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Case Studies and Strategic Guidance for Urban Decision Makers: A Guidebook on Successful Urban Energy Planning

Ken Church, CanmetENERGY
Jessica Webster, CanmetCanmetENERGY

Authors from other participating countries:

Helmut Strasser, Salzburger Institut für Raumordnung und Wohnen Olivier Pol, Austrian Institute of Technology GmbH

S. Svendsen, Danish Technical University
A. dalla Rosa, Danish Technical University

Jiri Nieminen, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland

Pascal Girault, EIFER European Institute for Energy Research
Andreas Koch, EIFER European Institute for Energy Research

H. Erhorn-Kluttig, Fraunhofer Institut IBP
H. Erhorn, Fraunhofer Institut IBP
Carsen Beier Fraunhofer Institut UMSICHT
Armand Dütz, pro:21
Reinhard Jank Volkswohnung GmbH, Karlsruhe

S. Sadohara. Yokohama National University;
Royota Kuzuki, Tokyo Gas Co., Ltd.

Heimo Zinko, University of Linköping
Bahram Moshfegh, University of Linköping

The Netherlands
Jacques Kimman, Hogeschool Zuyd Heerlen
Wendy Broers, Hogeschool Zuyd Heerlen
Eric Willems Cauberg Huygen b.v. (Maas¬tricht)

Publication Date: November, 2013

Link to External Website: Copies can be purchased from Fraunhofer IRB


From 2009 to 2012, 10 countries contributed their expertise in energy efficient communities to develop case studies of energy efficient neighbourhoods and cities and better understand barriers to and means of successful municipal energy and climate planning. This research Annex took place within the framework of the International Energy Agency (IEA)’s Energy in Buildings and Communities program. Complete results are summarized in the guidebook Case Studies and Guidelines for Energy Efficient Communities: A Guidebook on Successful Urban Energy Planning.


Considering the large energy conservation and greenhouse gas reduction potentials in cities and the disappointing results of municipal energy policies, what are the barriers to achieving long-term energy goals in cities? What can be learned from case studies of neighborhoods, districts and cities that have been successful?

Research Methodology

The initial hypothesis was that technical barriers to successful municipal energy and climate policy included insufficient: strategic planning know-how, inadequate implementation management capacity and a lack of available tools and instruments for decision making, planning and monitoring.

Research activities were organized into four sub-tasks:

  • Subtask A Review of existing organizational models, planning tools and implementation instruments
  • Subtask B Case studies on energy planning and implementation strategies for neighbourhoods
  • Subtask C Case studies and bottleneck analysis of local energy and CO2 planning initiatives in municipalities
  • Subtask D Guidebook and District Energy Concept Advisor for pre-feasibility evaluation of district energy systems


Energy efficient city case studies revealed local energy planning initiatives of seven cities. Five steps were identified:

  • Step 1 Create an energy and emissions inventory or balance
  • Step 2 Engage stakeholders, create a vision and set targets
  • Step 3 Assess opportunities and develop future scenarios
  • Step 4 Create municipal energy master plans and neighbourhood energy plans
  • Step 5 Implement plans and projects, monitor, evaluate and adjust the process

Local energy and emissions planning stakeholders encounter challenges in their day to day work including a lack of organization within sectors, management structures not set up to work within and between organizations and incremental short term thinking. Disciplines such as urban planning, infrastructure, energy, transportation, facilities management, architecture in practice are often carried out in isolation. Systematic transfer of knowledge and lessons learned to move technical innovations from research and development to broad application in urban development is also lacking. These barriers impede energy analysis and implementation of energy and emissions projects at the neighbourhood and city scales.
Despite these challenges, eight guidelines for local energy planning success are also identified:

  1. Create an inspiring vision
  2. Cultivate an integrated approach to management, process and organization
  3. Evaluate the local context in your city and make a transition analysis
  4. Exercise smart leadership
  5. Ensure participation and create new coalitions
  6. Enhance skills and know-how within the municipal administration
  7. Emphasize monitoring
  8. Create a realistic financing plan

A key means of putting these guidelines into action is forming an energy working group or team. Team members should include elected officials, municipal staff, stakeholder group representatives, dedicated citizens and external experts. Establishing and maintaining an energy working group will help ensure ongoing energy master plan implementation and maintain knowledge across election cycles and staff changes.

Implications and Applications

The guidebook will be useful to municipal officials and policy makers seeking to learn from international best practices towards improving their own community energy planning processes. Promotes and understanding of common bottlenecks and successful organizational procedures to increase effectiveness and project implementation.

Funding for this study was provided by Natural Resources Canada’s Program of Energy Research and Development (PERD).

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