The Smartest City? Hamburg

By 2050 the World Health Organisation estimates that the global urban population will have doubled. As populations grow and resources become stretched smart cities offer solutions to manage assets, resources and meet resident’s needs at a local level. By boosting connectivity and knowledge sharing, smart cities can create sustainable places to live. Over the next few weeks SmartKlub will examine a number of smart cities from across Europe.


Germany has set itself the challenging target of producing 35% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020 and 80% by 2050. The Energiewende is the transition by Germany to reliable, affordable and sustainable energy supply. Reliant on renewable technology, energy efficiency and careful management, this new system will be key in reaching environmental targets and cleaning up the country’s energy system.

The second largest city in Germany, Hamburg, is already making steps to become more sustainable; in 2010 it was voted the Greenest City in Europe by the EU Commission. Hamburg is excelling in areas of renewable energy, green spaces and clean transport making it an excellent smart city showcase for this first blog.  

Hamburg is a great example of grassroots, individuals, local authorities and large businesses coming together to create cleaner, greener places to live. HafenCity is a great regeneration case study that demonstrates the pioneering approach to sustainable development.




Hamburg has created HafenCity, one of Europe’s largest inner-city development projects which boasts efficient buildings, sustainable transport and green spaces. When completed, in 2025,  it will be home to 12,000 people and the workplace of 40,000. This regeneration encompases Hamburg’s pioneering green approaches to city expansion.

Clean, thermal energy will be at the heart of energy supply in HafenCity. Residential buildings will be supplied with locally generated heat (produced by solar plants and fuel cells for example) as well as from a district heating system. This decentralised structure will allow the system to grow and be flexible to neighbourhoods.

Investment in city renewable energy results not only cleaner energy, but also job creation. About 24,000 employees, or 1.4% of the total workforce, work in renewable energy in Hamburg, compared to 0.24% in London (2015). Hamburg is an important hub for wind power attracting big turbine manufacturers such as Siemens Wind Power. As well as wind, Hamburg has more than 240 biogas producers and solar PV power plants.

A partnership between the local government and participating companies, ‘Enterprise for Resource Protection’, encourages investment in energy and resource efficiency. For every €1 invested by the local government, participating companies contribute €10. This venture encourages partnerships with a common goal; to make the city more sustainable. So far this project is reducing CO2 emissions by 134,000 tonnes per year.

Almost all residents in Hamburg live within 300m of public transport. However, there are plans to create green pathways that will cover 40% of the city. In short, this means that in a few years time it will be possible to cycle or walk across the entire city as well as providing beautiful green areas across the city. Plans for an underground subway, called U4, in HafenCity will add up to 26,000 fewer car journeys made each day, reducing emissions and improving air quality.

The local government and businesses play a key role in environmental protection and sustainable progress. However, resident involvement and support is essential in ensuring the long term success of projects. For example, HafenCity has employed sociologist Marcus Menzi to act as a point of contact for residents and developers. Allowing residents to have a voice in the development process encourages community engagement and the long term success of Hamburg’s green agenda. 

Hamburg is an outstanding example of a city that has come together to create a sustainable agenda. It highlights the importance of partnerships and community involvement in creating a successful green city.

To find out more about the HafenCity development visit: