Poland's Pilot Activity: NEEST – NetZero Emission and Environmentally Sustainable Territories


Description of activities

62% of Poland’s population lives in cities. 70% out of 5 million single-family houses in Poland do not meet energy efficiency standards. Therefore, residential and service buildings require intervention in the first place. In the cities especially in residential areas we struggle with social-economic challenges: aging of society, stratification, energy poverty, migration, as well as energy crisis. We should take measures aimed at increasing quality of life while striving for decarbonisation. Krakow, Lodz, Rzeszow, Warsaw, Wroclaw realise that without a thorough modernisation of buildings it is difficult to achieve the EU-wide climate targets. . On top of these efforts, additional financial and technical support is needed to achieve the climate neutrality solutions. 

The aim is to prepare a set of innovative solutions ready for implementation, scaling, and replication. During the pilot project, cities, drawing conclusions from the tested solutions, will increase their knowledge, capabilities and organisational capacities to replicate and scale them. 

Pilot solutions will be prepared for representative building quarters or groups of buildings. Building types will include e.g.: pre-1918 tenements, post-1945 business utility buildings, multi-family buildings from the 1970s (massively built during the communist period), single-family residential buildings from the 1970s/1980s and school buildings from 1960s/1970s that have different heat sources like: district heating network, individual heating sources, gas, RES, etc.  

An area-based approach to building modification, improving the quality of adjacent areas, and community involvement allows for additional benefits: increased resilience to climate change and energy security, improved accessibility (also for people with special needs), social inclusion or combating energy poverty.  A guidebook will be introduced to a wide audience which will allow cities with similar types of buildings  to test and scale and even improve the model solutions as well as create new models for larger number of types of buildings based on available NEEST models. 

The model of reduction of emissions will be achieved thanks to the three fundamental assumptions of the pilot:

  • Firstly, the project assumes a comprehensive and broadly defined model of technological revitalisation of 5 types of buildings, which means that all emission factors in buildings will be reduced to zero.
  • Secondly, the pilot assumes modelling broad activities in all aspects in the streams of the modernisation process, from organisational, financial, legislative and social, including monitoring systems, evaluation and learning. This means that the result of the project will also include assumptions on how to implement modernisations and model technological solutions.
  • Thirdly, the assumptions of the pilot project are representative, i.e., they can be replicated in all other cities in Poland and in regions with similar climate conditions or even more broadly for relevant building technologies. 


Targeting energy-inefficient buildings (mainly residential and service buildings) and districts by turning them into nearly zero-emission buildings and significantly reducing the demand for coal-based electricity and heat.

What are the challenges that cities would like to address with the pilot activities?

Institutional barriers and challenges 

  • Insufficient level of financial support of local governments in the process of achieving climate neutrality:
    • Lack of national programmes targeting to support the decarbonisation of buildings, the current ones are aimed primarily at improving air quality
    • Silos-based management within local governments, difficulties in building cooperation between the public and private sectors, insufficient cooperation between cities, fragmentation of decisions on retrofitting, which does not allow the use of the potential of integrated planning on a city scale, the potential of the area around buildings or the scale effect, fast learning and forcing innovation

Structural barriers and challenges 

  • Lack of financing models and business models enabling achievement of large scale, with the involvement of mixed capital, private and public, without overburdening users with excessive costs, low investment profitability
  • Cities dependence on the national coal-based power system and slow legislative and investment activities in this area

Technical barriers and challenges  

  • Lack of consistent data, measurements and analysis of buildings carried out on a large scale, which would allow them to increase of the level of available knowledge and to carry out the estimation and simulation of the effects and costs of actions taken
  • Unawareness of modern technical and technological solutions, lack of knowledge of how to apply them, complexity of the process with a low level of general technical culture, low awareness of financial and environmental costs and additional benefits of introducing such solutions, little interest from building administrators, unawareness of the opportunity to use modern technologies as a revenue source (not as costs) 
  • Conservation restrictions or poor condition of building structures, making it impossible to undertake modernisation activities without a thorough renovation 

Socioeconomic and educational & communicational barriers and challenges 

  • Difficulty in obtaining consensus in multi-family residential buildings, unclear legal status of some real estates
  • Low public awareness of the need for decarbonisation and climate transformation , social resistance, low awareness of the benefits of modernisation of buildings and possible innovative technical solutions, · low level of social participation in the decision-making process in cities, low level of awareness of local issues
  • Low level of involvement of local actors – business, scientific and industry institutions, social organisations and others – in decarbonisation and decision-making processes in cities
  • Resistance  to the necessity to incur part of the costs of decarbonisation by residents and local actors  
  • Lack of acceptance of the migration of inhabitants, necessary for the proper development of cities in the context of demographic changes and ageing of the society 

Are cities building upon or part of a previous and/or existing activity?

The NEEST NetZero Emission and Environmentally Sustainable Territories cities has previous experience in:

  • Business model on scalable retrofitting in different types of buildings
  • Previous projects on revitalisation of buildings and financial support for residents
  • Initiatives supporting the reduction of the emission and energy consumption in buildings and encouraging residents and other stakeholders to take relevant actions
  • Projects aimed at thermal modernisation of private and municipal buildings, including guidelines for netzero buildings
  • Projects aimed at engaging residents in revitalization and spatial planning of their neighborhoods

Which emissions domains will the pilot activity address?

  • Consumption of electricity generated for buildings, facilities, and infrastructure

  • Consumption of non-electricity energy for thermal uses in buildings and facilities (e.g., heating, cooking, etc.)

Systemic transformation – levers of change the pilot activities will exploit

  • Technology/infrastructure 

  • Governance and policy 

  • Social innovation 

  • Democracy/participation 

  • Finance & funding 

  • Learning and capabilities

Stakeholder types that cities would like to engage in the pilot activities 

Citizens of 5 cities will be invited to participate in the analysis of current needs and social behaviour. Model of social participation will be developed in order to effectively activate and involve the community in the decarbonisation process and build trust in new solutions (model will be based on results of social analysis). Particular attention will be paid to seniors, because the identification of their needs is very important in the modernisation process due to the forecast that in Poland in 2050, they will constitute 23.5% of the population. 

Other stakeholders include local communities, competent ministries, regional authorities, district heating and energy companies, municipal entities responsible for water supply and sewage collection, entities collecting municipal waste and urban planning and greenery business representatives, NGOs, experts, academic and industry organisations, municipal units, municipal property managers.  

Transferable features of pilot activities to a Twin City/ies 

  • Analysis of social behaviour and technical needs within selected districts in 5 cities, which will lead to recommendations on how to effectively carry out the modernisation process in the social, economic, legislative and technical context. Whilst also considering the social involvement in the decarbonisation process using relevant monitoring and evaluation systems, including educational activities.
  • Provide a methodological guide for planning and initiating decarbonisation of built-up areas.
  • Models of: 1. buildings retrofit as well as 2. financial support and 3. Residents and other stakeholders engagement and 5. revitalization of the surrounding area.

This answer is not exhaustive and simply an indicative one.

Components of the transferable features 

  • Essential and universal models of operation in order to achieve climate neutrality in cities will be developed during the pilot project. Models will present how to conduct comprehensive and locally acceptable modernisation of buildings and districts (e.g.: technical model, financing model, social participation model) and may be used by other Polish and European cities, especially in Central and Eastern Europe, due to the similarities of these countries, such as climatic conditions and the consequences of the socialist economy before 1990. These models will contain a set of unified solutions, developed with the MEL processes, ready for use by other local governments.
  • Catalogue for buildings/districts: Buildings and districts will be selected from 5 Polish cities in a way that will guarantee the collection of a wide range of examples of building types (e.g.: school, public utility institution, blocks, tenement house, business premises, single family house) and districts. Thanks to this approach, a catalogue of different solutions for various types of buildings and districts commonly found in cities in Poland and Europe will be created. 
  • Map of stakeholders – list of subjects engaged and actively cooperating with the cities (counting types) in the process.
  • Knowledge repositories build within NEEST project – reports and working documents – showing the results of every stage of modelling.
  • Communication plan of the project – scaling and building new culture of collaboration with cities.
  • Mutual learning activities – workshop for Twinning Cities
  • Capability to create new model for transforming build environment to NetZero emission

This answer is not exhaustive and simply an indicative one.

What do cities want to learn from Twin City/ies? 

  • Efficient engagement of residents and local actors in decision-making process. 
  • How partner cities cooperate with residents – how they recognise their needs and activate them for participation (especially seniors), and stakeholders. In particular, how they encourage private business, entrepreneurs, and individual residents to invest in climate-related actions.  
  • How partner cities conduct effective monitoring and evaluation (including indicators selection), and reporting in building renovation, energy transformation, building resilience, and engaging residents. 
  • Good and bad lessons learnt in multi stakeholder environment concerning building culture of mutual learning and knowledge sharing.

This answer is not exhaustive and simply an indicative one.