Groningen is situated in the northern part of the Netherlands. As the largest city of the north, Groningen plays a central role in the region. It is the second-oldest university city of the Netherlands, home to about 40,000 students, approximately 4,000 of whom come from abroad. Harbouring many highly skilled young people ensures a progressive attitude towards both science and urban development.
The northern part of the Netherlands is blessed with big skies and spacious land. Sustainable spatial planning to accommodate the region’s growing number of inhabitants is one of the great challenges here. Alderman for sustainable affairs Jannie Visscher says, ‘In spite of Groningen’s spacious surroundings, we have opted to keep the city compact. We choose not to overtax the precious and vulnerable landscape and natural surroundings by expanding the city.’ In order to facilitate growth while remaining within the city boundaries, Groningen is constantly looking for new and sustainable solutions for living, working and mobility.
Groningen aims to be energy-neutral by 2025. This calls for a sustainable working method for renovating existing structures and building new ones. Visscher: ‘Some 1,000 to 1,400 rental homes will be sustainably renovated in the next two years, decreasing both energy use and CO2 emissions. This will not only have a positive impact on the environment, but also offers social economic benefits since energy efficiency cuts down expenses for tenants.’ One of the most striking examples of sustainable development is certainly seen in Groningen’s new university complex. The entire area will become the largest underground energy storage facility in the northern part of the Netherlands. By using heat exchangers on a large scale throughout the entire complex, CO2 emissions will be cut down by some 60% from the current situation.
Groningen is famous for its compact and easily accessible inner city. This is largely due to the fact that Groningen tries to keep traffic in the inner city to a minimum. An extensive network of cycling and pedestrian paths gets you easily through the city; the network will be extended in the near future. Groningen is currently working on the expansion of a more sustainable public transport system. The city already boasts excellent alternative refuelling options: five stations where cars can fill up with natural gas, two bio-ethanol facilities and several locations equipped with electrical chargers for cars. Recently Groningen also saw the launch of the first sustainable electrical charger for scooters and electric bikes. By promoting the use of bicycles and increasing facilities for the use of alternative energy, Groningen pursues a sustainable mobility policy that is second to none in the Netherlands.