In Belgium, with the support of the Interreg ECCO project and the Province of Flemish Brabant, and by aligning all the existing programs and projects, the European federation of citizen energy cooperatives, REScoop.eu, its member Ecopower, the City of Leuven, and Ecolife, a knowledge center for ecological behavioral change, created a consistent approach, called LICHT. LICHT has been rolled out in the Belgian region of Flemish Brabant and aims to help the municipalities and the province to achieve their climate and energy goals set when signing the Covenant of Mayors and writing their sustainable energy action plan (SEAP).
By collaborating with its Belgian members and other local and European partners working on the energy transition, REScoop.eu has been setting up and supporting nine ECCO’s (rural renewable energy communities of citizens, farmers and other SMEs) in the region. The LICHT trajectory will prepare these ECCO’s to select investment opportunities in their municipality to ensure citizen participation in local energy projects.
What is the LICHT approach?
The journey starts with an inspirational session where Dirk Vansintjan, the president of REScoop.eu, presents the possibilities and opportunities for citizens and farmers to engage in the energy transition.
On invitation of the municipalities and Ecopower, 12 inspirational sessions were organised and attended by 15 to 150 people (in Leuven, Tienen, Diest, Haacht, Rotselaar, Zoutleeuw, Vilvoorde, Grimbergen, Wezenbeek-Oppem, Tervuren, Scherpenheuvel-Zichem, Zemst).
As a result of these sessions, eventually 9 inter-municipal LICHT groups were formed and taught how to select, evaluate, execute and communicate about good renewable energy projects. The support trajectory helps building local capacity for the energy transition following the principle of ‘train the trainer’ of citizens and their municipality. It consists of 5 working sessions aiming at participation and building support for renewable energy and technical and financial screening of feasible energy projects.
What happened so far?
The other Licht groups are not that far. However, they are still following the LICHT trajectory.
The LICHT consortium
Following the appeal of the Flemish minister of Energy, the consortium will focus on larger solar PV installations on schools, public buildings, industry, the national airport, ... But also the existing efforts will be intensified, making schools more sustainable, helping households insulate their homes, electrify their heating and install solar PV. Wind energy is difficult in this province due to the proximity of the national airport of Brussels, but the opportunities are being studied because a new GPS or an adapted radar system at the airport might allow wind turbines in the future. The guaranteed profits of wind turbines should be kept as local as possible to help finance energy efficiency at a local level.
LICHT, an example of energy democracy
If we really want the transition to succeed, we need to mobilise local authorities and aggregate the renewable energy and energy efficiency projects that they identified in their sustainable energy and local energy action plans. On the other hand the potential for people - individually and through their community, public entities and small enterprises – to actively engage in the energy transition is significant. By 2050, at least half of EU citizens could be producing their own renewable electricity.
Through the LICHT approach, municipalities collaborate with local civil society organizations and actively involve their citizens through direct participation in renewable energy projects.
By bridging the municipalities ambitions on one hand and the huge potential citizens have in contributing to these ambitions on the other, the LICHT approach is an example for energy democracy.
The LICHT-approach is supported by the INTERREG ECCO project. The positive effects of the project’s activities are possible thanks to financial support from the European Regional Development Fund provided by the Interreg North-West Europe programme.
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