#rennes2018 conference about sharing responsibilities in a radically new energy system


Publication date

April 25, 2018

Energy Cities’ Annual Conference 2018 was hosted in France by the City and Metropolitan Area of Rennes, from 18-20th April.

The most valuable outcomes as identified by participants

  • Critical discussions of new technologies and business models (Blockchain)
  • Questioning and sharing the potential of collective initiatives (Urban Commons, urban-rural cooperation, cross-border projects)
  • Debating and drafting proposals for improved policies and legal frameworks (Mayors’ session and policy talk)

The conference in pictures
Relive the conference on twitter

Session reports, slides and any other related documentation will be made available in the next days on annualconference.energy-cities.eu

Three inspiring conference days in Rennes

I am amazed how many different topics and solutions are discussed amongst all those very committed city delegates.”, told us first-time delegate Monica Carcar from Pamplona City Council with sparkling eyes during one of the networking coffee breaks. Indeed, during the three days, the sun was out and so too were city leaders, policy-makers and innovators of all sorts for our Energy Cities’ 2018 Annual Conference. 200 people from around 30 countries gathered at this magical venue, a refurbished 14th century monastery topped with an elegant modern glass extension. From the Polish city of Ciechanowiec, close the Belarusian border, to Aradippou in Cyprus, the big, light-flooded large open space was filled with the incredible drive and creativity of change-makers from all over Europe.

Each energy transitioner has their particular challenges, but, ultimately, they have similar questions on their mind : How can we transform the energy system so that it becomes beneficial for the largest possible number of people ? What is needed to decentralise production in a secure, participative and transparent way ? In panels, workshops and during break-out sessions in the city of Rennes, delegates debated ways forward for better sharing of responsibilities and benefits

The effects of collective energy

How to team up to successfully manage our resources ? Speakers and participants gave plenty of options and experiences to look up to !

  • Michel Bauwens and Maïa Dereva from P2P Foundation discussed the governance of the Commons (cultural and natural resources belonging to a whole community) and gave concrete examples of successful experiences : from the many projects implemented by the citizens of Ghent and its City Commons Lab, to the Commons General Assembly in Lille and the water referendum in Italy, where Commons are part of the Constitution.
  • The spark of creativity comes more easily when you are not alone ! That’s what we took away from the participatory democracy experiments shared during the “Accelerating local Energy Transition : counting on pioneers to make the difference !” workshop. Cities like Maastricht and Grenoble have given pro-active citizens space and resources to pilot energy transition experiments. And it is working well. An example among many ? The Energy Swap project was one, as told by Vincent Fristot, Deputy Mayor of Grenoble, where citizens willing to reduce their energy consumption can donate the equivalent amount to people affected by energy poverty in exchange.
  • The urban-rural cooperation stories reminded us of how valuable solidarity is and how important mutual listening and understanding are. Indeed, the two worlds are complementary, as demonstrated by Växjö and Kronoberg county in Sweden, where rural areas are effectively contributing to energy production (thanks to national subsidies provided for the installation of solar rooftop panels) but also to regional waste management.

Blockchain : a beauty and a beast ?

The Friday morning session focused on the promise and potentials of this new technology. Examples from Spain, France and Germany gave hope that blockchain could be a tool to return energy governance to local actors.

Indeed, thanks to complete traceability it could unlock a new dimension in the energy market providing for example certified information on the origin of the energy. Amongst the initiatives currently under experimentation is I-nuk. This start-up is using blockchain to link small producers with citizens willing to compensate for their carbon emissions. Carbon compensation is normally too costly for small and medium-sized producers to become certified. Blockchain makes this certification possible : everyone could, through an app, compensate for a taxi journey or a flight by donating money to small renewable energy producers ! During the Q&A session, the audience proved to be torn between wonder and scepticism about this connection and data-intensive new business models.

Mayors’ voices : EU and national policies need to be aligned with the Paris Agreement

The conference offered a political stage to advocate support at a higher level. Our delegates were very clear in stating that a structural transformation of our energy system cannot be achieved without the commitment of regional or national governments and the European Union.
Regional and national governments need to define policies allowing cities to implement the energy transition, within the framework of a coherent EU strategy. This includes providing the necessary financial means : as stated by Member of the European Parliament Isabelle Thomas, the European Parliament is proposing to devote 30% of the EU budget to the fight against climate change and create an energy transition fund while keeping the current amounts allocated to the cohesion policy. But as the European Commission and the Council will have the final word, the battle is not over yet !

That’s what they said !

Celia Blauel, Deputy Mayor of Paris 
“The implementation of the Paris Agreement can’t be only on local governments’ shoulders…We are all in but we need all political planets to be aligned”

Eloi Badia, Acting President for Water and Energy for the city of Barcelona
“We need the legislative framework to get to energy sovereignty and Zero Km Energy. With our municipal energy company, we are one step closer to getting there”

Eckart Wuerzner, Mayor of Heidelberg and President of Energy Cities
“If EU leaders are not listening to cities voices through city networks or the Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy, they will not survive in the political system”

Anne Walryck, Vice-President of Bordeaux Metropole
“A transfer of competences from national to local government is not sufficient if not accompanied by the corresponding financial resources”

The top 5 positive conference news 

1- Rennes has a very ambitious climate and energy plan ! Emmanuel Couet, President of Greater Rennes, explained us how they got there.

2- Energy Cities joined “Small is beautiful” campaign
James Watson, CEO of SolarPower Europe stated “Small renewable installations on office buildings, schools, libraries and hospitals are crucial to a successful energy transition in cities. Energy Cities joins the campaign at a crucial moment as we approach the final negotiations of the Clean Energy Package, where we must ensure that small-scale renewables receive support from the EU to thrive.” 

3– The strong will amongst the coalition of French delegates to increase the pressure following the open letter to Le Monde : the energy and climate contribution needs to become part of financing at the local level ! 

4- The release of our “Blockchain and Energy Transition – What challenges for cities ?” study to make sense of the Blockchain buzz and understand how this new technology could support the energy transition. www.energy-cities.eu/blockchain

5- New peer-to-peer opportunities ! We launched a call for proposals for the French-German energy transition week 2019. Do you have ideas on how to strengthen cooperation between German and French cities ? Submit your proposal http://semainetransitionenergetique.fr

See you next year in Heidelberg from 22-24th May ! Stay tuned on