Conceptualizing the Urban Nexus framework for a circular economy: linking energy, water, food and waste (EWFW) in Southeast-Asian cities

Steffen Lehmann

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


The global challenges of rapid urbanisation, particularly dominant in fast-expanding cities in the Southeast-Asian region, include urban sprawl, inefficient infrastructure systems with energy black-outs, increased waste generation and air pollution.

The ‘Urban Nexus’ is here defined as an interrelated complex in which energy, water, food and material flows/waste treatment systems intersect (EWFW, or, short, the ‘Nexus’). The Southeast-Asian Urban Nexus project, initiated by three significant organisations (including UN ESCAP), commenced in 2013 and is currently in its second Phase. It aims to integrate resource management processes that increase the efficiency of natural resource use and infrastructural systems, transform planning practice and reduce CO2 emissions and waste generation. The approach is based on the untapped inter-dependencies between the sectors, therefore looking holistically at the energy system as part of a multi-dimensional network and urban system that requires transformation, rather than understanding urban energy in an isolated single-purpose, single-sector linear way.

One way to reduce energy consumption is to apply the principles of a Circular Economy. The Circular Economy model seeks to base economic development on environmental and resources protection. Hence, the Circular Economy and the Nexus are closely linked. The objective of the EWFW Nexus project is to provide an informed framework for determining trade-offs and synergies to meet future demand, while increasing urban resilience, resource efficiency and green growth, without compromising safeguards for the environmental protection. This chapter presents progress to date, discusses three Nexus case studies, and informs about future Nexus work planned in four European cities.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationUrban Energy Transition
Subtitle of host publicationRenewable Strategies for Cities and Regions
EditorsPeter Droege
ISBN (Electronic)978-0081020753
ISBN (Print)978-0081020746
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2018


  • Southeast-Asian region
  • rapid urbanisation
  • Urban Nexus thinking
  • inter-dependency of Energy- Water-Food-Waste (EWFW)
  • urban resilience theory
  • conceptual framework
  • circular economy
  • decoupling
  • case studies
  • EU cities


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