New roles for local authorities in a time of climate change: The Rotterdam Energy Approach and Planning as a case of urban symbiosis

Jennifer Lenhart*, Bas Van Vliet, A.P.J. Mol

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)


As cities expand and environmental challenges multiply, linear relations between resource consumption and waste need to be broken, with outputs cycled back as inputs. Twenty years of industrial symbiosis research has provided ample evidence and experience how to close material and energy cycles in industrial systems. The more recent urban symbiosis literature develops a similar perspective and experience on closing waste-resource cycles for a different social system: cities. An urban symbiosis analysis on how to close urban waste-resource cycles has to focus on geographical boundaries, local partnerships, and policy interventions. In conducting a detailed case study of Rotterdam Energy Approach and Planning (REAP), this paper aims to identify how urban actors, notably local authorities, can facilitate improved urban resource management to mitigate climate change. REAP incorporates energy and water reuse in an urban area, using by-products as resources in different urban functions. It is coordinated by Rotterdam's local authority, in partnership with architects and academic institutions in its design, and housing corporations and energy companies in its implementation. The methodology to assess REAP includes a review of policy documents, site visits and in-depth interviews. This study revealed the central role of local authorities in governing urban symbiosis projects like REAP; the need for increased private-sector participation in the design stage of such projects; and the necessity to encourage dialogue, learning and flexibility in the governance of urban resource management.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)593-601
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Energy strategies
  • Resource-waste cycles
  • Rotterdam
  • Urban climate governance
  • Urban planning


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