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Energy transition

Finding space for new infrastructure


Period Sept 2019 - May 2020

Client City of Amsterdam – Public Space and Sustainability department - Ruimte en Duurzaamheid [R&D]

Context & objectives

Amsterdam’s goal is to be a natural gas-free city by 2040. Amsterdam's ambitions for growth and sustainability have an effect on the city’s public space; more infrastructure is needed to continue to reliably supply energy to the growing number of homes, businesses, transport services, data centres and so forth. Making the energy supply more sustainable requires the strengthen of current electricity grids and the construction of sustainable heat grids. In addition, there are strong ambitions for sustainable mobility in the form of electric driving. The new required infrastructure is not only installed at the underground level but it also has an effect on the public space; all public utilities generally have an above-ground component that is usually placed in the urban public space.


The city wants to continue offering quality public space for current and new residents and different users while meeting its sustainable goals. Therefore, the question asked to SpaceTraces is where in the public space could the necessary above-ground energy infrastructure be placed? 


The answer to this question requires first to be as specific as possible and perform an analysis to point out the exact locations where enough space is available, to then aggregate the results and give valuable insights at a neighbourhood and at a city level.

Analyses at a sidewalk and at neighbourhood level

The first two elements we started to play out with are:

  • heat substations (warmteonderstations)

  • medium voltage stations  (middenspanningsruimtes).


The dimensions of these two elements where provided by Liander, one of te main grid operators in The Netherlands. We assured a free space buffer of 2 meters around the elements to guarantee access from every side and to guarantee enough free space on the sidewalks to pedestrians and other users. 

The unit of analysis is the sidewalk. In each sidewalk, it is indicated the specific location where the new elements could be placed.

The specific locations within a sidewalk  are highlighted with think purple segments  (see 1st and 3rd map). 


SpaceTraces provides also the total number of elements that could be placed per sidewalk (if any):

  • Purple sidewalks indicate that, at least, it is possible to place one element. The total number, whether is 2 or 10, it is indicated by numbers above the corresponding sidewalk.

  • Navy sidewalks indicate that there is not enough space to place any new object there (see 2nd and 4th map).

The input open layers used in the analysis are: the "voetgangergebied"  (pedestrian areas) and voetpad (sidewalks) layers, obtained from the BGT server.


We added the parks, green infrastructure, trees and car parking spots to the maps to reveal  other possibilities, for instance, there might be no space in one sidewalk but then some car parking spots could be transformed into available space for this new infrastructure.

01 segments buitenvendenvert.png
01 segments vanderperk.png
01_ van der perk.png
Analysis neighbourhood level

One of the main advantages of this project is that SpaceTraces automated the whole process, this way it is easy and fast to modify parameters, such as the dimensions of the elements or the free space required around an element, and run the analysis again. 


We are currently providing support to our client by modifying the free space that is needed around an element. This free space changes per neighbourhood; some neighbourhoods are simply more packed and busy than others, especially in the city center, the way the City of Amsterdam has to provide more space in those districts, is by assuring more free space around the new infrastructure. Thanks to the automation process, we can specify this free space per neighbourhood and obtain the new results quickly. 

Analysis at a city level 

What we seek with the upscaling to the whole city is to aggregate the results obtained in the previous phases (sidewalk and neighbourhood level), providing an integral overview of the city.

Dark blue neighbourhoods indicate that a higher number of new elements can be installed, thus more space is available there.

whole amsterdam.png
Analysis city level

The type of decisions to be made based on this map are high-level decisions and not as specific as the ones taken at the previous phases. For instance, the map shows that there is not space in a specific neighbourhood but that more new elements could be placed in one of the surrounding neighborhoods. Subsequently, the decisions to be made are related to the management of the grid and to how to assure that the necessary energy demand of the two neighbourhoods is met and not about the exact location of the new objects. 

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