Towards Self Energy-Management and Sustainable Citizens' Engagement in Local Energy Efficiency Agenda

Towards Self Energy-Management and Sustainable Citizens' Engagement in Local Energy Efficiency Agenda

Francesco Scorza (School of Engineering, University of Basilicata, Potenza, Italy)
DOI: 10.4018/IJAEIS.2016010103
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EU 2020 targets and global challenges concerning energy efficiency in public and private sectors generated a great number of local and sectorial approaches mainly oriented to investment promotion in energy technologies including buildings renovations. RES diffusion also generated impacts on rural and natural areas, but a comprehensive balance of recent trends still remarks only a partial success. The research hypothesis regards short-term benefits that an inclusive approach in energy management could bring in connection with energy efficiency investments at municipal scale. In fact a lot of energy wastage is linked to ineffective usage model, even in renewed buildings too. If one includes community involvement process oriented to deliver sustainable energy behaviors, one can expect a general improvement of energy saving in public and private sector. In order to be included, citizens need information: the Real time ICT application for energy monitoring represents an advancement proposed in this research. The long term perspective fits with the attitude of informed citizen to deliver self-energy management practice in everyday life. The benefits of the proposed approach regard territorial policies in the framework of EU-2020 strategy, Covenant of Mayors and UN 2030-Agenda.
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Beyond traditional barriers to energy system improvement - such as funding, financing and information - at global scale, the effort to reduce CO2 emissions through an energy efficiency approach becomes a structural policy worldwide. European Union and National Governments in Europe delivered several approaches and sectorial policies, mainly based on incentives mechanisms, in order to achieve global sustainable goals. One of the relevant policy frameworks considered in this work is connected with the Covenant of Mayors.

Such tool represents the willingness of Local Authorities to implement sound local sustainable energy policies, through local energy planning at the medium- to long-term scale.

In this process the importance to assess in advance local community needs and priorities (discussed among others by Marinakis et al., 2015) for rural and urban applications represents a weakness in terms of general outcomes at local scale.

Recent studies have demonstrated that Covenant of Mayors benefits are higher in more contaminated cities and urban areas, where a greater energy use per capita is registered (Pablo-Romero, 2015); the smallest scale has improved less.

We affirm that the role of end-users (i.e. citizens) is crucial in such complex and fragmented process. But an overall question comes out: how a citizen can become an active actor in the framework of energy efficiency policy implementation? We consider the point of view of “citizens as users” of public/private buildings, urban spaces, collective services etc.. Other relevant instances could be connected with the citizen as beneficiary of policies or projects, but it’s not the scope of the proposed approach.

As an active user, citizen holds specific usage models generally based on common sense rules or usual practices not based on energy efficiency principles.

The improvement of these models represents a component of energy efficiency policies that has to be integrated in the definition of ‘energy upgrades’ as strategic investments motivated by environmental sustainability and corporate social responsibility (Gliedt, 2015).

Looking at the general framework defined by the resolution 70/1 “Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, adopted by the General Assembly of United Nation on 25 September 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals directly connected to the scope of the paper are linked to “Affordable and clean energy” and “Sustainable cities and communities” even if horizontal interconnections regards “Responsible consumption and production”, “Climate action” and “Reduced inequalities” (UN, 2015).

Such overall global policy has enlarged the scope of energy policies and application in a radical way, promoting inclusiveness of local communities and citizens as strategic criteria in promoting sustainability. The expected consequences should be a general re-design of transnational and local policies concerning sustainable energy development: it could shift the key focus from investments to a comprehensive vision that realizes an integrated chain of actions starting from the ‘hard measure results’ to the ‘soft actions’ according to an effectiveness maximization effort. It means – for example - to complete the implementation of energy technology innovation with necessary information and involvement actions for potential beneficiaries, promoting awareness on the on-going processes and expected benefits.

According to the growing interest in energy saving as a relevant component of territorial sustainability, we developed an application based on open-source technologies providing real-time open data of energy consumptions. This hw-sw system can be oriented to individual householder needs, such as to industrial purposes and public ones. The paper discuss the preliminary results of the application of such technologies on public school buildings in an integrated project linking usage model of public spaces to citizen behaviors and consciousness concerning sustainability. Outcomes could influence territorial policies and projects in the framework of EU 2020 strategy and Covenant of Mayors.

The first section of the paper describes the conceptual schema and relevant issues of community involvement in energy efficiency policy implementation. The following chapter points out the traditional barriers affecting investments in energy regeneration processes.

The second part of the paper addresses the issues connected to the lack of information and data availability for energy efficiency policy/project development in an inclusive approach and how ICT solutions could positive influence such processes toward the “self energy management” state in which citizen holds tools and knowledge in order to apply sustainable behavior in everyday life.

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