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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.

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 work together 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.

City Lab Description

The City of Antwerp dedicated its SONNET City Lab to reducing energy poverty in vulnerable households across the city. To achieve this goal, the city explored four solutions to fight energy poverty: creating energy communities; renting energy-efficient appliances to vulnerable households; facilitating dialogue between the city departments to manage a fund for retrofitting houses; and retrofitting and installing solar panels on former social housing to rent to low-income families.

Key learnings:

  • Government funding or subsidies are essential for projects aimed at reducing energy poverty. These issues cannot be solved by the private market alone.
  • SIE-friendly policies and legal frameworks at the national and regional levels are important to facilitate smooth implementation of projects that reduce energy poverty at the local level.

Read the Antwerp City Lab report here.

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