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Full Of Energy: Innovative Ideas For The Energy Transition In Neckarstadt-West

Full of energy: Innovative ideas for the energy transition in Neckarstadt-West

by Sabrina Hoffman, City of Mannheim

More than 50 multipliers gathered online to discuss ideas related to the SONNET City Lab in Mannheim.

The SONNET project’s City Lab in Mannheim was launched at a virtual meeting hosted by the City of Mannheim and the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research (ISI). More than 50 people, including representatives from a range of local organisations and other interested citizens, joined the event to hear from the City Lab implementers, as well as other presenters, about SONNET activities in the Neckarstadt-West neighbourhood.

SONNET supports social innovations that help move us toward energy transition. Mannheim is one of six SONNET city partners hosting City Labs to take this work forward. Mannheim is focusing on harnessing local social innovation to speed up the energy transition in the Neckarstadt-West neighbourhood.

The kick-off event brought together participants interested in social innovation in energy transitions to discuss and propose actions Mannheim can take to achieve more local, sustainable energy production, as well as more sparing energy use, and to bring the project’s ideas to society.

Some of the participants pose for a virtual group photo (© City of Mannheim)

The SONNET project was introduced by the Mannheim programme manager, Agnes Schönfelder of the City of Mannheim, who shared Mannheim’s latest activities as a city of innovation and transformation.

Sabrina Hoffmann, responsible for the Mannheim City Lab, presented the project’s goal, and provided insights into previous cooperations undertaken with Neckarstadt-West’s neighbourhood management (Quartiermanagement Neckarstadt-West) and the project development company MWSP.

In breakout groups, active discussions were held on the topics of “environmentally friendly mobility,” “promotion, education and participation,” and “energy and housing.” The goal was to learn from local multipliers which proposed measures and ideas make most sense for the local energy transition in Neckarstadt-West, and which additional projects can be initiated.

Some of the ideas put on the table include:

  • Mobility stations,
  • Gamification: a new edition of “Spare your car!” in Neckarstadt-West and local use of behaviour challenging apps,
  • “Ideas bus”,
  • District fund/crowdfunding,
  • Children’s energy camp,
  • Sample construction site “multi-family house”, and
  • Pilot project for a community photovoltaics system.

A slide from the “energy and housing” breakout group (© City of Mannheim)

As a city that is committed to sustainable energy and is active in developing citizen engagement and social innovation activities, Mannheim aims to develop novel urban governance structures and practises for enabling social innovation in the energy sector.

A lot is going on in Mannheim – what has already taken place?

In recent months, the Mannheim City Lab has entered into numerous collaborations with local actors and multipliers in order to leverage existing networks and structures and exploit synergies to drive the energy transition forward locally. Cooperations with the neighbourhood management (Quartiermanagement Neckarstadt-West) as well as the neighbourhood office of the Consumer Centre (Verbraucherzentrale) and the Climate Action Agency Mannheim were established. These are important and sustainable milestones in implementing SONNET locally.

Furthermore, a detailed energy study was carried out in Neckarstadt-West in 2020 to highlight where the most important levers for action, measures and financing exist.

Since the start of the SONNET project, three smaller design thinking workshops have taken place with select local stakeholders and policy makers, gathering initial ideas for a larger event. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Mannheim City Lab has had to come up with alternative ways for citizens to participate – and not only virtually. This included, for example, a pop-up event in public spaces in fall 2020. Here, too, ideas that had already been developed by a smaller group could be discussed and further aspects brought into the SONNET project locally.

Long, exciting road ahead – what comes next?

For the support and continuation of SONNET ideas, the City of Mannheim will implement redevelopment management in Neckarstadt-West starting in 2021.

To ensure citizen participation despite the pandemic, Mannheim will have a Mobile Green Room® in the neighbourhood starting in May, which will provide information and the opportunity to exchange ideas in public spaces. The Mannheim City Lab is currently planning this participatory project and will work together with numerous local organizations and associations to fill the Mobile Green Room® with life and information on local energy transition over a period of three months.

Furthermore, the Mannheim SONNET City Lab will soon go online, featured on the participation portal of the City of Mannheim. Mannheim citizens will then be able to vote for local ideas and projects, participate or support them directly at any time on any day. This is also intended as an exchange platform that will go even beyond the SONNET project.

Mobile Green Room ® (© Helix Pflanzen GmbH)

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