The Vilawatt project provides a participative model for local energy transition. It is located in the small (population 67,000) Catalan city of Viladecans, initially focused on a low-income neighbourhood comprising older residential buildings with poor energy efficiency. The project forms part of the Viladecans 2030 strategy which integrates the Ecological Transition as one of 6 priority axes with a mission to reduce GHG emissions by 40% in 2030, 80% in 2035 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.
Vilawatt’s four goals were to:
- Guarantee a renewable energy source for all
- Stimulate the use of local Renewable Energy Systems (RES)
- Promote energy savings and efficiency amongst the population
- Democratize energy and empower citizens around energy
The project has several highly innovative components. One of these is the establishment of a Public Private Citizen Partnership (PPCP) providing an energy governance model involving the local authority, citizens, and businesses. The PPCP’s functions have included the bulk buying of renewable energy, provision of energy efficiency services, retrofitting 3 residential housing blocks and the design and implementation of a local currency (the Vilawatt) to channel energy savings into the local economy.
The retrofitting activity galvanised local businesses around the opportunities relating to energy transition. It also highlighted the need for new business know-how and skills. Anticipating the need to inform and support citizens and businesses to adapt, the Vilawatt project established a number of learning communities. These provide information, guidance, and hands on support. The city has also revised its contracting procedures to favour those local businesses that actively improve their business practices in line with the city’s climate neutral goals.
The creation of a local currency has improved the visibility of both the Vilawatt project and the issue of energy transition. Citizens can spend their Vilawatts within the local economy, on businesses and services provided by participating businesses in the community. Over 3,500 citizens use it and over 400 local businesses accept it from their customers. Later in 2022 they can also use their Vilawatts to pay for municipal taxes and services.