This is what a energy-neutral Leiden look like.

Nowadays it’s a trend for every country, company, organisation and municipality to set as ambitious goals on sustainability as possible. Most of the time however, those goals are put on the back burner. The methods to reach the goals are kept vague and the goals are often not reached in time. The municipality of Leiden seems to be going down a different path.

Leiden also set some ambitious goals on sustainability. One important goal is to realise a netto energy-neutral Leiden by 2050. But, directly after setting this goal, the municipality of Leiden and the Dutch ministry of infrastructure and environment commissioned several companies and organisations to join hands and to develop an energy transition map of Leiden and its surroundings. This map shows a scenario of what Leiden would look like if this goal indeed would be reached by 2050. You can check out the map below.

map-leidenFor a bigger version of this map click here

This map clearly shows that the transition to an energy-neutral Leiden requires quite some rigorous changes. I’ll discuss the two most comprehensive ones here:

1. Complete new heating infrastructure

To reach the goal set for 2050, Leiden and its surroundings will need to get rid of fossil gas used for heating. Instead, there’s a need for a completely new heating infrastructure, fuelled by geothermal heat ánd waste heat from the Rotterdam industrial area. Realising this infrastructure will take an enormous effort. However, Leiden and some partners have already started the realisation of this network in a big project. Check out the video below to learn more about this project (in Dutch).

2. Placing hundreds of wind turbines

To generate enough energy to make Leiden energy neutral, a huge amount of energy needs to be generated inside the area. To achieve this, there need to be placed hundreds of wind turbines. In the scenario presented in the map, the wind turbines will create a thick belt through the area, ‘separating’ the urban area from the nature area. Some other wind turbines will be placed in the dunes, a almost sacred place for a lot of citizens. To convince people of the urgency of those placements as well as to fund this expensive project will probably be a tough task for the involved parties.


So to conclude, the municipality of Leiden took a bold step by developing this map which shows how radical the transition towards 2050 will need to be. This transition brings great challenges and I’m really curious on how Leiden will take these on.
What do you think? Will Leiden be able to reach their ambitious goal, based on the map that is presented? Can you find any underexposed solutions on the map? Feel free to let me know.


9 thoughts on “This is what a energy-neutral Leiden look like.”

    1. @gijsvannes @lieuwe1994 Good questions. I think the municipality of Leiden will have a really really hard time trying to reach this goal. Making Leiden energy-neutral of course isn’t the only goal they want to reach by 2050 and some other goals, like keeping the citizens happy, will probably conflict with this goal at some point. Therefore, the municipality will have to give in on reaching their goals at some point. So to answer your question: I’m not really convinced that Leiden will reach this goal in time and I’m sure that it won’t be done according to the presented map.


  1. @gijsvannes That was the first question that came up for me too! I think many people would vote or protest against that amount of windmills around their city. I am very curious about the way the municipality will satisfy everyone.

    @wiljot Did you search for the plans other cities (comparable to Leiden) made for a greener and more sustainable future? These plans look great, but maybe they aren’t that great compared to the sustainable agenda other cities have. Wouldn’t you like to see things in perspective? Thanks in advance!


    1. @lieuwe1994 I put some serious thought into writing a blogpost about other cities and their sustainability goals and a comparison with Leiden. So I definitely think it would be awesome to put the situation of Leiden into perspective.


  2. Nice piece, Wiljo! I’m wondering what your view is on collaborations and partnerships between the municipality of Leiden and other financial, social and institutional parties. For instance, connecting solutions with financial markets is argued to be helpful. Cities often act as financial hubs that can provide the appropriate environment for financial actors to contribute to sustainable market models. Is Leiden such a hub?
    Engaging citizens in sustainable urban development is also important if you ask me, like raising awareness of the advantages of sustainable consumption and climate-smart decisions. Do you feel like Leiden is exploring sustainable lifestyles and engaging its citizens in city development?


  3. Every time I see that map, I am just shocked by how much work it would take to make Leiden energy neutral. The goals are very rigorous indeed! The new heating infrastructure is very cool.

    Do you know if there has already been an environmental risk assessment of the wind turbine placement in the dunes? And how many turbines would need to be placed in the dunes? I’m very curious!


  4. Solid piece.

    However, I heard some controversial things about this energy map. Someone even stated that it is conflicting with the current map which shows all new structures such as buildings and industry. Do you think this map still has value other than illustrating that it take a lot of work and change to achieve the net energy-neutral Leiden?



    1. I do think it has some value. There’s clearly put thought into this map and although you can’t copy paste it into reality, some parts of it will probably work. You just still have to take a good look at everything before you implement something from the map. But that’s common sense I guess.


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