Vienna is a maestro when it comes to being sustainable

Vienna, the home of Beethoven, Mozart and the finest orchestra in the world – the Vienna Philharmonic – is also a maestro when it comes to its commitment of being a leading sustainable city of the 21st century.

Vienna is a maestro when it comes to sustainability

Ranked number 4 in the world by Arcadis’ Sustainable Cities Index 2016, the city has invested significantly in its infrastructure to ensure that current and future generations of residents enjoy a high quality of life. For instance, Vienna invests over EUR 30 million per annum in its water distribution network to ensure its drinking water is of high quality. Meanwhile, around half of the city’s municipal territory is occupied by green spaces with the Vienna Woods and Danube Island offering residents and visitors large-scale recreational areas for the population as well as habitats for wildlife.

Smart City Wien Strategy encouraging innovation

But this rank is not by accident, instead it is due to years of planning that culminated in the city launching in 2011 the Smart City Wien Strategy that lays out how the city will by 2050 offer ‘’the best quality of life for all its habitants…while minimizing the consumption of resources…through comprehensive innovation’’. A key aspect of the Smart City Wien Strategy is that innovation should:

  • Drive down per-capita greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by at least 35% by 2030 and 80% by 2050, compared to 1990 levels
  • Drive down primary energy input from 3,000 to 2,000 watts per capita by 2050
  • Increase Vienna’s gross energy consumption from renewable sources from 20% in 2030 to 50% in 2050

Citizen solar power plants

One of the projects the city has undertaken to reduce GHG emissions and increase renewable sources is enabling Viennese citizens to participate in the development of renewable energies. Across the city Citizens’ Solar Power Plants are popping up with citizens investing in their development: while Wien Energie is in charge of building the turnkey photovoltaic systems and operating them, citizens can buy whole or half panels at a price of EUR 950 or EUR 475 each respectively. Wien Energie then rents these panels from individual purchasers who receive an annual profit of 3.1% on their investment, with the rent and interest paid directly into their accounts once a year. Once the service life of the plants ends after around 25 years Wien Energie will repurchase the panels with the amount originally invested returned to the citizens.

The take-out

Becoming a leading sustainable city doesn’t happen overnight, instead it requires years of planning and dedication. But the rewards are significant with lower GHG emissions and higher quality of life.

*Robert C. Brears is the author of Urban Water Security (Wiley). Urban Water Security argues that, with climate change and rapid urbanization, cities need to transition from supply-side to demand-side management to achieve urban water security.

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Author: Robert C. Brears

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