Turning Warsaw into a Smart City
July 4, 2014
Warsaw has for years been going the extra mile to build an image as an innovative city.
An important role has been played by projects aimed at improving the city’s energy efficiency and mitigating climate change. Sustainable development has been given priority in all areas and our key objectives include cutting CO2 emissions by at least 20 percent by 2020, which we committed ourselves to when we signed the Covenant of Mayors. In September 2011, Warsaw City Council adopted a Sustainable Energy Action Plan for the Polish capital until 2020. Warsaw aspires to become a “smart city” where public transit, power engineering and information and communication technology form a harmonious, coherent whole to ensure the well-being and comfort of all residents. The city has been taking part in many “smart” projects, such as the EU’s E3SoHo and ICE-WISH projects that aim to decrease the amount of energy used by public buildings. Project such as these include Open House, which is designed to assess the sustainability of buildings, and Cities on Power, which seeks to stimulate the utilization of renewable energy. There is also an energy leadership program called CASCADE.
Every year, Warsaw cuts its CO2 emissions by 1.5 million metric tons thanks to cogeneration, or combined heat and power production, which helps reduce fuel consumption. Warsaw’s public transit system, which is more efficient and environmentally friendly than private cars, accounts for 60 percent of all passenger traffic in the city and 50 percent of that is handled by electric vehicles (the metro and trams).
Projects aimed at improving the condition of the environment and living standards in the city require thorough planning and sizable financial outlays, including external funding. The extension and modernization of the Czajka wastewater treatment plant cost over 800 million euros. With this project, the amount of wastewater treated in the city has increased to 100 percent. The plant now treats considerable amounts of phosphorus compounds, meeting high international standards in this area, even in terms of the strict environmental guidelines followed in Scandinavian countries. The plant also processes sludge to produce heat and power.
Warsaw’s second metro line, crucial to making public transit more comfortable and appealing, is another major project in the city, and its central section will cost around 1 billion euros to build. Compared with Warsaw’s average annual budget of around 3 billion euros, this figure illustrates the challenges we have undertaken.
As for the construction sector, under new EU requirements all public buildings in Poland will have to be near-passive, or highly energy efficient after 2018, and the same applies to all new buildings constructed after 2020. Warsaw wants to develop solutions to test cutting-edge construction techniques still before these deadlines arrive. One such solution is the so-called “low-carbon area,” modeled after similar projects abroad, such as the Hammarby Sj÷stad neighborhood in Stockholm or EuropaCity in Berlin. Our low-carbon area will come with a comprehensive solution to foster a modern, “low-carbon” economy, designed to minimize the impact of the infrastructure on the environment and make life more comfortable for residents. The project will cover zoning plans, energy-efficient buildings, heat and power produced locally from renewable sources, environmentally friendly public transit and cutting-edge waste, water and sewage management technology.
While developing an innovative city, it is also vital to pursue innovative ways of communicating with the public. Alongside ideas such as participatory budgeting, crowdsourcing and the 19115 telephone number for residents, the city has started to publish the Warsaw Integrated Sustainability Report, first compiled in 2013. Utilizing standards so far used by large international corporations, the report advises residents and anyone interested about the city’s main projects and problems, taking into account social, economic and environmental issues. Work on the newest edition of the report has only just begun.
Marta Bugaj, Leszek Drogosz
, Infrastructure Department of Warsaw City Hall