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DECARBONIZE: new project aims to contribute to the decarbonisation of cities

A project geared towards citizens, technologies and public policies, focusing on digitalisation for a more efficient use of energy, and the reduction of the cities' carbon footprint.

18th May 2021

The DECARBONIZE project, originating from a partnership between INESC TEC and INEGI, started in April, in Porto; it focuses on the Horizon Europe's mission climate-neutral and smart cities. The main objective is supporting, promoting and demonstrating systemic changes towards neutrality at local level. The activities will take place in the northern region of Portugal, according to the Norte2020 programme, given the relevance of the region and local actors to the road to carbon neutrality. Moreover, the project's developments have a significant replicability and scalability potential at European levels, establishing cities as platforms for experimentation with innovative solutions.

“In addition to spaces, buildings, energy communities and electric mobility, DECARBONIZE also involves the citizens, as end users; on the one hand, it encourages them to play an active role in the management and use of energy resources, and, on the other hand, it raises awareness of social impact associated with their individual attitudes”, said David Rua, senior researcher at INESC TEC's Centre for Power and Energy Systems.

The pillars of change

DECARBONIZE is premised on three main pillars, which are the project's main lines of research:

  • Energy-neutral systems: through the integration of multi-level and multisectoral energy systems that increase efficiency, and the integration of renewable generation, together with non-energy solutions to increase comfort and air quality.
  • Active citizenship and new governance models: in order to address political and technical challenges through multi-level governance strategies, exploring solutions created with and for citizens, towards an inclusive, fairer and universal energy transition.
  • Intelligence via digitisation and automation: digitisation and the increasing availability of data will be some of the tools used to ensure neutrality, since they will support the integration of the system and the involvement of different stakeholders, as well as the promotion of knowledge and the participation of citizens.

Scientific and economic improvement and advances to the northern region

The lines of research focusing on intervention in urban ecosystems, where a significant part of the population resides - currently close to 75%, but expected to increase to 80% by 2050 -, ensure diverse and complementary approaches to the decarbonisation of the different systems. Among the project's various outcomes, the major developments will translate into

  • the definition of use cases involving energy and non-energy aspects (e.g.: comfort, well-being, healthier environment) of buildings, as well as the applicable regulatory framework;
  • the identification of local technical solutions (passive and active) and actions (integration of green spaces in urban buildings, urban planning and land use) for neutral and thriving cities;
  • the creation of adaptable and dynamic models, as well as methodologies for the optimal management of energy in buildings, in order to value existing resources and explore the implementation of new technologies and behaviours.
  • the definition of P2P (peer-to-peer) energy strategies that encourage increased integration of flexible resources, in order to create more sustainable communities capable of exploiting economic and environmental benefits at local level, but with a scalability potential;
  • the identification and definition of behaviours towards improved efficiency, and climate policies for the promotion of user-centred approaches, perceiving them as active citizens able to adopt behavioural changes;
  • the exploration of digitisation, computational intelligence, machine learning and artificial intelligence for the valorisation of different data sources and their connection to Digital Twin type platforms, in order to explore advanced simulation strategies of different systems of the urban ecosystem, and the availability of interoperable data among different stakeholders, like municipalities and system operators, among other agents.

Specialised human capital for the future challenges of the northern region

The project will engage researchers who seek to develop research activities associated with the project, encouraging the training of PhD and Master's degree professionals who - within the scope of the theme - are able to design, implement and demonstrate technologies and methodologies for carbon neutrality in different sectors of the cities. The project's team will rely on the members' contextualised knowledge of the challenges presented to the northern region, and contribute to the ambitious European neutrality indicators established for 2050. This new generation of highly specialised professionals will be better prepared to address medium and long-term challenges, through complementary initiatives associated with R&D entities, public and business organisations, among other agents.