ProjectZero is launched as a public-private partnership with the ambition for Sonderborg to become carbon-neutral by 2029 based on energy savings, renewable energy and green jobs.
Located in Denmark, near the Baltic Sea and close to Germany, the municipality of Sonderborg has worked on a dual ambition for 15 years: to mitigate emissions backed by a carbon-neutral energy system by 2029 - and to inspire the world on how to achieve this in a robust and cost-effective way.
Back in 2007, a group of future-oriented citizens defined this ambition and anchored the project in a public-private partnership titled “ProjectZero”. From there on, ProjectZero has rested on deep, local collaboration, the involvement of citizens and companies, and on the development of skills and knowledge, which has transformed the mindset of the entire area. All the while local politicians have been highly supportive.
Despite Sonderborg's population of approximately 75,000 inhabitants scattered over rural areas and towns, ProjectZero has already received world-wide recognition. Not only for the reductions achieved, but also for the methods and approaches applied.
Our ambition is to create an integrated, carbon-neutral energy system, designed as a microcosm, that can inspire much larger cities and municipalities. Although we have developed a masterplan on how to reach net-zero by 2029, we want to be in exchange and collaborate with the world - by constantly being open to smarter and faster ways to obtain our targets.
Learn more about our journey so far as well as our future plans below.
In 2007, long before the climate crisis rose to the top of political agendas globally, Sonderborg municipality as well as its citizens, businesses, educational institutions and utility companies developed a common vision: to successfully implement a carbon-neutral energy system by 2029 without compromising on reliability and cost-effectiveness.
The ambition was to solve the climate challenge in Sonderborg and simultaneously become a role model for how other cities around the world can translate this approach into their own local context while, at the same time, create green jobs to contribute to a better world for all.
From the very beginning, Sonderborg's efforts to become a climate pioneer have been built on responsible actions and strong commitment from the local community across sectors. After starting out with emitting 700,000 tons of CO2 (approx. 9.2 tons of CO2 per capita), Sonderborg is more than halfway to zero today. But collaboration is key to keeping momentum and tackling the final stretch. Even though it's an ambitious goal that will require a lot of action and constant focus, Sonderborg municipality is confident that ProjectZero will succeed.
In 2022, Sønderborg served as the host city for the annual Energy Efficiency Conference of the International Energy Agency (IEA).
At the conference ministers from 27 countries participated, among others. In collaboration, the ministers drafted a statement acknowledging the importance of energy efficiency and the so-called Sønderborg Action Plan - a set of strategic principles and policy tools designed to assist governments in rapidly implementing energy efficiency measures.
During the 2023 conference, participants reviewed the Sønderborg Action Plan.Watch it here
We focus on creating the intelligent and integrated energy system of tomorrow to save energy in a cost-effective manner everywhere. We do this by linking and streamlining different energy sources as well as sectors in a flexible circuit, that work together like a living organism. This means, for example, that houses are heated by surplus heat from companies, electric cars are charged at night to elude the pressure on energy consumption, and data is used to ensure that energy is utilized in the best possible way. We have come far in the “sector coupling”, which we will continue to strengthen in the years to come.
“It is very impressive what citizens and businesses in Sonderborg have accomplished by uniting forces and working persistently to reduce CO2 emissions. It's a source of inspiration — both in Denmark and globally.”
“For all of us working with the green transition, ProjectZero has for many years been an impressive example of how to activate an entire community to work together towards a very ambitious climate goal.”
Energy grid upgrades worth DKK 100+ million take place in the area's six housing associations, including the installation of solar cells on rooftops as well as battery systems to store power. The EU allocates DKK 20.5 million for an energy demo project in Sonderborg's Co-op housing association.
The Green Housing initiative, based on Sonderborg's ZEROhome model, is being tested in other Danish cities such as Skive, Middelfart and Helsingør.
The end of 2020 marked the completion of two thirds of ProjectZero's planned climate journey since its inauguration in 2007. The biggest milestone has been reducing carbon emissions by a total of almost 55%, which means that ProjectZero is fully on track to secure carbon neutrality by 2029.
“Sonderborg is a role model that can show the rest of the world what strong public/private collaborations and Danish industries can achieve when it comes to unique, large-scale energy-efficient solutions and green transitions.”