Sønderborg's Pilot City Activity: ZERO Industry



Sønderborg´s Project Zero Masterplan2029, approved by the City Council in 2021, outlines how Sønderborg will achieve carbon neutrality by 2029 in a cost-efficient way. The Masterplan2029 segments society into 4 sectors on housing, transport, business (including industry) and energy, with sub-sectors in each of them. 

The “ZERO Industry” pilot activity is thereby tackling industry’s transition to a zero-carbon industry, addressing carbon emissions from industry manufacturing processes and facilities (scopes 1 and 2), its own fleet of vehicles (scope 1), and the purchase of transport services for goods to/from the industry (scope 3).

The selected emission domains account for 26% of Sønderborg’s baseline emissions and are therefore significant for Sønderborg achieving carbon neutrality by 2029. Sønderborg has a rich and historic mixture of manufacturing industries and companies.

The large energy-using industries include the following industry sub-segments:

  • brick manufacturers
  • food industry processing
  • mechatronics manufacturing

The focused sectors and industries are under hard customer, value-chain, and societal pressure to decarbonise their business operations. However, as solutions are still unclear and immature, the decision-making for the industries becomes complex. The industries lack good use-cases and role models to build a strong industry transition storyline.

The pilot activity’s ambition is to use systemic change levers and find pathways to accelerate industry’s emissions to ZERO carbon. It will engage both the production industry and the transportation industry and create systemic solutions and approaches to decarbonise production processes and electrify heavy vehicle transportation.

Description of Activities

Some of the pilot activities include:

  • Heavy vehicle transportation solutions for industry : Partners and stakeholders will jointly examine and coordinate the local actions required to secure that local destination, as well as public charging infrastructure, policy, and communication, which will support a push/pull strategy for increased supply (from the transport industry) and demand (from the production industry).
  • Energy system solutions for industry heating and electrification: The target segment for this action is energy-intensive industries, including food, brick, and mechanical industries. The objective is to examine the most cost-efficient solutions from a combination of green district heating supply and electrification based on locally produced green power supply.
  • Industry test and adaptation of systems solutions: This activity will engage between 3 to 5 energy-intensive industry companies, located in the Sønderborg and Padborg areas, prepared to test and evaluate co-created systemic solutions. The selected industry companies are expected to have an established carbon emissions baseline, climate action (investment) plan, and a carbon emissions monitoring system in place.
  • Scaling up: Conduct webinars and workshops to share the results and lessons learned from the pilot activities. The participating companies will include not only energy-intensive production and transportation companies but also local SME companies.


ZERO Industry focuses on energy-intensive industries (including an industry cross-over with transportation) and challenges the industries to achieve 100% decarbonisation based on electrification and district heating systemic solutions.

Are the pilot activities building upon or part of a previous and/or existing activity?

Sønderborg’s ProjectZero launched the ZEROcompany-programme in 2009, collaborating with CDP/Sweden and local stakeholders. The programme trained 55 local large and small businesses from 2009 to 2011 to tackle their own climate emissions challenges.

In 2015, ProjectZero partnered with leading Danish universities and created the SAVE-E R&D project, which helped Sønderborg and five selected large industrial companies review their industrial processes for potential energy savings.

Sønderborg also played a significant role in the EU’s SmartEnCity project, which aimed to create smart and sustainable cities across Europe. ProjectZero coordinated local collaboration among housing and utility companies, as well as Aalborg University.

In 2020, Sønderborg Municipality partnered with ProjectZero and the district heating companies for a co-creation partnership for a new heat plan for Sønderborg. The planning process improved cooperation between the partners and grew competencies and acceptance for turning the district heating 100% carbon neutral by 2029. The ZERO Industry pilot activity will benefit from the maturity of the partnership.

Which emissions domains will the pilot activities 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.)

  • All vehicles and transport (mobile energy) 

  • ​Industrial process emissions 

Systemic transformation – levers of change the pilot activities will exploit

  • Technology/Infrastructure  

  • Governance & Policy

  • Social Innovation

  • Democracy/Participation

  • Finance & Funding

  • Learning & Capabilities 

  • Data & Digitalisation 

  • Procurement

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

  • Research Institutions

  • Citizens

  • Financial Institutions

  • Public/Private Partnerships

  • Business

Transferable features of the pilot activities to a Twin City/ies 

  • Systemic solutions to reduce emissions from production and transportation industry companies to zero.
  • A methodology on how to establish local cross-sectoral cooperation platforms, and projects for accelerated climate transitions to not only reduce carbon emissions but also save cost on the purchase of imported fossil fuel, grow local skills/competencies, and create new green jobs in the local community.here:

This answer is not exhaustive and simply an indicative one.

Enabling conditions that will support the successful replication of your pilot activities in the Twin City

The transfer/implementing body must most likely be a non-government body, potentially a local business development body or partnership with the municipality, or alternatively an industry association body (transport, production industry, etc) aiming for acceleration to ZERO Industry.

This answer is not exhaustive and simply an indicative one.

What does the city want to learn from Twin City/ies?

  • How to identify, develop, and implement heavy transport use cases to start electrification where it is most profitable.
  • How new business concepts between industries and utilities can foster accelerated decarbonisation and sector integration in industries.
  • How a public-private partnership in a municipality can drive and facilitate decarbonisation solutions that involve multiple stakeholders.

This answer is not exhaustive and simply an indicative one.