However, what form should intelligent urban redevelopment take, from transport through residential accommodation to workplaces?
"All German towns and cities have great potential for saving energy," states Hermann-Josef Wagner, Professor of Energy Systems and the Energy Economics at Ruhr University Bochum.
The possibilities range from efficient thermal insulation in old buildings to ingenious traffic management and also extend to low-energy lighting of public spaces. Numerous technologies are already available, but their introduction often fails due to high costs, multiple conflicting interests or the ponderous decision-making processes in local bureaucracies.
New ideas through a national competition
The 'Energy-efficient Town' competition, initiated by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research has created some momentum in this hesitant development and could deliver financially viable conversion concepts for the entire country.
Seventy-two municipalities, ranging from million-inhabitant cities to the small towns in the country have responded to the call to develop intelligent and practical energy plans.
Of the 72 respondents, 15 qualified for a 200,000 Euro grant to enable them to prepare their redevelopment strategies. In autumn 2010, this list was reduced to five winning towns and cities. These are Essen, Magdeburg, Stuttgart, Wolfhagen, in North Hessen, and Delitzsch, in Saxony.