With a particular emphasis on citizen engagement, affordable housing, energy efficiency, and digitalisation, this webinar as part of the EUSEW sustainable energy days served as a platform for exchanging ideas and forging partnerships to shape the future of urban environments.
Smart Cities Marketplace
Georg Houben, Policy Offer, European Commission set the scene for this engaging webinar focusing on citizen engagement and the role that EU projects and initiatives such as the Smart Cities Marketplace, oPEN Lab, Atelier, support service for citizen lead renovation and the affordable housing initiative play.
Tatiana Pasquel Garcia, co-coordinator of the Smart Cities Marketplace, VITO, highlighted key points about the Smart Cities Marketplace as a dynamic platform that brings together a network of experts and investors to support project proposals for cities. With a strong emphasis on collaboration, the initiative engages with various stakeholders to raise awareness and inspire action by sharing information on available solutions. The Marketplace provides crucial support and assistance to on-the-ground projects and action plans, creating opportunities and fostering relationships for financing. By collaborating with other European-level initiatives, the Marketplace promotes a comprehensive approach to city development. It focuses on three key areas: buildings and energy, mobility, and digital solutions. The Marketplace offers a user-friendly website that serves as a valuable resource, featuring project information, policy papers, solution books, and more. Additionally, it organises matchmaking events to connect investors with project representatives and extends consultancy services and financial master classes. Overall, the Smart Cities Marketplace is a driving force in advancing sustainable urban development.
The European Commission’s Affordable Housing Initiative took center stage as Martin Willemart, Policy Officer, DG Grow, European Commission, outlined its key points during a recent event. Designed to combat energy poverty, address the housing crisis, and promote building renovation, the initiative aims to make significant strides in doubling renovation rates and generating green jobs. With a strong focus on social and affordable housing at the district level, the initiative advocates an integrated approach that encompasses not only energy efficiency but also social innovation and community engagement. The overarching goal is to develop projects with replication potential, backed by the European Affordable Housing Consortium and the Rising Europe program. Lighthouse districts are being supported by the consortium to create replicable blueprints, while Rising Europe projects concentrate on digitalization, energy communities, and energy-efficient renovation. The European Social Innovation competition provides further assistance to drive social innovators in the housing sector.
Kaspar Alev from the city of Tartu discussed the oPEN Lab project and its focus on triggering renovation activities in Tartu. Tartu is a city located in Estonia and is known as the intellectual and cultural hub of the country. The oPEN Lab project is part of Tartu’s efforts to contribute to the European Green Deal and promote sustainability. The project aims to engage apartment owners in renovation activities to improve energy efficiency and sustainability in residential buildings. Alev emphasised the importance of working with the community and involving citizens in the decision-making process. The oPEN Lab project adopts a collaborative approach by providing information, resources, and support to apartment owners to encourage them to undertake renovation projects. By actively involving apartment owners in the renovation process, the Open Lab project aims to create a sense of community and shared responsibility for sustainability. It provides technical expertise, financial assistance, and access to resources to facilitate the renovation process.
Leen Peeters, coordinator of support service for citizen-led renovation projects initiative, Th!nk E, captivated audiences with an address about the power of citizen-led renovation initiatives as the catalyst for sustainable building transformation. Drawing attention to the pressing need for increased renovation rates in residential buildings, the Peeters emphasised the pivotal role of energy communities in driving change. She stressed the importance of building trust and forging strong relationships with citizens, highlighting the significance of understanding cultural nuances across different countries. Shedding light on the ground breaking citizen-led renovation project, Peeters discussed the implementation of pilot programs that harness automated administrative structures, innovative financing options, and robust citizen engagement strategies. She also unveiled the transformative potential of positive energy districts, propelling the drive to elevate renovation rates in private buildings. Encouraging participation in advisory boards, she underscored the vital policy implications and the imperative of collaboration with one-stop shops. Ultimately, Leen Peeters concluded by urging the sharing of experiences and knowledge to achieve a far-reaching impact, while championing the indispensable role of energy communities in realizing the goals of renovation and elevated energy performance.
Thomas van Dijk from the Atelier team emphasized the significance of citizen and stakeholder engagement in the realm of home energy management. His presentation shed light on the three pillars crucial to effective engagement: openness, transparency, and inclusivity. Under the first pillar of openness, van Dijk stressed the importance of open standards and interoperability. He urged the adoption of open standards to ensure the seamless integration of diverse home energy management systems. By embracing open standards, collaboration and innovation in the field can flourish, benefitting both consumers and industry stakeholders. But open standards alone don’t engage citizens. Transparency as the second pillar is essential, which is the use and promotion of open-source technology using open standards. Through open-source solutions, greater transparency and accountability can be achieved in home energy management practices. By providing consumers with access to the inner workings of energy management systems, open-source technology empowers individuals to take control of their energy consumption. The third pillar highlighted by van Dijk was inclusivity. He stressed the need to strengthen energy communities to implement, host and own the open-source technology on behalf of their members. By prioritizing energy communities, engagement and participation can be enhanced, ultimately leading to more sustainable energy practices. The democratization of energy management tools and knowledge through open-source technology ensures equal access and benefits for all. Van Dijk’s presentation emphasized the potential of citizen and stakeholder engagement in home energy management. By promoting openness, transparency, and inclusivity, he urged attendees to embrace these pillars as a means to create a more sustainable and empowered future.
This article was originally published on the Smart Cities Marketplace Website: Key take aways: Citizen Engagement – Accelerate the Clean Energy Transition | Smart Cities Marketplace (europa.eu)
Author and credits: Smart Cities Marketplace