Engaging members of the electric cooperative in Spain
Citizens play a central role in the proliferation of Energy Communities. That is why the process of engaging citizens is considered key in the pilots of the Lightness project. In the pilot based in Alginet (Spain), a seed community is forming within an electric cooperative with almost a century of existence. This implies that there is an existing social fabric and a sense of community, which is a key driver for an ambitious engagement strategy.
During the engagement process, several participatory workshops are being planned and implemented. To kick off the pilot’s engagement, a public presentation was made in the Culture House of the town, where potential participants raised crucial questions, concerns, ideas and interests. There was a general sense of willingness to act which was highlighted during the debate about the implementation of photovoltaic self-consumption. The enriching exchanges of this first encounter fed into the design of future workshops.
Workshops aim at tackling the three main pillars that engagement strategies are integrating in Lightness: exploration, recruitment and co-design. Exploratory and co-design workshops are enabling the pilot leaders to dig deeper into the needs, motivations and desires of potential community members. The workshop managed to unlock and create enriching dialogues to propose concrete ideas and raise critical questions that would help design the Energy Community in the cooperative. Facilitating tools employed showed to be useful to strengthen the bonds among participants, involve those who have less technical knowledge, and spark imaginative alternatives. Games, ice breakers and graphic materials are some resources being tested in the Alginet pilot.
Given the innovative nature of Energy Communities, it is sometimes hard for end-users to imagine and create how can they organize around energy, given their particularities of age, knowledge, and time available, among others. To show some possibilities and initiate creative thinking, illustrating how other Energy Communities are functioning in nearby territories seems to be quite enlightening. End-users of energy are better able to visualize that despite the existing barriers, many people are already taking part in an active movement towards energy democratization.
Interesting insights are emerging within smaller discussion groups created in workshops. The role of community members as prosumers and of consumers became clearer. The possibility of sharing electricity through collective self-consumption was considered. And the forms in which the community can be organized were discussed.
Some practical aspects are also taken into account, such as the possibilities of public subsidies, geographical limitations to share energy in Spain (which by law is 500 meters), split coefficients to be agreed on, and administrative procedures to create a legal entity for the Energy Community
Every engagement workshop yields ideas and questions that loop into the planning of next workshops and the development of the app that will help end-users track their energy consumption. Engagement strategies constitute an effort to boost the engagement so that the future Energy Community promotes behavioral, environmental, and economic benefits. All the resources, facilitating tools and methodologies designed in Lightness, will be published by the end of the project in an Engagement Toolbox.