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Making Aarhus Climate-Neutral, One District At A Time

The second largest city in Denmark, Aarhus has set forth a vision to become climate-neutral by 2030. The city has made laudable progress over the years towards this goal. By tapping into alternative energy sources for electricity production, by improving energy performance of the building stock, by implementing energy-saving LED technology in street lighting, by investing in sustainable mobility, digitalisation and carbon capture, Aarhus is not only doing the talk but also walking the walk when it comes to energy transition.


Aarhus

Still, much remains to be done to decarbonise the whole city, as currently Aarhus emits almost 1.3 million tonnes of CO2e annually. The total footprint is split between several domains.

 

Transport (626,000 tonnes): by far the largest emissions domain and the hardest one to change. Electric vehicles will help lower emissions, but it will take time before all 150,000 cars in Aarhus go electric and there is enough green energy to power them.

 

Energy (466,000 tonnes): the future energy mix will need to be further diversified by incorporating traditionally under-represented sources like geothermal power. It currently accounts for less than 1% of the district heating, but this will change when the new 110MW geothermal plant is built, with the share is expected to rise to 20%, leading to a reduction of 165,000 tonnes annually.

 

Waste (82,000 tonnes): most emissions here - methylene (CH2) and nitrous oxide (N2O) – come from old landfills and wastewater. Innovative projects are underway to enhance energy recovery from solid waste disposal and to unlock the potential of wastewater as a source of green energy.

 

Agriculture, forestry and other land uses (76,000 tonnes): agriculture is a big emitter in Denmark, but in Aarhus its carbon footprint is not so huge. Still, the city’s agricultural sector has around 6,000 cows, whose combined emissions are equivalent to the footprint of 650,000 pigs. And when it comes to protected areas, the city decided to increase their share by allocating 12,000 hectares to nature and forest in an effort to improve water quality, recreation, biodiversity and ecosystem health. This will involve difficult trades-off as existing land use arrangements will need to be renegotiated/repurposed.

 

Industrial processes and product use (33,000 tonnes): emissions from industrial processes come mostly from activities in the harbour, and those from product use fall broadly within scope 3. The city wants to take more responsibility for emissions originating from foreign-made products used in Aarhus.

 

Reaching the energy’s holy grail of net zero is a not an impossible task given all the progress to date. Measures with a proven impact are being scaled while promising ones are being put in place to achieve climate neutrality by the end of the decade.


The Climate Action Plan for 2025-2030 (currently in the preparation phase) will outline smart planning and reduction strategies across different sectors and governance levels. The multi-pronged approach acknowledges the role of district transformation in reaching city-wide decarbonisation.


A climate-neutral Aarhus will not happen at once. It will be a gradual process covering slowly but surely the different layers of the urban system, one district at a time. Aarhus has six districts and BIPED is targeting the one in the city’s west: Brabrand. Our goal is to turn Brabrand into a vibrant multifunctional area that produces more energy than it consumes. The success in creating a positive energy district in Brabrand is expected to inspire other areas to follow suit, with each new PED bringing Aarhus a step closer to the 2030 target.

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BIPED is funded under the EU Horizon Europe Research and Innovation programme. Grant ID: 101139060

BIPED is funded under the EU Horizon Europe Research and Innovation programme. Grant ID: 101139060

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