Special Issues

Special Issues Annex 83 is currently following:


Design and Applications of Positive Energy Districts


Cities are the primary concern of world leaders because they are the biggest contributors to climate change. According to United Nation Habitat, cities nowadays represent 78% of the global energy consumption and are responsible for 60% of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This situation is unlikely to change in the future as cities will comprise around 70% of the world’s population by 2050. This is a challenging situation for world leaders, decision-makers and also for the energy providers. Energy is being the key aspect to transform cities into greener and more livable places to preserve not only the comfort of these large settlements but also a healthy environment. Leaders are in a way forced to pay even more attention to green energies in order to provide the resources that citizens need to live in a comfortable and safe manner. It is very important, at the same time, to reduce the carbon footprint of the cities because of the aforementioned ambition.

European Union has created its own roadmap. This challenging strategy is called Green Deal, and has unveiled the concept of Positive Energy District (PED). PEDs are gaining significant attention. PEDs consist of several connected buildings (either new, retrofitted or even a combination of both) that actively manage the energy flows through the integration of renewable energy systems (RES), the deployment of smart grids, the facilitation of flexibility strategies, etc. PEDs rely on the implementation of bio-based materials, local renewable energy sources, local (on-site, virtual) storage, distributed microgrids, demand-response strategies, cutting-edge energy management for electricity and/or thermal energy, citizen interaction through ICT tools, and prosumption as new energy business models within the boundaries of the PED.

The main objective of this special issue is to look for new solutions to successfully reach 2050 having a green economy that fully meets the Sustainable Development Goals to keep the temperature increase below 2 ⁰C. We truly believe that Positive Energy Districts are the cornerstone of this energy transition era, since cities, urban areas and highly populated metropolises are the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions worldwide and it is possible to turn them into self-sustainable and greener places.

This special issue is now open for submission.


Smart and Sustainable Planning for Europe and Beyond


Ensuring a sustainable future and a better quality of life for all. These are the biggest challenges that cities and regions are called to face in the next decade. While the European Union encourages urban planners, architects, researchers, and the civil society to join forces and shape “more beautiful, sustainable and inclusive forms of living together”, governments all around the world are looking for solutions to turn urban areas into greener and more digital places, resilient to the threats of pandemics, climate change effects, and socio-political tensions.

The goal of this Research Topic is to combine the latest theory and modeling results with real-world experiences by not only focusing on best practices, but reporting and learning also from failures, key success factors, and possible solutions to cope with unexpected risks and threats, and recent advances in the "phygital (physical and digital)" evolution of our settlements, cities, and regions.

This Research Topic seeks to collect studies investigating the impact of local, national, and international research and innovation projects in cities and regions, aiming to solve current societal, environmental-energy, and economic challenges. Studies that include lighthouse demonstration cases are encouraged, as well as those conducted by multidisciplinary teams integrating and analyzing the results from a holistic perspective, considering sustainability criteria such as ESG and SDG goals.

We also encourage the submission of studies that have been preliminary presented and discussed at the 4th edition of the international conference Smart and Sustainable Planning for Cities and Regions - SSPCR 2022 (18-22 July, Bolzano/Bozen - Italy), covering topics including:

• The role of the climate-neutral city;
• The potential benefits of urban transformations;
• Tackling environmental sustainability in cities and regions;
• Strengthening democracy in the energy transition;
• Policymaking for smart and sustainable regions;
• Agile planning for ever-changing mobility;
• Internet of cities - from data to knowledge.


Planning and Implementing Positive Energy Districts from Concept to Practice


The Special Issue aims to provide a platform for researchers and practitioners working towards the definition, planning and implementation of positive energy districts (PEDs) and climate neutral cities (CNCs) to exchange knowledge and experiences. The concept of PEDs/CNCs is evolving; although there has been a growing number of projects aligned with the PED/CNC aspirations in recent years, the development of such projects is still in infancy. Through an open and constructive dialogue, this Special Issue intends to identify success factors and learn from ongoing PED/CNC projects. We are particularly interested in reviews focused on the planning and implementation stages of PEDs/CNCs; accounts of existing cases; papers identifiying the main challenges, success factors and barriers of PEDs/CNCs; and papers working towards establishing the best practice.

Topic of interest include, but are not limited to:

  • Definition of PEDs/CNCs: their quantitative/qualitative traces and methods to capture the essence of PEDs.
  • Characterisation of PEDs/CNCs: identification of key characteristics, creation of PED/CNC archetypes/references to support replication.
  • Stakeholder engagement: mapping of relevant stakeholders, their roles and needs in the PED/CNC development, stakeholder management in the PED/CNC processes.
  • PED/CNC processes: structure of effective process flow, methods/tools to streamline the processes.
  • PED/CNC legal, regulatory challenges: identification of key legal and regulatory barriers and opportunities to support PED development.
  • PED/CNC planning challenges: identification of key barriers in current planning tools and opportunities in the form of energy and climate strategies to support PED development.
  • PED/CNC energy systems: from identification to implementation
  • Modelling and control methods and techniques for planning, operating and implementing PEDs/CNC

This Special Issue is in collaboration with the International Conference  on "Smart and Sustainable Planning for Cities and Regions - SSPCR 2022", and the session "Planning and Implementing Positive Energy Districts from Concept to Practice: Mapping of Characteristics, Technologies, Stakeholders, Methods and Processes" (https://www.sspcr.eurac.edu/session-planning-and-implementing-positive-energy-districts-from-concept-to-practice/)


Advanced Energy Systems in Zero/Positive Energy Buildings, Communities and Districts


The Building sector is important for cities around the world in its Climate Action efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In general, they are responsible for approximately 40% of the EU’s energy consumption and 36% of the emissions. Therefore, energy in the buildings, communities and districts is one of the main fields for the mitigation of emissions and ensuring a sustainable, self-sufficient and safe future. This can be done by enhancing the energy efficiency and using advanced energy systems components of onsite renewable energy generation, conversion, and storage technologies in buildings, communities and districts, which can offset the imported energy from the grids. Various raising concepts for net-zero/positive energy buildings and districts (NZPEBDs) have emerged in recent years to shape cities in to carbon-neutral communities in the near future. These buildings and districts can also support in reaching self-sufficiency, engage users and provide energy resiliency during outages.

For this Special Issue, authors are kindly invited to submit high-quality papers on one or more of the following topics related to advanced energy systems in net-zero/positive energy buildings and districts:

  • Concepts, definitions and KPIs development of nearly/net/zero and positive energy buildings/communities/districts;
  • Energy efficiency of buildings in communities and districts;
  • Advanced HVAC systems in buildings;
  • Heating/cooling energy and electricity demand;
  • Advanced short/long-term energy storage for heating/cooling/electricity and controls;
  • Renewable-based energy generations and smart controls;
  • Energy resiliency of the buildings during grid outages under various weather conditions;
  • Energy flexibility offered by buildings, communities and districts to the grid;
  • Energy self-sufficiency of the buildings, communities and districts;
  • Advanced simulation and optimization methods;
  • Experience and results from demos and monitoring sites;
  • Economic-, social- and policy-related aspects;
  • User’s acceptance and engagement in communities and districts.


Contribution of Smart City Solutions to Positive Energy Districts and Climate-Neutral Cities


As nations are lagging behind the globally agreed climate goals set in the Paris Agreement, there is a need for more ambitious solutions. Cities have become key players in climate action as they provide the right scale to implement policies into concrete actions in response to societal needs. In consequence, the following goals have been set in Europe: 100 positive energy districts (PEDs) by 2025 and 100 climate-neutral cities (CNCs) by 2030. These goals call for immediate concrete action and innovative new approaches.

Smart city interventions address urban challenges with integrated solutions that are expected to yield energy resource use efficiency, resilience towards climate change, as well as positive environmental, economic and social outcomes (i.e., multiple benefits). They thus have important potential for PED and CNC development.

In this context, this Special Issue is seeking contributions that show progress towards energy positiveness or carbon neutrality at the urban level. Submissions on the following topics are particularly welcome:

  • Case studies on positive energy districts (PEDs) and climate-neutral cities (CNCs);
  • Impact assessment methods and appraisal and evaluation tools related to PEDs and CNCs;
  • Indicators and sustainability frameworks for PEDs and CNCs;
  • Integrated environmental, economic, and social analyses of PEDs and CNCs;
  • Planning and decision support tools (including multi-criteria decision analysis and GIS-based spatial approaches) for PEDs and CNCs;
  • Simulation and modelling of and scenario-based approaches to PEDs and CNCs.

This Special Issue, promoted by the International Energy Agency Energy in Buildings and Communities Annex 83 “Positive Energy Districts” (Subtask-C) in cooperation with the European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST) Action EU PED-NET (WG3) and EU Smart Cities and Communities projects (Monitoring & Evaluation Task group) will focus on tackling the fundamental aspects of sustainability assessment in positive energy districts, proposing advancements within the field, and promoting a holistic approach aimed at breaking the silos of knowledge as the only way forward. Authors participating in the Smart and Sustainable Planning for Cities and Regions - SSPCR 2022 international conference 18–22 July 2022 in Bolzano (Italy) (see https://www.sspcr.eurac.edu/) are invited to submit their papers to this Special Issue (see dedicated session “Towards a Sustainability Assessment of Positive Energy Districts: Methodologies, Case Studies and Applications" https://www.sspcr.eurac.edu/session-towards-a-sustainability-assessment-of-positive-energy-districts/).