The Sonderborg Climate Conference - Stronghouse takeaways

02 December 2021 - Published by Deirdre Buist
Climate Change is the greatest challenge of our times and the burning climate platform is now prevalent in societal discussions and public debates across the board. In general, there is still a lack of coordinated political action at a national level. However, cities and companies are the new drivers, pushed forward by citizen power. As frontrunners in the energy transition, the experience of the city of Sondeborg in Denmark - and our Stronghouse partners at ProjectZero - over the past 14 years is of great value to others. The online Sonderborg Climate Conference held last September, was a source of great inspiration for a number of Stronghouse delegates who joined the two-day global event.

Cities have been initiating actions focused on buildings, green energy production and transport. However, the focus now needs to be shifted from energy towards transport, food, farming and behavior and participation. More attention must be invested in the actual execution of climate action plans.

Shared vision

As hosting city Sonderborg shared their own vision. Key to their success is their robust masterplan, based on energy efficiency, sector coupling and balancing. This serves as an encouraging example for others. The fundaments of Sonderborg’s energy transition are built on solid business cases and not public funding. By prioritizing energy efficiency and taking full advantage of local and regional resources, progress is tracked and calculated. In 2007, ProjectZero took the first steps towards their goal of a CO2 neutral city of Sonderborg by 2029. An important milestone was reached in 2020 with a 50% CO2 reduction, the next challenge is 75% CO2 reduction by 2025. 

Trust & cooperation

During the conference, a wide range of climate-related topics were presented by expert speakers from America and Europe to Australia. All were in agreement that the latest ICCP data proves that it’s ‘code red for humanity’. The sense of urgency is clear and existing obstacles must be approached with transparency, trust and cooperation. The suggested way to upscale to CO2 neutrality and green circularity is to develop interdependencies and co-create and readjust the mindset, regulations and business perspective.

Valuable insights

The panel discussions on Day 2 revolved around four themes and also provided some valuable insights for Stronghouse partners:

  • Electrification and a growing consumption are creating shortage of critical raw materials (like copper). New materials will become very expensive to produce so, using available resources, a powershift is needed. From a Stronghouse perspective this means we should also investigate different smart grids solutions, local energy storage and other options to all-electric solutions.
  • Green, sustainable innovation and R&D in partnerships, are core for ramping up new Power to Value solutions and building capacity to respond. The Stronghouse project can help with bringing these innovations to the market of individual homeowners.
  • Since 2016, EU SmartEnCity Lighthouse cities like Sonderborg, Tartu, and Vitoria-Gasteiz have demonstrated how cities, using a city/stakeholder-approach, can adapt the framework, create ambitious climate and energy reduction goals and start executing the plans based on plan, do, check, act.

  • These leading cities have joined a common energy and climate transition learning journey and shared best practices regarding political commitment, citizen and stakeholder engagement, planning and the role of communication etc. The cities and municipalities involved in Stronghouse are eager to learn more about this.

  • There is a gradual change in consumer behaviour but there is a lack of cohesion in the market whereby information is science based and often too technical.

Stakeholder engagement

As Peter Rathje, Managing Director at ProjectZero in Sonderborg said during one of the closing discussions:” We don’t have all the answers or a model to replicate, but we’re open to sharing our approach so that others can be inspired and create their own model. We need to take measures across the board and are modernizing the cooperative model. The challenges we face in ‘Green Industry’ and upscaling involve interdependency and co-creation. All stakeholders must be included. In Sonderborg, citizen engagement is high - they can also relate to the local business aspect.”


At the end of this riveting climate-neutrality conference. a few motivational soundbite takeaways were noted:

  • Move more rapidly, learn faster, make mistakes, adapt and rebound.

  • Climate neutrality is not a linear process!

  • Political agreement is need in terms of incentives and/or restrictions.

  • SMEs need more empowerment

  • The youth must have an active role, with a new level of global trust.

  • Economic growth is not the same as prosperity.

We look forward to joining the next Sonderborg Climate Conference in 2022, when there is a possibility that the Stronghouse project can contribute to the programme by sharing our collaborative knowledge and experiences with supporting individual homeowners on their energy-retrofitting journey.


Feel like you missed out?  Or perhaps you would like to revisit some of the presentations and/or discussiond. You can sstill catch all this by following the links to recordings of the conference along with the ppts .


The Sonderborg welcome :


All of the sessions with detailed description:

The presentations: