Collaboration between public bodies and citizen energy groups in implementing local energy strategies in Central and Eastern Europe
|Priority||Low carbon cities and regions|
|Aim||(the EnCoDesign project will be represented at the Transnational Workshop in Prague - meet there for partnership discussion - contact firstname.lastname@example.org)
Despite of all the local low carbon strategies and other energy action plans that have been developed over the last years in Central and Eastern Europe, their implementation is rather low or lacking. Local authorities face many challenges in implementing their strategies; the first one being the lack of financing. Local governments are oftentimes limited in ways they can spend their financial resources and are subject to strict European regulation. The second challenge is human resources. Most municipalities have small teams of dedicated sustainability officials, in many cases just one-person teams. These individuals are burdened also by other tasks, and hence the overall working time they devote to fulfilling the energy and climate actions is limited. Finally the municipalities often lack the capacity to raise awareness of citizens, mobilise them and generate public support .
Community energy initiatives are increasingly seen as a way for the public to help public bodies in implementing their sustainable energy and climate action plans. In Northern and Western European countries such as Belgium, Denmark, Germany and Sweden citizen energy groups such as renewable energy cooperatives have a significant role in carrying out local energy strategies and are in some extent their integral part. The city of Leuven relies on a citizen driven non-profit organisation to carry out and coordinate its energy transition, while supporting it with financial resources to cover operating costs. In essence this NGO acts as a service company that implements the local energy strategy instead of the public officials. The city of Lochem initiated the formation of a local energy cooperative, by gathering interested citizens, paying for its start up costs and promoting it on a local level . Finally Eeklo and Kuurne have both included in their tendering processes for local renewable energy projects very stark requirements for citizen involvement such as requirements for direct citizen financial participation, inclusion of communication campaigns etc.
Municipalities in Central and Eastern Europe have a top down approach for local energy governance. The energy strategies are developed without sufficient public consultation and citizen input. Therefore this project aims at developing energy cooperatives and other forms of citizen energy groups, with the aim of helping public bodies implement their strategies in a more transparent and bottom down way.
The consortium will include municipalities/cities and technical experts in energy from five CEE countries including Croatia (Starfish Energy), Slovenia (E-Zavod), Italy/Austria, Czech Republic/Slovakia and Germany (not confirmed). Additionally we aim to include in the project either an example city from the programme area or a relevant organisation outside CEE such as RESCoop.eu
|Results||1) Learning from success examples – our aim is to organise at the start of the project a study tour to several above mentioned case study cities. The aim of this is to show the public officials from the partner municipalities that partnerships between public bodies and citizens can be created and that these really help in implementing local energy strategies. Our aim is also to invite the majors of partnering municipalities to participate in this tour.
2) Tools and pilot actions – within this the project would develop a set of tools that public bodies can use to facilitate citizen engagement. Besides creating larger support for local energy strategies we aim to investigate the ways in which citizens can financially and legally participate in developing local projects and taking ownership over their energy services. We will also investigate the existing legal structures that local energy groups can take in each partner country. Finally we will help public officials and existing or newly founded energy cooperatives develop communication strategies in order to create greater citizen support.
These tools will be tested in real life in form of pilot actions, which will in its essence include the creation of citizen energy groups and their partnerships with the municipalities. The tools would be introduced to the project in stages through a series of workshops with public bodies and citizens.
The toolbox will include:
a) Co-design tools including workshop/facilitation methods, ideation and visualisation exercises that can be used to facilitate the exchange of ideas between citizens and public officials and allow citizens to have a stronger voice in shaping their local energy strategy
b) Participatory financial mechanisms for engaging citizens in direct ownership of local energy infrastructure, including crowdfunding, equity financing etc. Such mechanisms vary across different countries and individual projects
c) Legal structures for citizen energy projects differ across the programme area. The aim of this tool set it to identify the most suitable legal structures for forming citizen energy groups in each partnering country.
d) Business models for citizen energy projects are also affected by the different legal possibilities for forming such enterprises across the programme area. Therefore the aim of this tool would be to identify models that are best for both the citizens and the public bodies
e) Communication strategies for both the local citizen energy groups and public officials, which can be used to gain wider public acceptance of energy strategies but also of the newly formed citizen energy enterprises
The pilot actions will create the following change:
As mentioned the above tools will be tested in real life with the ultimate aim of creating local citizen energy groups and having them conduct smaller pilot projects that lead to the implementation of local energy strategies.
In short the MAIN RESULTS that we aim to achieve are the following:
• 5 local energy strategies have been rewritten and revised, and they have been developed into a roadmap until 2030 with very specific and transparent project objectives
• 3 to 5 energy cooperatives or citizen energy companies have been created in CEE
• 10 local citizen lead projects have been kickstarted through local financing, gathered from citizen by using crowdfunding or any other form of financing that is suitable for the country/municipality
Besides this the project will produce these ADDITIONAL RESULTS:
• The most suitable legal instruments for setting up energy cooperatives/citizen energy groups in each countries legal system have been assessed
• The application of participatory financial instruments has been tested and the most suitable instruments for engaging citizen energy groups have been applied
• Co-design methods have been used in practice including visualisation and ideation workshops – public officials are capable of running such workshops themselves as a result of being immerged in the entire process
• The energy cooperatives that have been formed have been tested in practice, through conducting concrete projects and together in partnership with the municipalities
• The public bodies have applied communication strategies in their regions and communities managing to reach 100.000 people during the project duration and using media channels like Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Instagram, LinkedIn etc.
• The project has helped promote energy cooperatives as a favourable business model for citizen energy groups, especially in those countries that were previously under communism and where coops suffer a bad reputation, such as Croatia, Slovenia, Czech Republic and Poland.
3) Knowledge transfer – this segment of the project would intend to disseminate the knowledge that was gathered. Within this a package of implementation reports on co-design, participatory financing, legal instruments, communication strategies and in general participatory energy strategy development would be written. The reports would be accessible on the projects web page and would be targeted at other public officials in the CEE region. Finally a strategic document with recommendations for other public bodies would be drafted and this would contain a 10-step plan on how to more effectively engage citizens.
THE PROJECT CONSORTIUM
The project consortium is still in stages of formation and we are still looking for partners. We are looking for a lead partner, technical partners with competences in developing the above-mentioned tools and municipalities that are willing to actively participate in the project.
An ideal lead partner is a city or municipality with considerable experience in international EU funded projects.
All partners and especially the lead partner will be given considerable room to influence the project idea in order for this to fit with their goals.
|Cost||Around 2.5 million EUR|
|Partners involved||Starfish Energy (Croatia/Germany)
Municipality of Koper (Slovenia) - TBC
|Partners requested||Lead partner
Municipalities and cities
Regional Development Agencies
|Follow up of||This project idea is based on:
UNDP Croatia Renewable Energy Cooperatives Project - http://www.hr.undp.org/content/croatia/en/home/operations/projects/environment_and_energy/energy_cooperatives.html
Analysis of Gundinci municipality (Croatia) energy potential for communal biogas production
|Follow up fundings|