Build a network that seeks to empower young people, providing them with tools & resources to lead collaborative sustainable energy projects
It takes more than a concern about climate change to get people to take action. Besides a positive attitude towards renewable energies and the belief in their ability to tackle climate change, other factors need to be present for people to act (Ajzen and Fishbein, 1975; Fishbein 1991). Indeed what our “relevant others” do and think, for example, strongly influences our behaviour, so much so that the creation of shared normative behaviours towards climate change mitigation is critical for any large scale societal change. Studies by the same authors also show that perception of control over the desired outcome is key for people to take action.
The way climate change has been presented in the media and politics does not address these aspects, which partly justifies the gap between attitudes towards climate change and people’s behaviours. Although, overall citizens are worried and know what needs to be done - especially young people who often show a greater awareness of these issues - they feel powerless, believe that their role is too small, or that they have no real control over change. Thus, we need positive initiatives with a strong normative power, that influence the younger generation and create the belief they have power to generate tangible impacts.
The Sustainable Energy Youth Network (SEYN) aims to give young people everywhere the skills and tools to create sustainable energy projects with their local communities. Importantly, SEYN does not want these actions to happen in a vacuum, but to build a sense of belonging to a wider movement, connecting young people across borders. Our ultimate goal is to make taking action on climate change into a social norm among millennials, as normal as it is to share updates on social media. Through training, mentoring and knowledge sharing, SEYN aims to equip young people with the tools to organize, develop and manage sustainable energy projects.
Is this proposal for a practice or a project?
What actions do you propose?
SEYN has already delivered three successful Energy Academies in Croatia (July 2015), Greece (October 2015) and Spain (April 2016), as well as a number of other capacity building workshops, such as the 10-days Energy Master courses (in February, June and September 2017) and other training sessions and workshops in collaboration with local partners in Greece. These provided training to over 220 young people from across Europe and beyond on renewable energy technologies, project development, community engagement, governance structures and alternative financing. Building on this, SEYN aims to organize a new series of Energy Academies, spread the knowledge about successful projects that were developed in Croatia, Greece and Spain, continue to grow the SEYN community and inspire new young people to start their own projects,. To achieve this, SEYN intends to:
Create a powerful and active online platform that can map this community of dreamers and doers and facilitate knowledge sharing. Such a platform will allow to map and strengthen a unique pool of young people that have a proven track record in developing community energy projects, capable of exchanging services, ideas, projects and forging collaborations across Europe and beyond. In the last two years we have witnessed the multiplier effect our academies and workshops can bring. With support and the right technology, SEYN offers real possibilities of scaling up climate mitigation actions amongst young people.
Build an online, live toolkit that allows users to generate a step-by-step roadmap to developing new sustainable energy projects. Users will provide basic information user (location, preferred technology, preferred governance structure, financial situation, skills and experience), based on which a toolkit is produced. Simultaneously, the platform will assign possible mentors from within the community matching the proposed project. The creation of the online toolkit would require the following actions:
Conduct an extensive review of existing citizen-led and collaborative sustainable energy projects in different countries.
Develop a set of methodologies to allow the users to make a full assessment of the local context, market barriers, skills, challenges (policy, financial and social aspects) and potential opportunities created by the project
Integrate the toolkit into the online platform
Organize a series of SEYN Energy Academies to kick-start projects drafted through the online toolkit. Initially we hope to deliver two week long annual academies in different European host countries. Teams of participating young people will be supported by practitioners and experts in the renewable energy sector. These will deliver a programme of targeted workshops covering everything from governance structures, to community participation and raising finance to help participants develop new sustainable energy projects in a positive and engaging environment.
Set-up a mentoring system to allow projects to continue towards implementation. As success builds and spreads, more people will be driven to the platform and inspired to take action. Tailored mentoring has the potential to make a difference in the successful implementation of projects, thus SEYN will endeavour to build an effective system, which will start by selecting projects that show real potential for implementation. More than good ideas, it is important to assess the commitment and motivation of people setting up new projects, the resources available, leadership and footing in the community. These can be assessed during the Academies and workshops as well as by conducting focused interviews. Preference will be given to teams rather than individual proposals, to those that are already part of networks and have existing capabilities and relevant experience. Mentoring will take place off-line during Energy Academies and smaller workshops (“SEYN clinics”) and online linking different SEYN mentors with project teams according to their different areas of expertise including project management, community organizing, financing and communications. The online platform which maps the network and the toolkit will be critical components to enable successful mentoring.
Deployment of the sustainable energy toolkit and mentoring
The proposed toolkit offers real possibilities of replicating successful initiatives within the network and scaling up SEYN’s activities. The toolkit will be operated as live set of services to assist teams in successfully managing and developing sustainable energy projects. The toolkit will work as vehicle connecting up-to-date know-how and expertise in the network to specific projects and needs identified. For this it will provide a methodology, content and resources to support the project’s progression through its different phases: Identification, Design, Implementation and Monitoring.
1) Identification - Concept - Testing assumptions: during the first stage of the project assistance, the mentoring team assigned will work to help the project team check local conditions, identify specific needs and map potential challenges to be addressed: The team will draw on a pool of methodologies such as: Policy and Regulatory Analysis, Stakeholder mapping and engagement tools, PESTLE & SWOT risk assessments, Power shift dynamics, Systems tools & goals guidance, setting goals and objectives - theory of change and causal links - introduction to Logframes, Project Cycle, Asset Mapping, Mind maps and Problem & Objective Trees.
2) Design - Plan: After a comprehensive project evaluation, the mentoring team can introduce to the local team/community the creation of a project logframe identifying concrete steps and indicative resource needs to allocate during different phases: Logframe to design & plan the project, Alignment to Global Goals Mapping, Setting the project up on a Gantt diagram and Project Management, Long term project planning appraisal, Budget process, Mobilization of resources for implementation.
3) Project Implementation - Setting up the Project Implementation Team: After phases 1) and 2), SEYN mentors support the local team in the implementation of the different activities:
Political - building strategic alliances and identifying key stakeholders
Regulatory and Policy - develop a clear understanding of local policy incentives (e.g. feed-in-tariff and net metering schemes) as well as potential barriers
Financial - develop sustainable and realistic models and business plans
Capacity building - empower the team and develop internal capacities (personal, organizational, technical)
Partnerships and collaboration - organizing and engaging the wider community
Communications: realizing the importance of social media and traditional media to tell the story; use of SEYN’s communication channels and networks (e.g. online platform, Facebook group) and contacts with local, national and European partners.
Long term operation and sustainability of the project: Incorporate Operation & Maintenance contracting in the project.
4) Close - Monitoring and Evaluation: Monitor progress, assess and report lessons learned about the project, its impacts, success factors and barriers. Ensure an effective Management System that allows sharing knowledge across the wider network.
Shaping the toolkit as a dynamic package of services, allows to tailor the services to different needs and project phases, recognizing that the resources, budget and maturity level of the project teams and their proposed initiatives may vary substantially. The toolkit will be an essential component of the mentoring, providing a roadmap for mentors to assist project teams right from the identification phase. The mentoring may also may include visits to the community, working hours with the local team (live and virtually), training and briefing on project management tools. If awarded the grant, SEYN proposes to build the basic templates, the methodology and a preliminary set of standard packages that could be readily tested with existing projects, namely in Greece. The next steps would entail exploring other sources of funding to scale up the commercial development of the tool and mentoring services and promote it throughout the network in Europe.
Who will take these actions?
These actions will be led by SEYN members - a non profit organization legally based in Brussels. SEYN members, engaged in different climate and energy projects, are based in several European countries. Other partner organisations and individuals will be engaged where appropriate, building on the extensive network and collaboration of the wider SEYN network.
Where will these actions be taken?
Within the European context actions do not have to be limited to a particular location or country and projects can be implemented anywhere - a school on a Greek island, a community hall in a city in Portugal, or in a rural village in the south of France. It depends where members of the network are based and need support.
The Energy Academies are organized by SEYN and its members and held where enough local support is gathered, as it has been the case in Croatia, Greece and Spain, or where there are links with successful projects that can support learning and exchange (e.g. Denmark, Scotland, Germany)
It is likely that more action can be developed in countries where local networks and energy projects already exist as a result of SEYN. This includes Electra, a Greek energy cooperative, a number of partnerships with local organizations for educational and Do-it-Yourself (DIY) initiatives in Greece and the Canarian Institute for Self-Sufficient Energy Communities (ICEACAN), an institute promoting and developing community engagement with renewables in Canary Islands (Spain). The consolidation of the existing projects in these countries and the review of best practices and challenges would constitute an important basis to further build the network and inspire action in other countries.
In addition, specify the country or countries where these actions will be taken.
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What impact will these actions have on greenhouse gas emissions and/or adapting to climate change?
Given the early stage of the network and its geographical spread it is difficult to accurately estimate CO2 emissions reductions. However, based on the initiatives currently in the pipeline a rough estimate can be provided that will illustrate the potential real climate benefits of this proposal.
In Greece, Electra Energy Cooperative was set up as a result of the second Energy Academy in 2015 in Crete. There is a community solar scheme under development in central Greece where the cooperative is starting the permitting and licensing of a 50 kWs community solar farm. With an annual production capacity of 1,750 kWhs/ per kilowatt installed for this region, the solar farm will generate 87,500 kWhs of solar electricity per year to feed into the grid. Assuming that in the Greek average grid mix, 1 kWh in the grid generates about 1 kg of CO2, the project will reduce local emissions on 87,5 TNs annually.
In addition, there is 2,3 MW wind turbine planned for central Greece. The cooperative is starting to analyze the wind capacity in different plots and SEYN will continue to support the project and its financing. The wind turbine will follow a community energy approach and would start operation by 2019. The project is expected to generate 6,000 MWhs/year. The wind turbine will reduce the emissions on 6,000 TNs of CO2 annually, providing the equivalent electricity for 1,500-2000 families and generate around 25 direct/indirect jobs assuming 10,5 jobs per MWp of wind installed (IRENA 2015).
Since the Energy Academy on the Canary Islands in Spain ICEACAN has received continued support from SEYN in reviewing their business models and projects, sharing information and networking with other European initiatives (such as RE cooperatives), identifying skills gaps and internal capabilities. The institute is focusing on solar rooftops for neighbours and engaging municipalities to reduce energy consumption in public buildings. ICEACAN has provided 10 small solar kits to local citizens (10 KWps generating 18,000 kWhs, about 14,000 kgs CO2/year).
SEYN aims to initiate two new projects per year each with an average acceleration capacity of 20 kWps of renewable energy technology installed. In three years SEYN predicts to have initiated six new initiatives x 20 KWps = 120 kWp in addition to one larger initiative such as the one planned for central Greece.
The following table summarises the pipeline of activities and projects under development including the actual environmental impact by type of technology installed:
What are other key benefits?
Besides the direct impacts derived from the renewable energy projects in terms of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions and direct and indirect job creation, there are other less tangible benefits that accrue from our actions.
Studies have shown that being involved in energy production, particularly solar microgeneration, has positive spillover effects fostering more sustainable lifestyles, starting by reductions in energy consumption (Darby 2006). As young people become more involved in sustainable energy production and take ownership they increasingly feel empowered and motivated to make other changes towards more sustainable lifestyles.
Founded less than 2 years ago, SEYN has 22 founding members from 7 European countries, plus over 1,200 supporters, many of which have attended SEYN Energy Academies, Energy Master Courses (DIY short courses) and workshops. These are like-minded people that not only share a concern for climate change and the environment, but actually want to be involved in the solutions and positively influence the behaviour of their peers and local communities. If a robust platform is created, if knowledge is managed and shared strategically across the network, through both online and offline channels, the potential social multiplier effect can significantly impact on lifestyles. We will have young people everywhere learning about the success of renewable energy projects in the UK and the nordic countries, partnering with like-minded Spaniards or Greeks, sharing knowledge about renewable technologies, governance approaches, ways to collaborate in DIY and high-tech energy solutions.
By empowering young people to take direct action in addressing climate change and fostering an entrepreneurial mindset, we are also building their skills to take on a more active role in society and in their lives - a much needed skillset considering unemployment is a serious concern among this age group.
Indeed, recognizing the employment challenges faced by young people in Europe, particularly in southern countries, the network aims to tap into the large pool of existing talented professionals and gear their skills and interests towards sustainability projects, while supporting the creation of just and meaningful jobs.
Founded on the seven cooperative principles, SEYN aims to be a truly collaborative and inclusive network. In the spirit of solidarity in Europe and beyond, SEYN promotes transnational collaboration and creates a culture of civic engagement across borders.
If we continuously build the network around its core values, this generation of young citizens will not only reject populist ideas and be more inclined to share and cooperate in all its forms, but will also be more capable of leading change and influencing their peers in a positive way.
What are the proposal’s projected costs?
The costs of the proposed actions are as follows:
The cost of building the web platform = €1,500
The Human resources to design the toolkit: researching and pooling existing knowledge on citizen-led and collaborative sustainable energy projects to be included in the online toolkit
2 part time developers/researchers x 3 months = 4,500 EURO
Communication and outreach (dissemination, development of crowdfunding campaigns, etc.) = €2,000
Energy Academies to kick-start projects = €10,000 per Academy
Challenges and Risks
The geographical spread of the network can be both an opportunity and a threat, potentially becoming difficult to manage, challenging the effective sharing of best practices, successes and challenges. Similarly, it may be difficult to preserve some of our values and ensure consistency in the approach across the network. This is why the creation of an online platform as described above assumes special importance in building a cohesive community.
Considering the target audience and that SEYN wants to be inclusive and keep fees as low as possible, financial sustainability may be difficult to achieve. The solution will have to be setting up creative and innovative ways to finance SEYN operational costs. To address this it will be crucial to incorporate members with strong skills in finance that can support the creation of a business model that suits SEYN’s identity and core values.
On a similar note, financing the renewable energy projects led by SEYN members and spin-off organizations, such as Electra, carries some risk. Considering our target group, raising capital to implement projects, particularly in southern European countries will, no doubt, be challenging. To overcome this it will be important to forge collaborations with well-established cooperatives and organizations, that can not only offer financial support, but also provide guidance and expertise, much like it already happens between many renewable energy cooperatives in Europe and beyond.
SEYN aims the acceleration of 2 new sustainable energy projects per year. SEYN aims to initiate 120 kW of installed community energy capacity by 2020. The online platform will enable the facilitation of resources, collaboration in the network and the development tools to accelerate projects. In turn, these initial projects will help build the necessary experience to scale up the network within the coming years.
In the following decade, acceleration of projects will increase in the context of the disruption and liberalization of the electricity market, innovations in the Information and Communications Technology sector and general decentralization of the energy systems both in terms of generation and ownership. This will allow to set more ambitious targets for projects initiated per year and grow the network. From 2020-2030, the platform will set up the tools to facilitate the development of 2-3 sustainable energy initiatives per year, scaling up to an average of 1-2 MWps of installed renewable generating capacity per annum.
By 2030, the platform aims to have initiated and supported the development of at least 10 MW of renewable energy technologies, which will generate an average of 10,000 MWhs-20,000 MWhs of sustainable energy per year with an average annual emissions reduction capacity of 10,000 - 20,000 TNs of CO2. The projects will involve the participation of 200 to 400 people through the launching and acceleration of 20-30 new sustainable energy initiatives by 2030.
In the decades that follow the model will be consolidated, while the network continues to grow. In the long term, when RE uptake will be very high, citizen involvement in sustainable energy production will be common practice across Europe (as it is now in countries like Denmark and Germany), largely due to the critical role played by young people in the transition to a cleaner, more just and participative energy system.
About the author(s)
SEYN is a network of young people that aims to build a future based on sustainable energy, through a social and cooperative approach. More than just kilowatt-hours, for us energy is an
important resource for socio-economic development used to promote social equality, tackle poverty and help build resilient communities.
SEYN has 22 founding members from 7 European countries - Greece, Spain, UK, Germany, Greece, Croatia and Portugal - plus over 1200 supporters from across Europe and beyond.
Within the network we have a pool of highly skilled young professionals, with diverse experiences and backgrounds, from all corners of Europe. Such diversity gives us the richness and the flexibility needed to address the complex nature of the problems we face.
SEYN couples information and training of young people to work in the sustainable energy sector with actual development of projects as an incubator. Project implementation on the ground will serve as an inspiration – and source of knowledge - for others across the network.
We intend to achieve this by focusing our work on four key focus areas: community, education, energy projects and funding.
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