Vitoria-Gasteiz – Getting the green capital even greener


Vitoria-Gasteiz is the capital of the Basque Country, and with 240,000 inhabitants a Europe-leading municipality investing in green economy. The city, which was the European Green Capital in 2012, has a high proportion of green public areas, ensuring that the entire population lives within a 300m distance from an open green space. Numerous tangible measures are in place to assist and increase biodiversity and ecosystems services.

The city also has a clear strategy to become greener, promoting energy efficiency, renewable energy, low carbon mobility and smart infrastructures. Vitoria-Gasteiz is committed to becoming smarter, using modern technologies to improve the quality of life of the citizens. They are at the core of the smart city concept, as it is not possible to become smarter without engaging the citizens in the decision making. They play therefore a key role in the definition of strategies covering ICTs, mobility, energy and urban environment, working together with public bodies, the private sector and research agents.

In SmartEnCity, Vitoria-Gasteiz seeks to

  • Demonstrate Building Retrofitting: 750 dwellings (60,000m2) in the Coronation district will be insulated, and their energy systems replaced with a connection to the district heating.
  • Integrated Infrastructures: A new biomass (wood chips) district heating network will be deployed, and integrated energy management systems will optimise efficiency at home, building and district level.
  • Sustainable Mobility: 100% Electric Busline (Smart Electric Bus) with 13 high-capacity e-buses as a replacement for conventional diesel buses, plus acquisition of EVs, charging points and shared e-bike station for Vitoria-Gasteiz' city council.
  • ICTs: An Urban Management System (UMS) will be developed and deployed.

Renewable energy in the city

Vitoria-Gasteiz, as the rest of the Basque Country, relies almost completely (more than 90%) on the import of fossil fuels both for direct use (natural gas, petroleum products) and for electricity generation. A natural gas network is available throughout the city, and is widely used in industry, residential and service sectors. Cogeneration units are installed in a few public buildings such as hospitals, and to a minor scale in some residential buildings. Petroleum products are the main fuel for transport. Biomass fuel is used in some public buildings and swimming pools, but its use remains very low in percentage.

Vitoria-Gasteiz aims to reduce its energy consumption by rationalizing energy use and promoting the use of more efficient technologies such as district heating and micro-cogeneration, as well as greater energy efficiency in new and refurbished buildings. At the same time, the city aims to promote renewable energy sources such as solar power, geothermal systems, wind farms and biogas from urban waste. In line with these objectives, the city council adopted a Climate Change Prevention Strategy in 2006, and agreed to cut emissions by 16% by 2012. In 2009, it signed up to the Covenant of Mayors and in 2010, approved the Plan against Climate Change, promising more ambitious reductions. The city’s long-term objective is to become a carbon-neutral zone, with an interim goal of cutting emissions by half by 2050, through wide-ranging actions in different sectors and public education.

Smart Solutions for Vitoria-Gasteiz

  • Summary of Vitoria-Gasteiz' demo activities and conclusions
    Project Partner VISESA has elaborated a summary of Vitoria-Gasteiz' activities in demo district Coronación with an analysis of the progress and conclusions as per April 2020.
  • Vitoria-Gasteiz retrofitting package As one of the city’s most vulnerable neighborhood, the Coronación district saw a considerable number of residential buildings fully renovated, including their facades, insulation, windows and doors.
  • Urban management system The city platform developed in Vitoria-Gasteiz integrates all the existing ICT systems and enables to monitor the use of energy in the retrofitted buildings as well as to provide feedback to and get feedback from the citizens.  
  • Biomass district heating system In addition to the retrofitting activities, a biomass heating network will be deployed in Vitoria-Gasteiz, leading to better energy prices, lower maintenance and operation costs and improved safety
  • Citizen engagement strategy for the retrofitting package As there are no local housing associations in the city, Vitoria-Gasteiz has prepared a citizen engagement strategy that helps to communicate and negotiate with each apartment owner of the pilot.
  • The new Smart Electric Bus (BEI) - Electrification of the the city's public transport The deployment of high capacity and 100% electric public transport is crucial for sustainable mobility and to achieve carbon neutral cities in the near future. Therefore, the incorporation of 13 smart electric buses in Vitoria-Gasteiz' public transport was a major milestone.

Project benefits in Vitoria-Gasteiz:

  • General Satisfaction of the residents
  • Knock-on effect on other buildings and neighbourhoods not connected to the project. Up to 50 dwellings retrofitted.
  • 90% reduction of CO2 emissions
  • Savings of up to 50% in heating
  • Average Savings of 20% in household energy bills.
  • Energy Certification A in all the rehabilitated properties.
  • Total substitution of gas by renewable energy sources for domestic hot water and heating: local biomass. Lower CO2 print.
  • Aesthetic Improvement of the neighbourhood and increased property values.
  • Improvement in comfort in the dwellings: fewer temperature changes and less overheating in summer.
  • Efficient use of rehabilitated dwellings by informed residents with better controlling capability thanks to the installed
  • monitoring systems.
  • Extension of the new District Heating Network to other buildings and installations in the neighbourhood (church and
  • gymnasium-spa).

Other Project benefits:

  • Discounts awarded by:
  •    Vitoria-Gasteiz City Council: 50% discount on property tax for households with Energy Certification A and ICIO
  •    (construction works tax).
  •    Provincial Council of Alava: fiscal ruling that ensures the compatibility of the European grants with standard grants.
  •    Exclusion in the income tax calculation of any grants or subsidies received by the homeowners.
  • Mirror effect for other neighbourhoods
  • Improvement of public areas.
  • Fostering local employment:
  •    14 architectural firms
  •     5 building companies
  •    Dozens of SMES (scaffolding and construction materials, energy certification, termographies, professional   
       photographers, notaries, property management companies, etc.

Lessons Learned:

  • Empowered citizens, efficient dwelling!
  • District actuation, city effect!