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VILAWATT – Innovative local public-private-citizen partnership for energy governance

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Vilawatt aims to move the energy transition forward in Viladecans through an innovative governance structure where citizens play a key role. The project has set up a public-private-citizen partnership (PPCP) that manages 4 key services: energy supply (100% renewable origin); consulting & training to increase energy awareness & energy culture; energy retrofitting of buildings; new local currency linked to energy savings.

Innovation Summary

Innovation Overview

VILAWATT aims to drive forward the energy transition in the Catalan city of Viladecans. The project has set up a public-private-citizen partnership (PPCP), as the main governance structure to manage the 4 key services created to support the process:

- Energy supply (100% renewable origin);
- Consulting services (energy audits & contract optimization, training and empowerment in energy culture, financing options);
- Energy renovation of buildings (receiving and managing subsidies);
- Vilawatt currency, linked to the energy savings and used as a tool to revitalize local retail sector.

Governance (PPCP) -
Vilawatt’s backbone is the public-private-citizen partnership (PPCP) made up of the Viladecans City Council, the Barcelona Metropolitan Area and 2 associations: the Citizen Association for Energy Transition & the Business & retailers Association for Energy Transition. Currently, the City Council holds 80% of the rights and obligations of the Consortium & the Barcelona Metropolitan Area holds another 10%, while the remaining 10% is held by the two associations.

Energy supply - With Vilawatt, we pool the demand for energy of all the users (members of the different associations, public contracts of the municipality) and buy electricity wholesale. Through collective buying, we are a single customer buying from the supplier, which makes us a much bigger client and allows us to negotiate better prices and services. Municipal buildings are also included in this collective buying group, certifying that the origin of the energy that we buy is 100% renewable and that follows two ISO environmental standards: 14001: 2014, which ensures the activity is managed in a way that ensures proper eco-friendly behaviour, and 9001: 2008, which ensures it applies a series of guidelines put together through international consensus on Good Management Practices.

Faster retrofitting of private buildings - One of the main axes of the project is the energy retrofitting of residential buildings in the Montserratina district and improving energy contracts for local people.
Energy retrofitting in Viladecans has not progressed as planned, partly due to lack of private investment, and so VILAWATT takes a more inclusive approach. Home to some 20.000 people, 30 % of the city’s population, Montserratina is a good starting point. Most of its dwellings were built before 1976, when Spain began to adopt energy legislation, and income is 15 % lower than the city average. The project injects 1.4 M€ in the energy renovation of this 3 demo-buildings, that will be energy-monitored through all the process.

Consulting services & learning communities -
Vilawatt has launched several learning communities & specific trainings in the field of energy efficiency and renewable energies (involving schools, retail sector, companies, unemployed…) and has also boosted energy audits & contract optimization services with the aim to decrease energy consumption, encouraging citizen involvement and promoting behavioural change.

Efficiency incentives – Vilawatt local currency
Creation of the local electronic currency, the Vilawatt, provides efficiency incentives for participating families, who are paid in the currency in return for any savings they make. This encourages loyalty to local shops where purchases can be made with the Vilawatt.

The main beneficiaries of the project are the citizens of Viladecans (with special focus in kids), companies, retail sector, unemployed and professionals of the energy efficiency sector.

Innovation Description

What Makes Your Project Innovative?

Vilawatt is innovative because it is the first time that a local government of a small city (Viladecans, 66,000 inhabitants) drives the energy transition process through the creation of a local energy company that adds the energy demand of users to achieve more competitive energy prices (aggregated demand), promotes the creation of a new local currency linked to energy savings and boosts the rehabilitation of private buildings -acting as a bidder for the retrofitting works-.

The governance structure leading the process (public-private-citizen PPCP) has never been tested before in Europe for this kind of services. The project also incorporates a participatory strategy that includes 10 social actors -playing a key role in the energy transformation of the municipality- & offers learning and exchange spaces in order to facilitate the decision making process within the energy company.

What is the current status of your innovation?

The first two years of the project (2017-2019) have been dedicated to benchmarking & studying the legal forms of the PPCP and the currency, to promote citizens awareness & boost a change of mentality towards energy.
The consortium (legal form of the PPCP) was established in April 2019 (with the City Council of Viladecans & the Metropolitan Area of Barcelona) and subsequently, in November 2019, both the citizen association for energy transition and the retail sector association for energy transition joined the consortium.
The local company has started providing services since July 2019. The retrofitting works of the 3 buildings (with a total investment of 1,4M€) begun in December, 2019. It is estimated that at the end of the rehabilitation works these buildings will decrease in 60% environ their energy consumption.
All learning communities are ongoing and we are in the phase of creating the local business network that will accept the local currency –to be launched in March 2020.

Innovation Development

Collaborations & Partnerships

9 partners (public & private) coordinated by the municipality of Viladecans have been involved in the design phase of the project, each of them with a specific field of expertise (contracts, currency, neighbours mediation, rehabilitation works...). Through the participatory strategic plan, 10 social actors (schools, political parties, business, people suffering from fuel poverty...) have also been involved in the design phase, and this has been a key of success (top down & bottom-up process).

Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries

One of the key milestones achieved during the last period has been the development of a Participatory Strategic Plan that analyzes the specific role played by 10 different social actors, mainly: neighbours (they can benefit from all the company´s services); schools (10 schools are implementing energy-saving programmes); construction companies (they exchange ideas & good practices), unemployed (they receive trainings in the energy field) & local trades (they have to accept the currency).

Innovation Reflections

Results, Outcomes & Impacts

1 energy office, 2000 new energy contracts, 146 households trained and engaged in a deep renovation scheme, 66 unemployed trained in Energy Efficiency. The municipality monitors the impact and participation of unemployed people.
450 households using energy currency, 25 local shops accepting energy currency– all indicators about energy currency will be calculated by the software that supports the energy currency banking function.
60% of energy consumption reduction by deep energy renovation works. Indicators continuously monitored and recorded by the software platform connected to the dwellings sensors installed. Consumption indicators will be also monitored by gathering the electricity bills.
2750 ts CO2/year reduction. The savings in CO2 emissions are measured by the purchase of energy with a certificate of renewable origin by the company. 47 participative actions carried out in the streets of Viladecans to raise awareness & 4 learning spaces created.

Challenges and Failures

_ It was difficult to engage the 3 neighbour communities to participate in the retrofitting actions. A lot of mediation was needed and even though the retrofitting was supposed to take place at the beginning of the project, it has been implemented at the end due to some difficulties in the process (in particular regarding the tax impact on the subsidy beneficiaries).

_ The challenges to face with the currency were important both legal and operational. Neither the regulations of the Electronic Money Law nor the payment systems used up to now (chip cards) were compatible with the local currency model that we wanted for Viladecans: dynamic rules of conversion, mobile application, etc... After months of joint work with the electronic money entity, we have created a complementary currency circuit as a contractual relationship above Law 21/2011 on Electronic Money.

_ A detailed participatory plan was not foreseen at the beginning and this has been a key of success.

Conditions for Success

_ Having found a different market position compared to the rest of electrical power companies, as we are "an educational company that is committed to change the energy model since early childhood". This has allowed us to attract users, consolidate learning communities and boost a mindset change towards energy.

_ Having managed to mitigate the fiscal impact of the beneficiaries of the subsidy (we found that the beneficiaries of the demo-retrofitted communities suffered serious impacts on their tax & income declarations).

_ Having built learning communities for citizens that have become the embryo of the citizen association. It would have been very difficult to accompany the creation of a citizen association without having this base.

_ Having all departments of the municipality involved in the process from the project design phase.

Replication

_The PPCP model can be replicated in other cities. However, lots of efforts need to be done previously to create the embryo of the citizen associations (community awareness).

_ All phases of the project have been designed in a way that they can be replicated in other cities (this was the condition set by the UIA initiative to select the projects). However, given that buildings have different energy behaviour, the retroffiting models & actions need to be specifically-tailored.

_ Some cities in Catalonia are starting to implement similar energy-leading projects.

Lessons Learned

_The bureaucratic complexity of the establishment of the PPCP requires a lot of benchmarking and analysis time, as well as the legal complexity of the energy currency (restriction of electronic Money laws, implementation of the blockchain Technology...)

_ Before managing aids for rehabilitation works, it will be necessary to think carefully about the fiscal barriers and the impact that they will represent on the tax returns of the beneficiaries (given the situation that they are low income beneficiaries and therefore they were not obliged to declare their incomes as they were below the limit)

_ The bottom-up design process amongst all beneficiaries and involved actors is essential to promote project ownership.

Anything Else?

This project is lined up with the EU Energy Strategy. Viladecans Municipality seeks to speed-up its ambitious energy transition project in order to achieve the 2030 Energy Strategy targets. More specifically the EPBD (2010) and EED (2012) are directly linked with the deep building energy renovation tackled in VILAWATT.
On a national level it can be included in the National Energy Security Strategy 2015 and the Energy Savings Plan 2011-2020, from Spanish Government. In a regional level, Catalonia has defined an Energy building renovation strategy (seeking 61% buildings renovated and 14,4% energy savings for 2020).
Viladecans Municipality as Covenant of Mayors signatory has a Sustainable Energy Action Plan (SEAP) with an emissions reduction of 22% for 2020 that will be improved to a 40% for 2030. From the SEAP actions on energy savings and energy renovation of public buildings, this will be extended to private housing.

Project Pitch

Supporting Videos

Status:

  • Implementation - making the innovation happen
  • Diffusing Lessons - using what was learnt to inform other projects and understanding how the innovation can be applied in other ways

Innovation provided by:

Media:

Date Published:

21 October 2020

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