Largest European database of sustainable energy initiatives now online
Last year researchers from ICIS, Maastricht University’s institute for sustainable development, created an inventory of projects seeking to make a sustainable change to people’s energy consumption. Together with 10 research partners in the EU Horizon 2020 project ENERGISE, they gathered information on more than 1,000 projects and initiatives in 30 European countries. “This information is now available to everyone in an online database, the largest of its kind in Europe”, says Julia Backhaus, the coordinator of the ICIS ENERGISE team. As part of the European Week of Sustainable Energy, the database will be presented this week in Brussels.
Good examples of sustainable energy initiatives
ICIS collected information about initiatives in the Netherlands and Spain. “We had an intern in our team who spoke good Spanish”, explains Backhaus. The initiatives are highly diverse, ranging from Eneco’s large-scale project Buurtkracht to the Student Energy Race, a student initiative in Delft. “Personally I find that a really nice initiative. Student houses compete against one another to use less energy; it’s a proper contest with prizes and everything. What’s great is that even after the competition ended, the energy consumption in the participating student houses stayed at the new, lower levels. The changed behaviour had become routine and was also passed on to new students. Fantastic, right? The race now takes place in various student cities in the Randstand – it’d be nice if it happened here in Maastricht too.”
Julia Backhaus (1982) is a graduate of University College Maastricht and the FASoS research master’s in Cultures of Arts, Science and Technology. She has been working on sustainable energy for 10 years, including at the energy research institute ECN in Amsterdam. She has been a project officer at ICIS since 2012 and is also working on her doctoral research.
Living labs to reduce energy consumption
The database is ultimately a step towards the design and implementation of 16 ‘living labs’ in eight countries, and will be coordinated by ICIS. “These labs are intended to examine potential influences on individual and collective energy consumption. Ultimately we decided to focus on how people go about heating their homes and doing their laundry. Heating accounts for one third of household energy consumption. How do we get people to use less energy? What works and what doesn’t? Insights gained in the living labs will form the building blocks for the development and evaluation of future energy-consumption initiatives throughout Europe.”
Parkstad Limburg tenants to participate in study
The living lab in the Netherlands will involve tenants from Parkstad Limburg. “We’re working with the tenants association Op het Zuiden. We want to study two groups: 20 households that together form a community and 20 households that are completely separate from one another. Research done to date has shown that behavioural change is easier to bring about in a community than among individuals. Why is that? We’re now recruiting participants and will start the project in September. By summer 2019 we hope to be able to present results drawing on all 320 European participants."
ENERGISE is the European Network for Research, Good Practice and Innovation for Sustainable Energy. The consortium brings together partners from Bulgaria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Slovenia, Switzerland, the UK and the Netherlands, and is funded for three years (2016–19) by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme.