StoryTelling: a creative method to engage

Local energy initiatives and policy agendas require envisioning future scenarios that are desirable for a diverse range of stakeholders. However, the process of driving needs and challenges and designing the path to approach them tends to be one-sided discipline experts. Thus, creative methods that open multi-actors collaboration are rarely used.

Storytelling has the potential of solving complex challenges and facilitating collaborative processes, by enabling participants to step into others’ perspectives, keeping hold of diversity, and the use of ‘we’ in stories leading to concrete future initiatives. As a playful methodology, storytelling can undoubtedly be a valuable additional tool for Energy Communities where there is a desire for stakeholder engagement, and appetite to tailor technological and social innovation to different actors.

By looking to the future, storytelling allows to set a point in the horizon to work towards. Sometimes it’s easy to get lost in thinking about short term actions, causing us to ignore the greater vision. Within storytelling research, the following aspects have been particularly well explored: use of storytelling in communication and persuasion; problem-framing; and, more recently, participatory engagement and vision building. In the last few years, storytelling has also generated significant attention in the context of energy research. Studies have dealt with stories about transitioning energy from fossil fuels to renewables, transitioning transportation, and of course, the ‘story’ of the current climate emergency.

StoryTelling in Lightness_ Collective stories on the future of Energy Communities in 2030

Written by the EU Horizon 2020 Lightness Project Consortium

During the Lightness General Assembly in Cagliari, DuneWorks carried out a story writing exercise with the multi-disciplinary partners of the consortium.  Due to our location at the time, the story is set in the future energy neutral island of Sardinia. The purpose of the exercise was to evoke each partner’s ideal vision of what Energy Communities should look like.

The exercise was organised by asking partners to create their own story by continuing prose on the elements of an energy community, namely, 1) values, 2) organisational structure, 3) technology and infrastructure, 4) regulations, 5) resources, 6) challenges, 7) how these challenges are overcome. Each partner filled in their own story, reflecting the pilot site they are involved in. These were shared in groups to listen to each other’s different visions of the future. In this booklet we have written down the collective stories by using one piece of each individual story to create a whole. Enjoy reading one of our visions for energy communities in the future…

It is June 2030, and we have reconvened in the renowned energy-positive Island of Sardinia. We are here to celebrate how far we have come with the diffusion of energy communities, thanks to the success of the Lightness project as a lighthouse for Europe.

The energy community we have facilitated through the Lightness project, and has since taken its own form, is held together by the shared values of… the energy transition, respect for the future, empowering people, sharing and caring, understanding, and sharing time together, Thereby… residents work together to change their behaviour for the greater good, people have more confidence of each other, and they have found a sense of responsibility to take care of the island and the people living on it.

Overtime, the organisational form of the energy community has been established into… a cooperative association where everyone has the right to vote and take decisions or at least contribute to them, and as a result… They meet once a month or once every two months for a gathering to discuss updates for the community not only as a result but also as an event with food and drinks, to create bonds not only on the energy level but also on the personal level. This has produced awareness and social behaviours and social consciousness that creates space to think about other societal problems.

We have also come a long way in the technical and digital developments around citizen energy communities, for instance there is… enough production so all members can consume from the community, an app that is very easy to use, and members check it every day to see the updates on the energy community, which makes it possible that… residents can understand the impact of changing their behaviour and how to work together.

The current state of opportunities for the energy community could not have been possible without certain policy regulations, such as… real legislation on energy communities and the implication of participation of the local government of the island, and the establishment of blockchain as a trade regulator, this made it easier to… engage people in the future of energy.

Not to mention all the resources (knowledge, human and financial resources) we have at our disposal to facilitate and support citizen energy communities, such as… support schemes for retrofitting and renewables, and a novel vision that we could not have foreseen in the past, and these have led to… results and trust, and motivation and union, and communities, and the support of the local government has helped to create trust amongst citizens and is the importance of administrative papers and licences and thus is in the engagement.

Back in 2022, we remember struggling with… getting building owners and residents to try something new and change their behaviour, and a normative roadmap.

However, we have learned to overcome this by… passions, empathy, listening and communication.

The end.


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