Citizens can support and fasten the energy transition. To show how this work let’s take ‘s-Hertogenbosch as an example. ‘s-Hertogenbosch is a city and municipality, and also the capital of the dutch province Noord Brabant. The historical city is the center of the municipality which contains also other neighborhoods and some villages. ‘s-Hertogenbosch got city rights in 1185 and also the historical villages like Orthen, Empel and Engelen already exists since 816 A.C. Nowadays 143.945 people live together in the municipality ‘s-Hertogenbosch.
The local government of ‘s-Hertogenbosch has set the target to be climate neutral in 2050. There is a collective energy alternative in ‘s-Hertogenbosch too. It is called Energie Coöperatie 073 (EC073). EC073 is a organization of volunteers and has got about 350 members, which are all citizens of ‘s-Hertogenbosch. The volunteers of EC073 works in teams. One team stimulates neighborhoods to start projects for energy saving and to become prosumers. Prosumers mostly install PV systems on their houses, which can be collectively bough. Other actions for collective purchasing (co-buying) insulation measures can be organized too. Other teams work on projects for decentralized energy, they work on both wind and solar projects.
In the Netherlands bottom-up energy initiatives may play an important role in the energy transition. When citizens start projects for decentralized renewable energy they could play an important role in the transition, because of decentralized production requires changes in energy infrastructure and other societal domains too. Recent investigation of CE Delft showed that prosumers can produce a significant part of the total energy demand in 2050, see http://www.cedelft.eu/publicatie/the_potential_of_energy_citizens_in_the_european_union/1845.
To be successful EC073 should understand their role in the energy transition: They are only the ‘start’. While EC073 can help create renewable energy, it’s impact on the energy system in terms of the percentage of energy generated in ‘s-Hertogenbosch might be relatively modest. It’s added value, however, lies more in experimenting with how they in the future might integrate vast amounts of sustainable energy production in the landscape of ‘s-Hertogenbosch. (Zuidema, C., 2015)
Subsidies and the financial benefits are not enough to encourage people to engage in the many sustainable energy behaviours needed in a truly sustainable energy transition. (Steg, L., Perlaviciute, G., & Van der Werff, E. 2015). For those reasons it is important to employ strategies that target or enhance motivation to engage in sustainable energy behavior. So education and knowledge sharing can be an important role of EC073 in ‘s-Hertogenbosch’s society.
EC073 connects people with with knowledge about different disciplines needed for a successful transition. Because of all member are citizens of the society too, they can be a trustful and local source of knowledge for solutions in the energy transition and reduce societal resistance. They got knowledge about local land uses and other socio-economic activities unique for ‘s-Hertogenbosch.
Last but not least people are more likely to engage in sustainable energy behaviours when when they expect that others would approve of it (Allcot, 2009; Harland et al., 1999; Nolan, Schultz, Cialdini, Goldstein, & Griskevicius, 2008). And help them to confirm them that they’re doing the right thing. Doing good feels good. People do trust NGO’s like EC073 more than companies and governments.
Some sustainable energy behaviors involve some degree of discomfort or are financially costly. Sustainable energy transitions will be seen as unfair if certain groups in society face most of the costs, while other groups in society mainly enjoy the benefits, which may reduce their acceptability (Schuitema & Bergstad, 2012). So at the end EC073 can really fasten the transition when the are being capable to build a large community and enable as much as possible citizens to connect, become a member, start producing energy and become more pro-environmental.