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  • Writer's pictureSofa Summits

Smart City Graz – The Vision for 2050

Graz, Austria is the next city that we are focussing on as part of our exclusive set of interviews in the build up to Smart Cities Live in London next month. So far we have heard from Dubai, Lapinjärvi (Finland) and an overview of what has been going on in Slovenia when it comes to smart city development.

Earlier this week I caught up with Christian Nußmüller from the City of Graz in Austria. Christian is the Senior Project Manager in Graz and is heavily involved in their smart city program, he is also a part of the H2020 GrowSmarter Project for which Graz is a follower city. So, let’s not waste any more time and dive straight into the interview from Austria’s second largest city.

Graz published its first strategy document for smart city development in 2013, how have things progressed in the past 4 years?

After two years of an intensive strategic development process in 2013 we set out the strategic approach for “Smart City Graz” as the highest ranked development principle to achieve within the Urban Development Concept 4.0 and as the superior legal binding instrument for the local development planning.

From 07/2012 to 06/2017 we implemented the first federally funded Austrian Smart City pilot project – the integrated district development of Graz Waagner-Biro. It received EUR 4.2m of federal funding and will lever a total amount of investment of EUR 330m until 2024.

This first implementation of a “Smart City District” in Graz focuses on innovative energy and building technologies but also considers accompanying district management approaches and PPP-urban development contracts as a financing tool for Smart City funding.

Your strategy has a big focus on creating an energy efficient and low carbon city, do you have an overall target for becoming carbon neutral? And what projects have you already implemented to help the city be more energy efficient?

In our Smart City Graz Strategy there is defined an optimum scenario (Energy Vision) for the year 2050, by then we want there to be a sustainable energy balance for Graz.

Graz should still be a dynamic and compact city characterised by mixed urban usage, attractive public space and a high quality of life. Consistently pursuing the Smart City strategies and raising public awareness will have made it possible to not only to reduce the consumption of energy and resources but consequently also the emission of hazardous substances, paving the way for a Zero Emission City. The aim is for 100% of the required energy that is produced in the functional urban region to be from renewable energy resources.

Up to now there were taken successful efforts to integrate industrial waste heat sources in the local urban district heating system. Next step for the municipality will be to make use of renewable energy sources like solar thermal energy on a large scale. In this regard a promising feasibility study for a project called BIG Solar Graz recently published says that 500,000 m² of solar collectors can cover 20% of the energy demand of the local district heating system. Other RES have to be neglected at the moment due to local natural and economic framework conditions.

Great to hear about the continued push towards a more sustainable future and the setting of achievable targets I think gives you a real focus. Out of interest how are you working with citizens and business to help to decrease energy demand?

For our smart city pilot district we have involved all parties from the very beginning on a specific external district management called “Stadtlabor Graz”. It was assigned by the municipality to include the existing neighborhood in all planning and implementation steps of this urban development project. In the course of this engagement we also has a number of targeted campaigns to encourage citizens to decrease private energy demands.

On the other hand the local investors involved in our smart city urban development project Waagner Biro gave a voluntary commitment to ensure to meet the highest standards of energy demand – in this regard we also used a smart grid concept on a district level, this was developed to ensure an optimum energy footprint.

Engagement and more engagement, it is a key to every project. You are a follower city on the GrowSmarter project – what benefits has Graz had from being part of this H2020 project?

Graz as a medium­ sized Follower City of the H2020 GrowSmarter project gets first-hand knowledge access to outcomes and findings of the innovative integrated smart city measures implemented in the three Lighthouse cities Stockholm, Cologne and Barcelona. This gives us the opportunity to discuss a possible transfer of successful solutions at a very early stage – on a local level we can make use of the provided know how transfer channels of the project.

Finally, what technology/technologies do you think will have the biggest impact on Graz in the next 5-10 years?

From my point of view every city will have to think of concrete strategies on how to make optimum use of urban information and communication technologies without neglecting aspects of data sovereignty and privacy issues. Other topics which will get more and more important in urban areas will very likely be autonomous driving, new ways of freight distribution and decentralised power generation by both industrial and private producers. Beside those technological aspects also increasingly financing gaps for (innovative) public infrastructure will have to be closed in a smart way. Last but not least customised citizen involvement will still be the key to successful integrated urban development projects.

It is great to hear about all of the areas where Graz is trying to make a difference to the lives of its citizens, for me it really makes sense the approach that they are taking by focussing on energy and buildings at the start of their smart city development they will be giving themselves a great basis for which to add further developments on top over the coming years. After this interview I am very much looking forward to hearing Christian present at Smart Cities Live in London on 12-13 September:

Lastly I would like to thank Christian for his time, if you would like to know more about their smart city strategy and vision then you can take a look at the link below:


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