This section provides a snapshot of the process of utilizing the toolkit towards urban collaborative governance. Here we present some of the key activities of Berlin, codified as interventions in one of the three infrastructuring dimensions – strategic, operational and relational – that continuously interact with each other and help unlock collaborative capacities between different stakeholders, forming the actual shape of the social, cultural and economic fabric of the cities.

Key infrastructuring actions

At national level, Germany implements its Climate Action Plan 2020, that defines strategies for achieving the Paris Agreement objectives. Based on its Climate Action Law, Germany plans for Climate neutral Germany by 2045 onwards. Part of this plan is Berlin’s Energy and Climate Protection Programme 2030 (BEK 2030) and its digital monitoring and information system (diBEK), a framework that reviews and monitors the effectiveness of measures of climate change adaptation. Based on these frameworks, the Berlin pilot has developed a clear roadmap, that defined a strategic foundation around the technology development, and highlighted awareness raising, in an effort to widescale the approach.

The first and foremost key operational action has been to map wastewater potential. This is an ongoing process, as larger parts of the city are incorporated, and is intended to be replicated to other cities in the future, therefore enlarging the database. The main technological prototype developed (the Wastewater heat radar, and its Open Data Dashboard), is a mapping and match-making platform between suppliers and users. Throughout the process, efforts have been made to identify potential partners and stakeholders, as well as utility companies in other cities, therefore establish strategic partnerships that also enhance capacity building. Finally, a business model has been developed that would dig into new value creation, essentially turning wastewater from a by-product into a useful resource. This involves the evaluation of financial incentives and the identification of monetary flows from considering wastewater heat infrastructure as a service.

A communication and awareness campaign was at the backbone of the project, as the success and future adoption of the technology largely depends on reverting the current lack of familiarity and skepticism about this new energy source. Therefore, an outreach campaign about wastewater heat has been developed that included a series of explanatory videos. The goal was to spread awareness and satisfy curiosity about this new technology, regarding its environmentally friendly status, but also as regards its potential to reduce energy costs for end users. A further ‘relational’ action was the fostering of links with other municipalities, and developing joint capacity building arrangements, so that in the future the technology is largely applied by the municipal water agency in Berlin, and similar agencies in other cities, thus scaling it up significantly. Future plans include the organization of focus groups with industry, and other municipalities, therefore elaborating a network for better outreach of the technology.

Berlin Circular Portfolio Canvas "snapshot"

The canvas shows some of the key actions that helped “unlock” collaboration dynamics. Activities are conceived and visualized as small-scale “portfolio” experiments that leverage circular possibilities in one or more sectors, and can be further scaled up at subsequent iterations of the process.

The Berlin pilot Berlin consists of a solid partnership between three main actors: (i) the Municipal Water Management Agency (BWB), the municipal water supply company in Berlin with access to the city’s major water pipelines and associated data, (ii) the make and think tank “Prototypes for Europe”, with project management and technology transfer experience, and (ii) two technology providers (Frauenhofer Fokus, MCS Data Labs), who specialize in applied research and ICT development. Once developed, the solution would directly involve, and depend upon, the active involvement of building owners and users, as future wastewater heat energy buyers.

The Berlin pilot’ approach focuses on wastewater heat – a topic that intersects society, economy, environment and data science. The main technological application is a dashboard that maps the potential supply and demand of wastewater heat, creating matches between suppliers and users. This web-based app is a major asset of the Berlin pilot, as it goes beyond similar existing tools, by including the geographical dimension, thus not only assessing potential, but facilitating match-making.

Since we are dealing with an emergent technology, its success implementation also depends on the willingness of end users and urban developers to consider it, not only as a viable heating alternative, but also as a strategy for reducing their heat costs, while simultaneously contributing to climate policies. Given that renewable energy is high on both the city and federal agenda, and citizens are largely favourably inclined to more environmentally friendly policies, wastewater heat has a great potential to scale up, especially if it brings about concurrent cost reductions, and this is communicated properly.

As a result, the development of the technology was complemented from the very beginning with a focus on awareness raising. Ultimate goal is to achieve a significantly higher recovery rate of wastewater heat (and concomitant reduction in CO2 emissions) through communication campaigns, municipal procurement, and developing of a business case that would mainstream this unacknowledged energy resource. In addition, the pilot has already been approached by large international energy companies interested in adopting the solution. This would not only magnify the pilot’s scope, but would also increase credibility for wastewater as a viable energy source.

Finally, an exciting dimension in the case of the Berlin pilot and one of the main challenges for scaling up the proposed solution has to do with access, and therefore governance, of data. Access to a large database is needed in order to close the loop between energy availability and energy demand. Yet, water supply in cities is usually a highly regulated or monopolized market, and this poses challenges as regards accessing the data. This requires working and cooperating closely with the industry (in particular water utility companies), but also property owners and urban developers. It also highlights the necessity to place data privacy and safety as a top priority, as transparency and protection of data is crucial for widescaling the solution. Following this line, the technologies developed in the project, based on Reflow OS, enable the sharing of open data through a secure operating system that uses a selective sharing system partly utilising blockchain technology. This helps overcome accessibility barriers and enables the sharing of data, while respecting privacy.