Learning from experience: POCITYF’s cities share lessons learned from the first two years of the project

12 Jan 2022 — On the 20th of December 2021, the POCITYF project organised an internal knowledge transfer workshop. During the event representatives of Alkmaar and Évora, the lighthouse cities, shared insights on the lessons they learned in the past two years, working to deploy smart solutions in their historical cities. The objective? Pave the way for the replication activities in the fellow cities.

The first presentation was held by João Bravo Dias (EDP) on “Photovoltaics (PV) solutions in municipal buildings”. The objective of the presentation was to explain the challenges faced by the municipality of Évora while trying to install five different novel PV solutions (developed by Tegola and ONYX) in its municipal buildings located in the heritage-protected city centre.
During the presentation he explained that the Municipality (CMÉ) has worked closely with the Regional Cultural Administration (DRC), which is the entity responsible to approve changes in the city centre, to ensure that the solutions proposed by the project comply with the heritage regulation. From this interaction some solutions were conditionally approved, others adapted, and some discarded. Additionally, since some of the solutions will be placed in public spaces or schools, the municipality held co-creation events to refine them with schools’ coordinators, parents’ associations, and parish councils.
The interactions with the Energy Administration (DGEG) have also been important to ensure that the municipality can maximize the self-consumption of its PV generation. The solution proposed is a Self-Consumption Community, that CMÉ is currently working on.
Finally, the takeaway message from the presentation is: the installation of PV solutions in heritage cities faces complex challenges. It will only be possible to produce energy using renewable sources in heritage-protected cities if creative novel solutions are considered and, most importantly, through the active participation of all stakeholders (municipality, technical providers, cultural and energy administrations, and citizens).

Filipe Neves Silva’s (EDP) presentation focused on the “Creation of a Renewable Energy Community: Solution, Business Model, interaction with the Energy Regulator”. The main goal of his speech was to share the concept and the potential of setting up renewable energy communities. Especially in historical cities, they can unlock the possibility of citizens producing their renewable energy. He also shared the example of Évora lighthouse city and the community solar farm being set up that will allow the historical city centre to become a positive energy block. Further, the different possible business models were discussed and also some innovative features to increase the impact in the community at a social and economic level, such as dynamic sharing coefficients or peer-to-peer energy trading.

Ceciel Nieuwenhout (University of Groningen) presented the legal and regulatory difficulties that one may encounter when realising a Positive Energy District (PED). The key take-away for all local initiatives that wish to realise a PED is to take legal and regulatory considerations into account from an early moment onwards, so the business case can be adjusted to the current state of affairs. In her presentation, Nieuwenhout zoomed in on Alkmaar’s ambition to realise a heat network in which the waste heat from the ice rink can be transported to other buildings in the neighbourhood. A specific issue is that there is no legal framework yet to guarantee the offtake of this heat by other buildings. What to do: wait for the legal framework to be adjusted, or adjust the business case to make sure the heat offer is so attractive that other buildings will want to use this heat, thus making sure there is sufficient offtake? During the presentation, Hvidrovre shared their experiences with heat networks as well: In Danish law, there is also no obligation to connect to the local heat network, but the community-based heat network companies can offer heat for low tariffs.

“Realising sustainability – ambition versus practice: how limitations in technical, legal, financial, etc. developments can hinder the sustainability ambitions. The Alkmaar case” was the title of the presentation of Joep Sanderink (New Energy Coalition).
This presentation aimed to inform the Fellow Cities on technical, legal, financial, and other barriers that delay or somehow hinder the different Positive Energy Buildings (PEBs) in demonstrating innovative elements in the City of Alkmaar.

With an emphasis on financial barriers, demonstration locations are facing the difficulty of budget constraints. The majority of these constraints can be attributed to the exponential increase in material and logistic costs. Moreover, some of these constraints are also the result of initially underestimating the costs of different technologies themselves, but also the integration of the technologies into the broader energy system. In other cases, technologies that were expected to be mature enough are struggling to reach a certain technology readiness level (TRL) for the demonstration phase. An accompanying barrier to these highly innovative technologies is the difficult pathway to gain the required certifications. Finally, POCITYF merges and combines innovative elements to create the so-called integrated solutions. These integrated solutions are essential to creating a sustainable, smart, and fit-for-purpose energy system. The downside of such an approach is that this integration of technologies also creates dependencies between innovative elements that could result in multiple elements being delayed if a certain challenge is faced.

The solutions to resolve these barriers are mostly case-specific in the city of Alkmaar. Proper cost estimations and requests for additional funding could resolve the financial constraints, and the alternation of certain technologies take away case-specific technological barriers. Due to unsatisfactory technical or financial performances, a few technologies are replaced by others that better suit the sustainability ambitions. Finally, certain highly innovative technologies will be merely implemented as a test case instead of a demonstration.

To prevent the Fellow cities from facing these barriers, and to provide tools once a certain challenge is inevitably encountered, the presentation ended with takeaway lessons. The Alkmaar case taught that 1) careful preparation and planning are key to reaching the intended sustainability objectives, and 2) strong engagement of the internal organisation, external stakeholders, and the citizens help overcome multiple challenges.

After each presentation, the fellow cities had the chance to ask questions and to share their experiences as well, some of them gained apart from the POCITYF project. A fruitful meeting that will allow the fellow cities to set the right conditions to implement PEDs and will be followed by other knowledge transfer activities in the future.