In the 3rd Journal, we wondered whether the project was “ahead of its time”. Indeed, we stressed the immaturity of the market (see also above on Public Procurement). The technology is here, but implementing, inserting it into the market and changing consumer habits still requires time: going to the softer and more human-based aspect of the project.
The project started from the assumption that while Antwerp Circular South project is being implemented in a newly built district, the (new) residents made the conscious choice to move to a sustainable district. As such, the residents would have been eager to buy in to sustainable lifestyles. They would also be willing to create bonds and meet with neighbours, they are motivated and can really feel they co-own the neighbourhood. Everything seems to be possible. And this also goes along with the fact that the newest technologies and infrastructures can be used.
The visibility dilemma
Yet, it appeared that many residents were risk averse to the installation of PVs, BIPVs and batteries. Others refused to install them because of lack interest, or expressed uncertainty, lack of available large flat areas. This has in turn limited the snowballing effect amongst neighbours.
It has appeared to be even more difficult to join the whole project without the existence of PVs BIPVs in the Circular South project area, and without locally produced energy. Ecopower has sought to mitigate this with the organization of energy cafés and site visits.
The financial dilemma
It has been difficult to explain the added value of the project when the financial return would be quite low (estimated discounts on the energy consumption of the general parts of the buildings, and 5,000 euros for all the Energy Community members to be invested in community projects).
Investing in the Energy Community is also a risk: residents would have difficulties understanding the business model, the potential economic return – potential limited profit, lack of existing and visible information, lack of distance yet.
Similarly, the app does not show the financial value of reducing energy consumption. It is worth noting though that the project had never been about showing financial value of energy savings. As such, this was never foreseen as a game-changing feature in the recruitment process.
The expertise dilemma
Even if the potential members can be well informed by the (BI)PVs installers and the Energy Community, they still need to take responsibilities in signing a contract. Such a document can be potentially long with a piece of juridical and technical information that would be out of their individual expertise and knowledge. They might have opted out of this offer because of the complexity (to them) of the contractual framework behind it.
The complexity dilemma
In a building where each apartment is owned by a different person, where the resident is not necessarily the owner, it can be quite complex to organise a discussion with the owner(s). It is even more so when the ownership structure behind the building is composed of several layers. For example, discussions were quite advanced with a service residence. Yet, the building is owned by a bank. Which is owned by shareholders, each of whom would have needed to give their approval for installing the (BI)PVs. It appeared too cumbersome and the financial return too small for Domitys to embark on such a journey of trying to convince.
The population size dilemma
Antwerp Circular South started when a limited number of residents had moved in. Delays have also occurred along the way, limiting the overall potential population for joining the project. The critical mass to ensure that an adequate number of them would take part in the activities has not been reached.