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Cluj-Napoca is the second largest city in Romania and the capital of Transylvania. The city has had an active energy policy since the 1990s, achieving a 15% greenhouse gas emission reduction between 1990 and 2012. In 2011, the municipality took a major step by announcing its ambition to become energy neutral by 2050 and set the goal of further reducing GHG emissions by 35% between 2012 and 2020. The municipality designed strategies to encourage local actors to take on more responsibilities, by providing them with enhanced capacities towards the achievement of the targets and the means to achieve them. Cluj-Napoca is paving the way to a green and resilient urban development model and aims to become a lighthouse for sustainability transition at a national level.

With the ever-increasing consequences of the climate crisis, a sustainable energy transition – particularly in the context of cities – is one of the main sustainability goals of the 21st century. Cities account for 60 to 80% of global energy consumption and an equivalent share of CO2 emissions. Many cities worldwide increasingly focus their strategies on the reduction of emissions and the transition from a system dominated by finite (chiefly fossil-based) energy towards a system using mainly renewable energy sources. The scale and scope of such a transition, which needs radical change across production and consumption, requires long-term goals, high aspirations and ambitions, and the capacity to operate through systemic policy-making and roadmapping. It is a path that is yet to be tested and measured in global contexts. Though primarily focused on environmental aspects, energy policies carry economic and social repercussions. Energy equity is in fact a fundamental pillar of energy transition, rendering energy supply accessible and affordable across the population.

Over the past decade, Cluj-Napoca has been growing strongly both economically and demographically. This has created a pressing need to match expectations for a high quality urban environment, but has also led to an exponential demand for housing and energy. A recent study by the World Bank has revealed that housing needs for the next ten years accounts to over 100,000 homes, while the building pace in the last years was around 7,000 homes/year. Indeed, such rapid urbanization represents a key challenge for the city and for the country as a whole, and puts the topic of resource efficiency and energy transition at the very centre of political agendas at various governmental levels.

The Municipality of Cluj-Napoca is one of the most vibrant academic, cultural, industrial, and business centres in the country, the second after Bucharest. The city is setting long term political aspirations and objectives that shall steer both public and private players towards a shared direction of sustainable urban development. Within this context, energy transition stands as a core pillar of the new strategic plan for Cluj-Napoca, with the overall goal of developing a secure, affordable and climate-friendly energy system. This context demands holistic paradigms towards the development, design and management of the existing energy system, as well as its progressive transformation into a smart and sustainable model involving a diversity of actors such as the European Union and the World Bank.

The municipality designed strategies to encourage local players to take on more responsibilities, by giving them enhanced powers towards the achievement of the targets and the means to achieve them. Cluj-Napoca stands out for its innovative approach to energy transition, centred on multi-stakeholder partnerships and aimed at unlocking a local green and resilient economy.

With its participation in the REFLOW project, the Municipality of Cluj-Napoca is pushing forward its energy efficiency strategy. REFLOW is leveraged as the opportunity to trigger integrated policy making with a specific lens on circular economy applied to energy systems. Through the project, strategies and tools are proposed, supporting the goal of energy transition through a circular economy.

Electrification of the transport sector is considered as a prominent intervention for achieving sustainability in Cluj-Napoca. The city’s public transport fleet is electric at a rate of 52%. The goal is to reach 100% by 2026, achieving lowest possible values for pollutant emissions. Moreover, investment in pedestrianisation and bike lanes is considered a vital aspect towards the reduction of car usage. The Municipality has extended its cycle lane network by 18km (to 58km in total) in the city and its suburbs; 50 self-service bicycle stations in the metropolitan area have also been built. The use of recycled, reused or locally abundant materials in the urban regeneration projects is highly encouraged.

Improving the energy efficiency of public buildings is a key priority of the public and residential infrastructure upgrade for Cluj-Napoca. The Municipality, in collaboration with the REFLOW pilot team, will apply the retrofit kit and/or additional upgrades on public buildings and assets. In parallel to conducting the upgrade audit, the Municipality will run an awareness raising campaign targeting municipal building managers and users. It is proposed to initiate the application of ICT from public buildings, functioning as smart pilots, and further expand them towards the inclusion of public and private properties. 

The participation of the city at the Covenant of Mayors provides opportunities for long-term partnerships. Increasing its engagement as a member of the Global Covenant of Mayors can be achieved by submitting an updated Sustainable Energy Action Plan. The World Bank contributes to Cluj-Napoca’s efficient and sustainable energy policies primarily focusing on the sustainability goals of the European Green Deal. Participatory budgeting projects are also being supported by the city, as an effort to solve neighbourhood problems by improvements of green spaces and public lighting, and measures to increase public safety.

A key direction for intervention identified thus far is the implementation of investment projects aimed at increasing energy efficiency and mitigating climate change effects, also leveraging EU funding. To date, the Municipality has successfully accessed funding for increasing energy efficiency, promoting low carbon public transportation, and disseminating the need to be energy efficient to the local community.

A circular approach to energy transition in Cluj-Napoca can be a driver of synergies across multiple interventions in mobility, greening and built environment, which in turn can unleash environmental, economic, and social benefits that overall contribute to an improvement in the quality of life of the citizens. According to the new strategic directions for the city, an energy transition steered through a vision of a circular and regenerative city can contribute to make Cluj-Napoca “cleaner and healthier”, “innovative and creative” and “participatory and connected”.