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Smart energy systems

Making carbon neutral cities possible

26. April 2023

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The global climate crisis caused by carbon emissions is a key threat to society and our planet. Danfoss’ energy-efficient and climate-friendly solutions enable a cost-effective green transition.

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Driven by the Paris Agreement that aspires to limit global warming to 1.5 ºC relative to pre-industrial levels, many countries, regions and municipalities are seeking ways to decarbonize cities in an intelligent and cost-effective way.

  • Buildings: 28% of all global energy-related CO2 emissions come from buildings.
  • Industry: 39% of all global energy-related CO2 emissions come from industry.
  • Transport: 27% of all global energy-related CO2 emissions come from transport.


In Denmark, the Sønderborg Municipality paved the way by launching ProjectZero, a public-private partnership, aiming to a carbon neutral energy system by 2029.

They have managed, since 2007, to reduce energy-related carbon emissions by more than 50% enabling them to be on track to delivering on their 2029 vision.

Carbon reductions in Sønderborg have been driven by three principles for a cost-effective transition:

  • Reduce – using less energy to perform the same task – eliminating wasted energy.
  • Reuse – recycling the energy we already have, e.g. using excess heat from buildings, processes, and data centers. This involves connecting sectors in a smart way to convert and store energy, maximizing synergies.
  • Re-source – fully or partially switching from technologies that use fossil fuels to those that use electricity, enabling procurement of renewable energy.

Sønderborg’s integrated energy system is the backbone that increases the potential in the three principles, since it allows for the most efficient use of energy.

Allowing the integration of different energy sources, including renewable energy, and the reuse of excess heat, district energy systems are clearly the binding link.


While the road to carbon neutral energy system is different from place to place, ProjectZero has extracted 5 universal learnings derived from 15 years of experience that can help most municipalities or regions in their journey to zero.

1. Local engagement behind a bold aspiration
Climate change is a global problem that will be solved on a local level. Driving an energy system to zero therefore demands participation from everyone in the local community including businesses, politicians, citizens, building owners, utility companies and many more. Proximity is a green asset.

2. Develop a master plan
Shifting an energy system to carbon neutrality requires many moving parts and multiple actions. For that to succeed, planning, KPIs and involvement is needed. ProjectZero’s master plan breaks the big challenge down into 15 focus areas, or ‘hot spot’, that require specific attention. Each hot spot has emission and energy reduction targets.

3. Organizing local action
A plan is not always enough to drive results. An organization is needed to keep the 75 participants engaged and on track. The ProjectZero mobilizes local stakeholders and motivates them to participate by highlighting potentials and possible solutions.

4. Drive performance management
The master plan is managed with a model that sets operational KPIs, which ensure that emission and energy reduction targets for each hot spot are met.

5. Don’t wait, the solutions are ready
Explore the ProjectZerocase  and many more on our website to find out how you can start your journey towards energy efficiency for your region or municipality.

To reach the goals of the Paris Agreement and to accelerate the green transition, a step-change is needed. Many countries and municipalities are ripe to turn the tide and CO2 neutral cities are now a reality.

Proven solutions for more efficient and greener cities – that is, technologies for energy efficiency, sector integration, and electrification – are ready today. They can provide most of the global reductions in carbon emissions needed to reach net zero – while curbing the growing demand for energy.

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ProjectZero, local solutions to a global challenge

Video credits: Danfoss