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Antwerp living lab for a social energy transition

Harnessing social innovation to ensure an inclusive energy transition where no one is left behind

City Lab research led by: the City of Antwerp and DRIFT

Our context

The Antwerp climate plan spells out the ambition to become fully carbon neutral by 2050. This will be achieve through a Sustainable Energy Action Plan that includes concrete measures and targets for energy efficiency and the increase of low-carbon technologies and use of renewable energy.

Between 20-30% of Antwerp families are vulnerable to energy poverty – this means that an inclusive energy transition is essential. This will be the focus of the city’s SONNET lab.

Antwerp has experience testing innovative solutions with its citizens. In 2013, the city initiated an urban lab called ‘Stadlab2050’ to work together with a broad range of local stakeholders towards the 2050 sustainability goals. The lab uses a hybrid model and works at the interface – or boundary – between government and society. Through the lab, government, citizens, companies and organisations venture out on joint trajectories to turn ideas into concrete actions. These actions range from innovative financial models and technical innovations to complex combinations of social innovation and behavioural experiments.

Through concrete interventions, the SONNET City Lab in Antwerp will work specifically on the challenge of ensuring and achieving an inclusive energy transition.

City Lab Description

Several alternatives to centralised fossil fuel-based energy supply have popped up in Antwerp – most visible is which is solar system installations on roofs.

Consumers in Antwerp are making more conscious choices with regard to energy, and multiple forms of investments in renewable energy systems are being tested. However, the most vulnerable groups risk being left behind in this landscape, due to lack of financial means and other challenges faced.

A socially-inclusive energy transition requires innovative co-created solutions. The methodology of Antwerp’s SONNET City Lab is based on design thinking and includes the following steps: collaboratively identify challenges; generate ideas for solutions; test solutions in practice; and develop a proof of concept.

The City Lab will take on four pilots. The content of the experiments will be developed in co-creation with local partners, namely those frontrunners in the transition and stakeholders related to energy poverty. Interventions can be related to sharing of systems, knowledge, goods, space, innovative financial solutions, and/or cooperative systems. Experiments with local energy systems like smart grids or battery solutions, smart metering and related nudging experiments are also possible.

The scope of the lab and topic of the four interventions planned will be decided together with stakeholder in February 2020.

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