The Voicer model and the Environmental Justice perspective

Hugging people

DuneWorks, a Lightness project partner, has presented their work on the cutting-edge Monitoring and Evaluating (M&E) tool called The Voicer at this year’s virtual European Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ECEEE) Summer Study Conference. The meeting took place online from 7-11 June, 2021.

Within the Lightness Project, The Voicer model is very useful during the engagement process with end users, and applies an Environmental Justice perspective.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, environmental justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. The European Environmental Bureau points out that environmental justice means that environmental benefits and burdens have to be shared fairly.

The Voicer model provides an approach sensitive to a specific local context. At its core lies the importance of including citizens to sustainably improve a place or project. This model promotes a process of learning by giving voice to the residents, while focusing on their recognition and participation, fair distribution of benefits, costs and risks, sufficient capacities, and procurement of responsibilities.

The Voicer model

Therefore, The Voicer method helps answer questions like:

  • Do citizens have access to trustworthy information?
  • Are costs and benefits allocated fairly?
  • Does everybody have the necessary abilities to participate?

Answers to these questions are key to ensure the benefits of the energy transition are distributed evenly and fairly among all people. The Lightness Project brings this theory into action in seven pilot sites located across Europe in Spain, France, Italy, The Netherlands, and Poland.

This is a relatively new project, so the Citizen Energy Communities in each pilot site are just starting their formation processes. However, some preliminary results suggest, for instance, that in some cases elderly people might not be able to participate in an energy community because they are not familiar enough with digital technology. The Voicer model helps recognize these types of challenges, so they can be addressed, and the elderly population can be reached through other methods besides digital technology.

The Voicer model of Monitoring and Evaluating, can be applied beyond the Lightness Project as well. It has the potential to open more avenues to roll out of Citizen Energy Communities across Europe, and ensure that is done fairly with citizens. In that way, it is a tool that helps energy projects like Lightness have that human lens, and thus contribute to a more democratic energy system.

Below are some images from the presentation done at the European Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ECEEE) Summer Study Conference.

European Council for an Energy Efficient Economy Conference 1

European Council for an Energy Efficient Economy Conference 2

This presentation derives from a research paper titled: “Monitoring and evaluating energy justice of peer-to-peer citizen energy communities” to be published soon by the Conference organizers. Stay tuned for the link to the paper!

More info on environmental justice at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/earth-and-planetary-sciences/environmental-justice

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