Last week +CityxChange kicked off the first of four Learning Sessions that will occur over the following months in preparation for our final event in Trondheim. As the project comes to a close, the Learning Sessions are an opportunity to understand the key takeaways from the project, including challenges and opportunities for growth. By visiting the different Follower Cities, we not only gain a better understanding of how the project has been implemented in each location but are also able to extract tangible insights related to climate-neutrality and project implementation that are of value beyond the scope of our project.
Held in +CxC Follower City, Sestao, Spain on March 27th and 28th, both technical and city partners came together to share insights and experiences from the last five years. It was a jam-packed two days, beginning with a visit from Sestao’s Mayor, followed by a presentation from Andy Bäcker of Sestao Berri, during which he discussed Sestao’s experiences with developing Energy Communities. He was accompanied by a representative from GoiEner, a local cooperative project for the generation and consumption of renewable energy and energy sovereignty. During the ensuing discussions, we talked about how energy communities vary in the cities, due largely to regulatory and financial differences. Important questions were raised about how to embed solutions within different contexts, rather than directly implementing ‘off-the-shelf’ solutions. Other issues were raised about who has the responsibility of ensuring that heritage is protected, how to engage different communities (especially those experiencing energy poverty), and how to deal with the costs and benefits related to energy sharing.
These discussions were followed by a Storytelling Workshop, led by ISOCARP Institute. During the workshop we talked about narrative construction and how to use stories to drive change, especially when dealing with complex topics. We learned about cognitive versus affective storytelling, discussing how to frame problems and solutions for different stakeholder groups.
That afternoon we went on a walking tour of different sites including Sestao’s biomass operated district heating office, the Escuela de Aprendices, and the blast furnace, Alto Horno. To get a better feel for the city, and how it connects to neighbouring Bilbao, we concluded the day with a boat tour along the River Nervión.
On the second day, ANEO (formerly Trønderenergi), presented their work in Trondheim implementing market solutions for local energy and flexibility markets. One of the major challenges they have encountered is that grid companies often operate as monopolies and therefore have little motivation to enable flexibility trading without regulatory incentives.
Over the course of the two-day Session we also met with representatives from local industries, including ArcelorMittal Sestao, a steel plant and member company of the Basque Hydrogen Corridor, which has endeavoured to become climate-neutral by 2025, and Vicinay Sestao, a manufacturer of offshore mooring chains that is pivoting away from supplying the oil and gas industry to supplying offshore wind farms.
Overall, it was a great opportunity for us to come together and learn about our shared challenges and successes! Not to mention, an excellent chance to experience the Basque cuisine and culture.
Many thanks to Andy Bäcker, Kelly Riedesel, Annemie Wyckmans, and many others for organising a great Learning Session.
The remaining Learning Sessions will be held in Alba Iulia, Smolyan and Võru over the next few months. Our findings from these events, along with learnings gathered throughout the project, will culminate in a PEB ‘cookbook’ and the Final Event, to be held in Trondheim, 3-5 October 2023. Hope to see you there!