How is SCCALE 20 30 50 Belgian pilot LICHT Leuven doing? We spoke with Jasmien Jossart and Eline Evers, Energy coaches and consultants at the City of Leuven and with Christina Vogt, who is in charge of Communication & community management at Ecopower. We discussed the good collaboration between the municipality and the energy cooperative and how they addressed the challenge of involving Leuven’s inhabitants in the project.
Up to now what has been the most challenging part of your project? How have you dealt with it?
The LICHT Leuven pilot aims to motivate and support as many citizens of the city of Leuven as possible to become an active part of the local energy transition. We have seen that this approach works very well for individual measures, such as the technical energy scans that provide citizens with information on the options for the installation of solar panels and heat pumps on and in their homes. Additionally, several hundreds of citizens have started utilizing the advanced features of the energy monitoring tool EnergyID, offered for free by the city of Leuven. However, we have encountered challenges when it comes to implementing collective actions. Activating social dynamics in neighborhoods and inspiring citizens to engage in local action has proven to be more difficult than anticipated. Fortunately, being part of the SCCALE project has provided us with good practices, methodologies and activities to engage with citizens. Furthermore, we also realized that we need to join forces with neighbourhood-related organisations within the city department. By joining forces with these organizations, we can better understand the needs and aspirations of the community, tailor our initiatives accordingly, and drive community involvement.
What has been the most important moment for your pilot so far?
The launch of the two tenders by the city of Leuven on energy scans and on energy monitoring has been a major step for the pilot. The decision of the city to invest in these activities, the administrative process of tendering to third-parties cooperatives, the organisation of activities and finally the launch of the communication campaign have all contributed to an exciting phase in the pilot. Seeing the enthusiastic response from many citizens who have reacted positively to the offers has been particularly gratifying. This moment shows the impact and interest generated by our pilot, as well as the city commitment to supporting and promoting the local energy transition.
How close are you to reach your project’s goals?
LICHT Leuven is making significant progress towards achieving its 5 goals
- installing 350 kWp on 10 non-residential roofs: Citizen energy cooperatives ECoOB and Ecopower have already installed 290 kWp on five roofs of public and social organizations. This puts them well on track to reach the target.
- installing 150 kWp on 50 residential roofs: By September 2023, 505 households have received a free energy scan on PV panels. 24 installations have been realized by ECoOB, indicating good progress towards the goal. A survey among those households having received a free scan is running right now, providing us with more recent data on the amount of actually installed panels in the near future.
- connecting 40 households to a district heating network: the innovative heating network based on aquathermal energy will be operational this winter.
- starting an energy sobriety ambassador program: 303 citizens have already joined a specific digital community on energy monitoring by now, embedded in the cooperative energy monitoring platform EnergyID. A community challenge on water launched in summer 2023 was succesful. In total, 1.717 citizens of Leuven are using the general, free service of the cooperative energy monitoring platform EnergyID.
- actively involving 250 people in the process: hundreds of citizens have been reached by LICHT Leuven direct communication, website and information sessions. They even joined a digital platform, indicating their active involvement and engagement in the project.
How are you contributing to the development of new projects/energy communities? What is the next step for your project?
In the upcoming months, we would like to focus on the group of citizens that has the financial means and the information to install solar panels on their own roofs, but who are still hesitating. For example, we would like to try and test an approach focused rather on social than financial triggers by making use of peers such as neighbours who already invested in solar energy on their roofs. We are collecting testimonies on how they went about and try to find some of them who want to talk about it during an information session or at an informal get together in the street or neighbourhood.
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