Episode#51 SMCNetZero Project: What Lessons Can Transfer from Larger Cities to SMCs?

Guests: @Maria Vassilakou, Urban Strategist and Founder at Vienna Solutions and member of the EU Horizon Mission experts board on Smart & Climate-Neutral Cities. She also served as Vienna’s Vice Mayor responsible for Urban Planning, Traffic & Transport, Climate Protection, Energy and Public Participation from November 2010 to July 2019. ​​​​​​​

Date of recording: 3 November 2023

Find transcript here


Summaries of Key Takeaways:  

  • Climate Neutrality Prioritization: Vassilakou reflects on the importance of placing climate neutrality at the core of city planning efforts from the outset. 
  • Vienna's Decarbonization Challenges: The city faces challenges in reducing its gas dependency, crucial for decarbonizing heating systems. 
  • Strategies for SMCs: Long-term planning, energy zoning, and community grant schemes are highlighted as effective strategies larger cities like Vienna can offer to SMCs. 
  • Overcoming SMC Challenges: SMCs often struggle with decision-making power, capacity, and attracting investments, which can be mitigated by collaboration and creating networks. 
  • Role of SMEs: Small and medium-sized enterprises are pivotal in supporting local decarbonization efforts through community engagement and driving change within their operations. 


“To you, what is a Smart City?”

Maria Vassilakou: “Well, for me, a smart city is a city that provides life quality for all. So a good, free, fearless, healthy life for everybody, and not just for the few that can afford everything while consuming as little resources as possible by introducing and utilizing technologies and innovation. And that means, my notion of a smart city is that technologies serve a purpose, and that smart, as I understand it, means thinking about multiple impacts and externalities, and also about co benefits in advance and not afterwards, as we most of the times tend to do.”  



  • Create a systemic approach that considers long-term sustainability goals

"We have introduced energy zoning, which means that for each area, it is clear what sources of energy you are allowed to use for construction

and renovations."

  • Create a systemic approach that considers long-term sustainability goals

Literally every neighborhood needs its own center, where you find things that you need for everyday life.

  • Develop targeted strategies to decarbonise residential buildings.

The toughest challenge is: how do you decarbonise buildings with small owner-occupied flats?