What made Vienna a Smart City
Cities are growing; two in three people will live in cities by 2050. Cities are also responsible for three fourths of total energy consumption and 80 percent of greenhouse gas emissions – and therefore have special responsibility for the future. Vienna has long been working on sustainable urban development, and with great success. This is shown by, among other things, top placings in corresponding international rankings. Vienna was voted the world's most livable city by the international consultancy firm Mercer for the tenth time in a row in 2019, was placed first in the "Global Liveability Index" of the "Economist Intelligence Unit" in 2018 and 2019, and also occupies first place in the Smart City Strategy Index of the corporate consulting firm Roland Berger. And in June 2020, Vienna was listed among the 20 safest travel destinations in Europe by the travel portal "European Best Destinations" – above all with regard to how the city dealt with the COVID-19 crisis.
Vienna's Smart City strategy
But what exactly makes a smart city? Vienna answers this question thus: a high quality of life for all residents with the greatest possible protection of resources through social and technical innovations. In these tasks, Vienna can build on an excellent starting position, like the water supply with mountain spring water since 1873, or the social housing buildings of "Red Vienna" since the 1920s.
To find sustainable answers to the big global challenges, a long-term Smart City Vienna framework strategy with phased and specific targets was adopted by the City Council in 2014, updated in 2019, and will be implemented by 2050. It is worth noting that Vienna not only defines environmental targets but also includes all habitats of the city's inhabitants. For example, there is the goal to double the generation of renewable energy in the metropolitan area from 2005 to 2030, as well as the goal to protect all population groups against the effects of climate change. Or the goal to cut CO2 emissions of the transport sector by 50 percent by 2030 and by 100 percent by 2050, and to maintain the proportion of green space of more than 50 percent in the metropolitan area by 2050.
The Smart City Vienna framework strategy for 2019-2050 is accompanied by many other concepts and strategies of the city, like the city development plan, a dedicated energy program, or the "Digital Agenda", which is working on Vienna as a capital of digitalization. The topics "Smart solutions for the urban habitat of the 21st century" and "Smart production in the city" are also essential elements of the city strategy "Vienna 2030 - Economy & Innovation". Overall, six thematic areas were defined in the strategy that build on the strengths of Vienna as a business location and thus leverage the city's existing potential.
The latest, recently completed Smart City project is a milestone on the way to a model climate city. Vienna's main water treatment plant (ebswien) was converted into an eco-power plant that produces more energy than it actually consumes through the use of modern technologies. Thanks to a new sludge treatment plant, the urban wastewaters are now cleaned with energy self-sufficiency, the CO2 emissions reduced by 40,000 tons annually, and clean electricity and clean heat are generated.
Talking of heat: Vienna operates one of the biggest district heating networks in Europe. More than 400,000 homes – around one third of all households in Vienna – and more than 6,800 large customers are supplied with environmentally friendly heat by the company Wien Energie. The trick: the same energy sources (above all waste heat from industry, cogeneration plants, or waste incineration), which supply the city with heat and hot water all year round, can also generate district cooling. Compared to conventional air conditioning systems, the generation of central cooling needs four to ten times less primary energy, saves space, is quiet and visually inconspicuous: that makes it a smart cooling solution. Particularly great is the demand for district cooling in Vienna city center. A district cooling network that supplies big customers like hospitals, public buildings, or hotels, is being constructed along the Ringstrasse boulevard. In the near future, district cooling should also be available for private households.