International POTEnT project brings new know-how and experience
The concept of community energy is still not well-known in the Czech Republic, yet it is one of the more important current approaches to modern urban development. New alternative forms of energy service provision are a priority for Ostrava, which has joined the international POTEnT project, co-financed by the Interreg Europe programme. A number of major activities and events have taken place as part of this project during the past year; despite the challenging situation caused by the pandemic, which has brought various restrictions, the project has generated important new know-how and experience that will be crucial when formulating the project outputs and presenting them to the City authorities.
The fourth meeting of the project management team took place on 11 March 2021. The priorities discussed at the meeting were: updating the regional action plan, planning the proposed study visits, updating the register of partners’ good practices, and communicating new support options for the implementation of specific measures by individual project partners.
The main priority of the discussions concerned the preparations for the regional action plan. According to the original schedule, the plan was set to be implemented from the second half of 2021; however, all the project partners (who included municipally owned companies, energy agencies and regional government bodies) agreed on an earlier implementation date – partially in view of the fact that international travel was not viable due to the ongoing restrictions. The aim of the regional action plan is to help each partner set new specific goals for the reduction of their carbon footprint, based on the information and experiences shared and acquired from the other project partners (or other good practices observed elsewhere by each partner). Each partner drew up a plan for study visits; these fact-finding missions are currently taking place in the form of video conferences, and they enable the project partners to acquire new know-how, ideas and experience and which they can then incorporate into the regional action plan by the end of May 2021. The partners reached preliminary agreements on their scheduled online study visits for the upcoming months, and they also agreed on further details.
During recent months, and particularly from the beginning of 2021, a number of study visits have taken place as part of the process of inter-regional learning and sharing of good practices. These visits have enabled representatives of Ostrava to acquire know-how and experience from a range of European partner cities and their energy providers. Up to the end of March 2021, representatives of Ostrava undertook four of these visits – two of them hosted by Swedish project partners, who organized a virtual tour of the energy company owned by the city of Växjö. For more than a century, this company has been providing heat, electricity and other essential energy services to the city’s population. The company is unique among the project partners in that it has managed to secure the local community’s universal acceptance of an approach that has enabled it to introduce advanced, forward-looking technologies for biomass-based energy production; thanks to these steps, Växjö has been entirely independent of fossil fuels for its energy production since 2020.
Another study visit was hosted by the city of Lorient, whose local energy agency ALOEN organized a public event involving members of the city’s energy community; project partners were able to interact directly with these passionate proponents of community energy solutions. They learned about how the principles of community energy are applied in practice, and how the city works with civic associations to create entirely new “energy ecosystems” which bring benefits to all stakeholders: local citizens take the initiative and become directly involved with investments in modern energy production, which in turn helps to reduce the carbon footprint left by the city as a whole. The most recent study visit was hosted by the municipal government in Milton Keynes, whose representatives demonstrated the benefits and explained the details of an already up-and-running system for monitoring and administrating energy billing; this is an internal system used by the city and its organizations. More information on the individual study visits can be found HERE.
Meeting of the working group
At the end of March, the third meeting of the project working group with local stakeholders took place; the meeting included the presentation of interim project results. This working group consists of representatives of the City, its individual municipal districts, and City-owned or City-controlled organizations that are responsible as part of their day-to-day activities for issues related to energy production, assets management, etc. The meeting included a presentation of new developments concerning potential motivations for introducing modern energy principles, explanations of the key concepts at the heart of the project (such as community energy), and legislative issues of relevance to the project. Those present also discussed the proposed measures in the regional action plan and summarized the interim findings of an assessment carried out by an external agency defining current software support requirements for the implementation of modern energy principles – which will also be relevant to Ostrava. The presentation from the working group meeting is available HERE.
About the project
The POTEnT project creates a platform for inter-regional cooperation and experience-sharing focused on the development of local sustainable energy policies. The aim of the project is to help communities, cities and regions develop and improve their own locally-provided energy services, thus facilitating a smoother and more rapid transition to a low-carbon economy. The project will also provide a basis for the expansion of the City of Ostrava’s current Sustainable Energy Action Plan. Specific activities in Ostrava will lead to proposals for new technical and economic processes or organizational structures that will be unique among Czech cities and will enable Ostrava to develop a fully functional modern energy concept with support from the City.
For more information see https://fajnova.cz/projekt/potent/