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Vilawatt - Innovative local public-private-citizen partnership for energy governance Viladecans, Spain Energy Transition

Modifier 05 March 2020 by VILAWATT project team

Once upon a time there was... the Vilawatt Consortium

Once upon a time there was... the Vilawatt Consortium
Short description
There are several aspects that led Vilawatt to be selected by the European Union as a benchmark innovative project in the energy transition. However, there is no doubt that the most innovative aspect of Vilawatt is the creation of the consortium as its governing body, in which residents take centre stage and participate in the decision-making process. There weren’t any previous experiences of this type of partnership in Europe, integrating the services of renewable energy suppliers and producers, a savings operator, investment operator and also a currency tied to energy saving.

In March 2019, an initial agreement was signed by AMB and the City Council to open the Vilawatt office and the company’s first contracts came in July. Over this time, it has incorporated other benchmark agents, such as citizen and business associations. 

In October 2019, at the Viladecans plenary session, the Vilawatt Consortium was officially established in full. It held the first general assembly  with all its members on 19 February 2020.

Today, we’re revealing some of the mysteries of the process. 


Why a consortium?

Given that one of the core elements of the Vilawatt project is to create a co-governance body to collectively lead the energy transition, several possibilities were considered for the structure. In the end, the consortium was chosen as the legal instrument to achieve the goals and purposes of the project, to take joint decisions and empower citizens, as it allows duties and rights to be achieved independently and autonomously of the consortium members. 

The consortium created is based on the principle of sufficiency and financial sustainability. Its official name is “Consorci Vilawatt” and it is comprised of the Viladecans City Council and Metropolitan Area of Barcelona (AMB) from the public sector, associations of social and economic stakeholders from the private sector and associations of citizen bodies representing the people. Below we will see how each of them is involved in this adventure. 


Who is part of it? 

The role of the associations in the consortium
o    Francisco Javier Ramírez, president of Associació Ciutadana per a la Transició Energètica (Citizens association for the energy transition):

The name of our association is quite long, “Associació Ciutadana Vilawatt per a la Transició Energètica” (Vilawatt citizens association for the energy transition) and the initial partners met when the City Council held a series of workshops on energy efficiency called Espai Vilawatt de la Gent de Viladecans (Vilawatt space for the people of Viladecans).

In fact, the idea was to create a ground-breaking organisation for our city, the Vilawatt Consortium, with the City Council, Metropolitan body, companies and citizens involved in order to design the energy transition for our city. And it was the creation of this fourth group, of citizens, that opened the door for us to participate actively in the process.

To speak about the energy transition is to speak about proximity. Under the umbrella of the European regulations incorporated and implemented in Spanish law, citizens from all over are participating in the fight against climate change from a municipal level. We’re no longer consuming energy supplied by third parties, not knowing how or where it is generated. We’re in charge of the criteria for how our power is generated and consumed and saved.

Average citizens have taken centre stage, not in a totally voluntary manner, but taking advantage of social changes that are transferred to laws and public institutions, and that give us guarantees of success.

Now we’re still in the first phase. We have to prioritise the local power operator, Vilawatt: a way to do collective energy buying to benefit everyone participating and the city as a whole. So I can’t encourage you enough to get your electricity service from them.

As an association, it’s very encouraging to know that we are a key part of moving towards a city that coexists in harmony with the environment, that wants to reduce its contamination footprint, its CO2 footprint, and that we are working hand-in-hand with other cities in Catalonia, Spain and Europe, and really the whole world.

 

The role of the associations in the consortium 
 Sergi Fuster, president of Associació d’Empresaris per a la Transició Energètica (Association of businesspeople for the energy transition):

"The role of the trade and enterprise association in the Consortium so far has been contributing value, a real contribution of what the productive and economic systems need today. 

So far, the association is still in the embryonic stage of evolution; Vilawatt is a highly ambitious project promoted by the City Council and we have always been available to keep the project firmly grounded. Because, in the end, it’s not about defining Vilawatt as a project that is just “pie in the sky”, speaking about topics that are relevant today, such as the circular economy, refurbishment and recycling; our priority has always been to conceive Vilawatt as something real, a project that any person or company can join. 

More than evolution, I’d talk about what we hope Vilawatt will become from here. And what we all hope is that it lands and can benefit everyone: users, companies, suppliers and networks who are moving every day. The journey so far has been intense, but it is now the project needs all our hard work and best efforts to become a success."


Why did AMB join the project?

There are many reasons that led the Metropolitan Area of Barcelona (AMB) to join the Vilawatt project. The AMB is a local territorial body whose purview, among other issues, includes the environment, promoting and managing public and private renewable energy facilities. Its strategic priorities include providing services to protect natural resources and the environment with regard to the energy and water cycles, in order to consume less of these resources and promote quality of life in metropolitan cities and neighbourhoods.

So, in the Environment arena, it is committed to improving savings and efficient use of basic resources like energy. Associated with this intervention, AMB is developing an energy transition programme to promote a new model and move towards a new energy culture. 

In terms of the Territory arena, in order to help improve quality of life for citizens, AMB is carrying out actions geared towards ensuring social cohesion with a housing policy that proposes, among other things, “improving neighbourhoods and housing refurbishment policies and support for city councils.”

With regard to the area of social and economic development, one of its lines of action is to explore and promote new ways of generating and incentivising the local economy and applying the local currency. 

In this regard, for AMB, Vilawatt is a project that pools all these efforts to promote the energy transition.


The Vilawatt Consortium, 4 focal points of action

Of all the challenges a community has to face during the energy transition, Vilawatt has made facilitating profound energy rehabilitation processes and improving residents’ energy consumption habits its top priorities. This is why the public-private-citizen consortium (also known as a PPCP or public-private-citizen partnership) governing the energy transition has 4 focal points or main services of action: power supply, advisory services, energy refurbishment of buildings and creating a local currency. 

 

What role has Viladecans played in the energy transition?

The Viladecans City Council submitted the Vilawatt project to the first Urban Innovative Action (UIA) call for proposals in March 2016, which included ERDF funds. The main goal of this line of EU funding is to provide budgetary support for new ideas, formulas and/or solutions that bring value to sustainable urban development in the complexity of cities.

The projects submitted had to have clear value added, be completely new, clearly innovative and validate action strategies in the four main focal points or themes: energy transition, jobs and skills in the local economy, integration of migrants and refugees, and urban poverty.

The city of Viladecans, the smallest of the cities whose projects were chosen, has tackled a particularly important challenge over this time. Not only due to the complexity of this innovative project and the results that can be obtained within the framework of the city’s energy transition, but also because its gradual implementation has been a benchmark for generating knowledge in Europe.

Viladecans’ commitment to the energy transition has been made clear over these years, but particularly from 2008, when it signed the European Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy. Since then, the municipal plenary council has approved the 2009 Sustainable Energy Action Plan (Plan de Acción para la Energía Sostenible - PAES), the Strategy to Mitigate Climate Change in the Residential and Retail Sectors, and the Climate Change Adaptation Plan.

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