JPI Urban Europe SUGI - Formulating sustainable urban FWE strategy by optimizing the synergies between food, water and energy systems

Lead Research Organisation: University of the West of England
Department Name: Faculty of Environment and Technology


The SUNEX project establishes an integrated modelling framework of advanced tools to model and assess the FWE systems' demand and supply sides and capture their interdependencies through a nexus view that endorses sustainable and efficient solutions for energy, water and food supply for urban regions - of city and surrounding peri-urban areas. The FWE-Nexus concept will serve as central approach to ensure coherent solutions on sustainable use and management.

Cities show high resources consumption per area, but small per capita impacts. Among the diverse interaction effects between urban FWE systems selected effects prove to be of high importance due to their significance in capturing the FWE interlinkage and the expected synergies maximization. This implies groundwater pumping for irrigation and other municipality use, water desalination to produce table water in dry zones, waste water treatment and reuse for plants irrigation (inside cities) and fertilizer production; and food waste converting to biogas and organic fertilizer (e.g. for urban gardening).

SUNEX will be applied in the cities Berlin, Bristol, Doha and Vienna, reflecting different socio-economic and climate characteristics and addressing local and remote resource uses among the full FWE supply chains. Starting from the current situation and in co-design with local stakeholders and urban policy makers, future evolution of urban FWE demand and supply will be projected based on consistent scenarios reflecting the prospective future socio-economic and technological development of the considered cities. Moreover, seven selected SDGs are addressed and existing trade-offs and synergies will be identified to ensure inclusive sustainable urban FWE strategies. The scenario results will be analysed to identify possible implementation measures for improvement.

In co-creation with stakeholders and decision makers policy guidelines for the design of sustainable FWE strategies and governance for urban areas will be formulated.

Planned Impact

SUNEX aims to improve the impact on sustainability development regarding FWE consumption via an optimization of the FWE intelligence. This is based on sophisticated modelling framework, co-creation of knowledge regarding decision making on strategies and implementation measures, applicable at the city and regional scale.

Local impact: SUNEX will achieve sufficient impact through proactive engagement of food, water, and energy sectors in the co-production of integrated strategies making use of the diverse skills and disciplines of the consortium composition including scientific partners and an SME. Local stakeholders and administrative bodies are prepared to collaborate as documented. Specifically, the project aims to generate broad impact for different administrative, societal and market communities at different levels:

In city-regions, the project collaborates with stakeholders in co-production of collaborative scenario development, targeted to regional demands and knowledge gaps.
Innovative solutions will be tested by an SME (ROC Connect) and a research organisation (QEERI) concerning their applicability, transferability and scalability in the market.

General impact: The proposed case studies Berlin, Bristol, Vienna and Doha cover a broad range of local supply and demand situations with specific requirements and synergetic potential of the food, water and energy subsystems. Thus, the project results (FWE scenarios, local stakeholder contributions on optimization measures) aim at the design of local strategies and the effective solutions for optimizing resource efficiency, which are applicable also beyond the selected case study regions. This will be encouraged through:

Information sharing through a dashboard tool providing data, strategies and good practice examples
Distribution of project experiences and knowledge across different metropolitan regions via the Peri-urban Regions Platform Europe (PURPLE, see LOI) and Covenant of Mayors.

Please see Pathways to Impact document for further information.


10 25 50
Description SUNEX FEW Policy Guidelines analysis aims to better understand the interactions between selected policy areas such that trade-offs and co-benefits can be identified, and policy and associated action prioritised, supporting FEW optimisation in a context of climate change mitigation and post-covid recovery actions. Key priorities include:
• Selected urban sustainability objectives: key policy agendas that help to deliver at least two nexus objectives e.g. enhancing climate resilience and sustainable energy transformation. Taken together these provide an overview of the key areas for strategic intervention and policy coordination in urban areas where multiple objectives can be delivered through coordinated action;
• Coordinate policy and action: explicitly designed to minimise trade-offs and maximise co-benefit to support cost-effective interventions. Generating multiple benefits does not necessarily mean delivery is cost-effective, however it seems probable that minimising trade-offs and prioritising policy that maximises co-benefits will deliver cost-effective outcomes;
• Promote high level relationships and interactions: these have thematic and hierarchic links, so any one nexus objective can, if interactions are considered, deliver or support other nexus objectives. However, the opposite is also true, if the interactions and trade-offs are ignored action in one area risks undermining progress in others;
• Identify conflicts and barriers: emphasises the need for horizontal and vertical integration and coordination of measures. Co-operation and effective collaboration between levels of government (vertical dimension) and spatial cooperation (horizontal dimension), which aims to enable efficient policymaking and service delivery.
Exploitation Route SUNEX FEW Policy Guidelines are also elaborated in respect of core FEW nexus considerations including sustainable energy transformation and sustainable food development.
Sustainable Energy Transformation - Challenges and Actions
For cities to transition to sustainable energy transformation and carbon neutrality implies a structural change in energy production, moving away from fossil fuels. Broadly this could be achieved in two ways. Cities could replace existing large energy plants with sustainable energy transformation alternatives. Alternatively, cities could replace existing large plants with a more decentralised approach to power generation, where there are many local producers of sustainable energy transformation. A combination of these two approaches could also be used.
Whichever route to sustainable energy transformation is chosen, cities face a range of complex challenges to decarbonise their energy production. The transition to sustainable energy transformation may be hindered by bureaucracy and regulatory compliance. Planning restrictions and associated delays in the installation of sustainable energy transformation infrastructure is an example of the administrative hurdles that can be encountered. A lack of coordination between different authorities and long lead times in obtaining authorisation further impact the sustainable energy transformation transition (Richardson, 2019). Reducing administrative and regulatory hurdles could encourage market entry for new sustainable energy transformation producers (IRENA, 2016b).
Cities could take action to better coordinate energy policy, spatial planning and construction of sustainable energy transformation sources. Integrating spatial and energy planning can help cities find solutions to achieve decentralised sustainable energy transformation development. Given the interlinked nature of the energy transition challenges, a set of coherent and coordinated actions at the EU, national and city levels are required. The sustainable energy transformation transition is inherently linked with a range of policy areas, including:
• climate change (e.g. 2030 climate and energy framework; equivalent national and local policies or strategies)
• environment protection (e.g. Clean air for Europe; environmental, air quality etc. strategies in cities)
• circular economy (e.g. EU Action Plan for the Circular Economy; local plans and initiatives for the circular economy)
• digital transition (e.g. Digital Single Market strategy)
• economic development (e.g. EU's Sustainable development package; EU's Next Generation EU recovery package; local economic development strategies and partnerships)
• mobility (e.g. Low emission mobility strategy; local transport plans)
• land-use planning (e.g. local, regional land use policies).
Ensuring positive synergies between energy policy measures and each of these policy domains is required to bring about the structural changes required for widespread sustainable energy transformation production. The interactions and need for coordination between these policy areas may be particularly evident in urban areas such as the conflicting and synergistic relationships between, for example, energy, land-use planning, mobility, economic development and environmental protection.

Sustainable Food Development - Challenges and Actions
Climate change impacts are already affecting food systems globally. For example, droughts can trigger local food crises, and have cascading systemic consequences such as spikes in international food prices (WEF, 2016). Urban areas are not immune to these impacts and urban food systems may have low resilience levels, in particular where climate impacts coincide with pressures from a growing urban population. The main elements of urban food systems (e.g. food distribution and supply chains, transportation and food storage) can all be affected. The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the vulnerability of these elements, particularly, of the production, supply and distribution chains. Any considerable disruption in these elements will have implications for urban sustainable food development and the resilience of urban food systems.
Policies related to urban land use and spatial planning can also contribute to sustainable food development . Changing land uses can help create new relationships between urban residents and food production, consumption, nutrition, and waste. Creating or allocating spaces for urban farming and new ways of experiencing agricultural production can contribute to a sense of connection with food, which can lead to a reduction in food waste, particularly if people feel that they have a stake in the production of food. By making food and the growing of food more accessible provides learning opportunities and create spaces and platforms for new collaborations to emerge. Facilitating the participation and empowerment of stakeholders through land use planning can therefore contribute to both sustainable food development and community cohesion.
Variations in import supply and availability, costs and quality could be offset by increasing urban agricultural production. It encompasses a wide range of practices, ranging from household and community gardens to rooftop, vertical and indoor farms. By helping a city become partially self-sufficient, these practices decrease reliance on external supplies. An EU Briefing on urban agriculture in Europe uses case studies to assess its potential. For example, in Bologna, it is estimated that if all rooftop gardens were utilised, they could provide approximately 77% of residents' vegetable needs.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Energy,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice,Transport

Description SUNEX Stakeholder Workshop One: Discovering Food, Water and Energy in Bristol 27 February 2019, Arnolfini, Bristol, 08.40-12.45 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Invitation to the SUNEX stakeholder workshop

SUNEX Stakeholder Workshop One: Discovering Food, Water and Energy in Bristol
27 February 2019, Arnolfini, Bristol, 08.40-12.45

You are invited to the SUNEX stakeholder workshop to discuss evolving perspectives on the critical interactions between food, energy and water in the Bristol area, and the implications for climate change mitigation and future policy development.

SUNEX aims to define the transition pathways, specifying policy guidelines for food, energy and water production in the context of climate change to be delivered by strategic planning of the Bristol city-region over the next 30 years. SUNEX invites you to join in this debate on the most effective urban planning solutions that will simultaneously deliver on the local agendas for food, energy and water whilst at the same time meeting climate change mitigation objectives that must be also delivered locally.

Engaging with the SUNEX project offers:

• Access to the practical solutions developed by top European and international experts from the Sustainable Urban Global Initiative community;
• Opportunity to debate in a series of workshops with local stakeholders on the optimisation of FEW policies in support of climate change mitigation;
• Engagement in an ongoing three-year initiative contributing to effective policy strategies that aim to deliver Bristol Zero Carbon objectives.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
Description SUNEX Stakeholder Workshop Two: Discovering Food, Water and Energy in Bristol 21 November 2019, St George's, Bristol, 08.40-12.45 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Stakeholder workshop deploying backcasting methodology to engage with political objectives of the Bristol One City Plan with the aim to secure carbon neutral Bristol 2050.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019