© Matthias Friel

Smart City Berlin: What exactly is happening at “Kiez“ level in this respect?

Berlin is aiming at an ambitious target: The city is to be made climate-neutral by 2050. In this respect it is planning to reduce its CO2 emission by at least 85 per cent compared to 1990. This will take place in small steps: A reduction of 40 per cent is envisaged by 2020 and at least 60 per cent by 2030.

It seems to be “squaring the circle” when attempts are being made to reduce emissions while the economy is growing continuously and traffic is increasing at the same time. This can only be realised provided renewable energies are further developed and by taking into consideration higher energy efficiency, as for example, when refurbishing buildings. Beyond that one will have to consider increasingly more the so-called pooling - and sharing concepts and this not only in the traffic and mobility section. Those, who produce too much energy for their own use should share it at a cost efficient price, fast and uncomplicated with others in the neighbourhood that have a higher requirement and may only have restricted financial means at hand.


This is exactly the idea that is currently being developed in Tempelhof-Schöneberg. There is a cogeneration plant producing power and heat on a property belonging toTelekom at Winterfeldtstraße 21. Power that Telekom does not need is passed on to its neighbour, the Spreewaldschule which in this way has reduced its heating costs by a quarter and also reduced its emissions at the same time.  The project runs under the name of “Energiewende unter Nachbarn“ [energy revolution amongst neighbours] and is a so-called private-public partnership. This means that a company partners up with a public institution as there exists a social interest that goes beyond a mere business interest. Pedagogically viewed this project is also very important as it explains the challenges and possible solutions represented by the energy revolution in practice to the students.

But that is not all: The district of Tempelhof-Schöneberg can do even better. It has to be, as it wants to establish itself as “Zero City” in the coming years, and enter the race in Brussels for “Horizon 2020” - an EC programme targeted to promote research and innovation.

The capital’s third largest long-distance train station is a further real showcase project - the „Südkreuz“ [Southern Cross] also referred to as „Train Station of the Future“. It is here where the Deutsche Bahn is testing sustainable mobility- and power supply concepts. Solar cells and windrails on the station roof generate power. This is buffered in an intelligent grid - the Smart Grid - and is then made available to various applications such as e-bikes, e-cars and BVG’s  first electric bus line. Furthermore, experiments are carried out with “intelligent lockers“ -  for bicycles to protect them from being stolen and also to deposit a suitcase as well as for storing food, including cooling.  


While developing the Smart Grid, the project was supported by experiences gained during the construction of the Euref-Campus (European Energy Forum) built around the gasometer not very far away. It is here that about 100 companies, start-ups, and research institutes work at top speed researching with reference to the subjects of energy, sustainability, and mobility. The Euref-Campus is something like a focal point for the Smart City-strategy of the capital. The Federal Government has nominated it as research campus where investigations are to take place on how power, heat, and traffic can be made affordable, safe, and be based entirely on renewable energies long term.  

It is then not surprising to find an electro-car sharing station and rented bicycles on site; it is also possible to rent an e-scooter. Surprised? Well, if not here, where else?

Also located in Schöneberg is the former malt producing factory established by Schultheiß, which was closed down in the mid 1990’s .  In 2005 after the factory had been energetically refurbished the protected building opened its doors again. Today the malt factory is used for art and cultural issues by taking ecological aspects into consideration. It is also possible to rent office space. Sustainability is a very important factor. This starts with flushing the toilets where in this way up to 50 per cent of water is saved, via using recycled material to construct seating units and bicycle stands right up to a water filtering plant thanks to which nobody has to buy water in plastic bottles anymore. The malt factory has already been awarded several prizes for their green ideas . And well deserved!  


However, not only Schöneberg  is thinking innovatively. There are exciting experiments carried out in respect of the future in other parts of the capital, too; for example Moabit West, Berlin’s largest inner city industrial estate. Obviously, power consumption and traffic is much higher here as compared to other districts. This is a particular challenge for the climate protection and the thus connected quality of life for its inhabitants. A ThinkTank has been established to work out green solutions parts of which are currently being implemented. This includes a solar power plant, a citizens’ academy on the subject of sustainability, an integrated rainwater concept as well as strategies for an efficient supply of heat.

Closely connected is the EC-project Smart Sustainable District (SSD), in which Moabit West took part as the only German district. 


A little further west, climate protection is taken equally as serious. The  Klausnerplatzkiez - as first Berlin district - has set up their own climate protection concept.  Additionally, the residents have prepared an overall concept for a sustainable development - on a voluntary basis, of course! They view their commitment as an “obligation”, to work for their future and that of their children without being paid for this job.  And this kind of work cannot possible be “labelled” with a price.