesa – and the Smart Towers deployed by Cellnex which turn normal street lights into small urban telecom sites helping to connect the City of Barcelona.

To learn more about all the solutions, we have implemented in Barcelona, I encourage you to look through the GrowSmarter publications, where you will find factsheets, final reports on each action area, a report on introducing smart city solutions to the market and a thorough technical validation of all our work. If you represent a city hoping to implement a smart city strategy you can also benefit from reading our guide to replication.