Project name APPROVE Bioenergy

Advancing Public Participation and stakeholdeR engagement fOr the improVEment of Bioenergy policies in Central Europe regions
Objective Objective 2.2
Priority Low carbon cities and regions
Aim Renewable Energy Sources (RES) contribute to sustainable development, protection of the environment and citizens' health, and climate change mitigation through the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. This proposal will focus on Bioenergy. In line with the EU goals, bio-energy represents about two-thirds of the renewable energy production in the European Union and is one of the main energy sources contributing to fulfil the objective of 20% final energy consumption from renewable sources by 2020.

However, there are several barriers to bioenergy, such as legal, financial, administrative, and acceptance barriers. One of the main challenges is related to the localization and permitting procedures for RES power plants, which has sometimes faced the opposition of local communities, resulting in a slower growth. While there is a great consensus in society that RES development is needed for a successful low-carbon transition, single development projects often face local opposition. This is related also to the local impacts of renewable energy infrastructures on the environment (e.g. landscape, land use, ecological connectivity, biodiversity). Another specific problem is related with the value chain of the biomass, from the point of view of the producers. For instance, the regional or national production of biomass (e.g., pellets) in some areas is insufficient compared to the local demand . Therefore, the involvement of stakeholders in the value-chain is needed to fill such gap.

Socially innovative approaches to citizen engagement and participation can contribute to solving these problems, and to a broader implementation of bioenergy in the Central European region. During the past years, many public authorities and proponents reshaped their approach towards engaging both organised stakeholders and the public. Experiences in different European regions show that stakeholder engagement in the early phases of the decision process may reduce conflicts and facilitate participation and public acceptance. Moreover, local citizen participation in renewable energy projects through renewable energy communities and cooperatives has resulted of renewable energy, substantial added value in terms of increased local supply and acceptance of renewable energy, and access to additional private capital. Innovative financing approaches such as shareholdings in cooperatives or in citizen financed RES power stations, and crowdfunding have led to raising small scale citizen investment in bioenergy plants and projects. Ownership has been proven as a successful factor both as regards the local acceptance as well as the design of the project to the real needs of the area. This local involvement will be more crucial in a context of increasing renewable energy capacity in the future.
While it might be unrealistic to gain the consensus of all actors involved (acceptance of final result), the rationale of stakeholder engagement is to foster people to accept the outcome of a dialogue and permitting process if they consider the procedure to be transparent, participatory and fair (acceptance of procedure).

The project APPROVE bioenergy is framed within the Bioenergy Smart Specialization Strategy partnership (http://s3platform.jrc.ec.europa.eu/bioenergy). Because bioenergy is a common priority of smart specialisation for several regions across EU, in 2016 the smart specialisation platform on energy has supported the creation of an interregional partnership for bioenergy and smart specialization. This bioenergy partnership is led by the regions of Lapland (FI) and Castilla y Leon (ES) and engages the participation of other 14 regions committed to being frontrunners in developing forest-based as well as non-food agriculture-based bioenergy as the basis for sustainable regional growth.
Results The project will involve partners from 5-6 different regional areas of Central Europe, that will cooperate for the development of a common set of tools. The public authorities involved in the project (partners as well as Associated Partners) will promote the application of such models in their respective areas.

Expected activities
• Studying and analysing good practice cases of socially innovative forms of citizen engagement in bioenergy in the regions participating in APPROVE and beyond in other EU countries
• development of better spatial and socio-environmental assessment methods, stakeholder engagement and citizen participation;
• implementation of pilot actions;
• bioenergy strategy development and recommendations for policy instruments.
Cost tbd
Duration 3 years
Partners involved • Poliedra – Politecnico di Milano (private no-profit research partner) (www.poliedra.polimi.it)
• Zentrum fuer Soziale Innovation (ZSI) – (private no-profit research partner) (www.zsi.at/en)

The invitation to join the proposal is initially sent to all the Regions that participate to the S3 bioenergy partnership located in Central Europe area, and to regional and public authorities that participated to the Central Europe Conference in October in Berlin.
Partners requested - Public authorities at regional and local level
- Organizations/entities responsible for pilots
Follow up of • FP7 Danube-INCO.NET Pilot Activities on a Danube bioeconomy RTI strategy and a Bioeconomy Research and Advocacy Network in the Danube Region (DANUBIONET) - https://danube-inco.net/object/document/18760
• H2020 - BLOOM: Boosting European citizens knowLedge and awareness of biOeconOMy re-search and innovation
• FP7 - INSPIRE-Grid (Improved and eNhanced Stakeholders Participation In Reinforcement of Electricity Grid) - www.inspire-grid.eu
• H2020 Smart Cities and Communities lighthouse project - Sharing Cities www.sharingcities.eu
Follow up fundings