In Amsterdam, there is unanimous support for greening the city, ‘especially since we also see that it brings new jobs, new wealth, [and] new business opportunities,’ as a city spokesman put it. The challenge however is to align the sustainable development with the cultural and historic values of the metropolitan area. Reason why the Clean Energy Challenge asks: How can we embed clean energy in the Amsterdam cityscape?

Currently, only 9% of the energy Amsterdam generates is classed as ‘sustainable’ (including fuel and heat), and most of that is from biomass, which is considered less sustainable. Among the current renewables on offer, solar and wind are the city’s best bet. However, Amsterdam’s city centre is filled with monuments and protected buildings and there is little space for clean energy infrastructure. Solar panels and other visible interventions are for instance not permitted on historic buildings. This means the city needs creative solutions to meet its sustainability agenda.

Sustainable goals

The city has made a commitment that 25% of its electricity will be sustainably generated by 2025. At the same time, it is currently very dependent on gas, but has set goals to be gas free by 2050. In order to cut emissions, the city is moving to shift homes to district heating, where heat is created at a central facility and supplied by a pipeline, saving energy thanks to efficiencies of scale. Yet with protected monuments and a lack of space, they are struggling to make the city more sustainable with solar and wind.

Possible solutions

The city needs ‘out of the box’ thinkers to come up with creative design solutions. Consider how the energy transition needed can be combined with improved biodiversity, leisure, transport, water storage and agriculture. Clean forms of electricity generation work well as decentralised, small-scale installations. Think of neighbourhood-level interventions to generate and supply energy in the form of electricity, heat or cooling; in beautiful, inspiring and educational ways.

Solaroad in Krommenie, The Netherlands

Inspiring ideas

Learn from some inspiring local and global innovators who are using the power of design for this purpose. Solaroad designs bike lanes that produce solar energy. Almere Heat Transfer Station transfers residual heat from industry to houses for heating and warm water, and has an eye-catching design which raises awareness. Buurtbatterij is a neighbourhood battery to store solar power generated by residents. And the Human Power Plant is a concept made for Utrecht University, powering a campus using human energy from the gym and climbing stairs.

To read the full brief and know more about entering the challenge, go to