Download the Amsterdam City briefing

Amsterdam’s energy problem |

In Amsterdam’s city centre, packed with monuments and protected buildings, there is little space for clean energy infrastructure. Solar panels and other visible interventions are not permitted on historic buildings. Other infrastructure necessary for the transition, such as electricity substations and transformers, are too big to fit in the narrow and dense urban plan.

Aesthetic concerns play a role in much of the wider metropolitan area, too. The IJmeer lake and on-land ‘buffer’ zones, are used for recreation or transport. Many feel that current visions of clean energy infrastructure development in these areas will make them less attractive or useful for other needs of urban dwellers.

There is not enough space on land nor water to meet the electricity demands for the future of the region through renewable sources. Experts call for an integrative spatial approach whereby clean energy demand is reconciled with other pressing urban needs, such as housing and preservation of cultural heritage and natural landscapes.

How can we embed clean energy in the Amsterdam landscape?


Amsterdam’s metropolitan region must cater to a number of growing demands like housing, preserving natural and cultural heritage and redesigning the urban mobility system. Rather than thinking of these as separate systems, design has the power to approach these demands more holistically with multipurpose concepts, products, services, space.

“Precisely because we are sharing public space with more and more people in Amsterdam, it must be green and healthy… Entrepreneurship, technology, and creativity make it accessible; participation and customisation make it feasible; solidarity makes it affordable for everyone.”  

Amsterdam Coalition Agreement, May 2018
Consider how the energy transition needed can be combined with improved biodiversity, leisure, transport, water storage and agriculture. The degeneration of peat meadows contributes considerably to the CO2-problem and climate change, for instance. Can the energy transition help preserve nature we need in the metropolitan region? Can we design attractive landscapes and multipurpose ‘urban edges’ where clean energy solutions thrive?
Clean forms of electricity generation work well as decentralised, small-scale installations. Consider neighbourhood-level interventions to generate and supply energy in the form of electricity, heat or cooling, in beautiful, inspiring and educational ways.

Find out more and download the city briefing below for background information, suggestions on where design can make a difference, impact areas and inspiring examples.

Download the Amsterdam City briefing