Viladecans – a story of eggs and of a local energy transition agency

We are often told that putting all eggs into one basket is risky. Well, there are some baskets doing actually very well. Read this story of Viladecans, a city with 65.000 inhabitants next to Barcelona that connected its local players around a multi-service Public-Private-Citizen Partnership, matching energy supply, energy currency, energy savings services, deep energy renovation investments and renewable energy production.

Cities cooperating with the private sector, engaging in Public-Private-Partnerships, this is an old story. And even more, the concept has proven its limits and downsides, especially for the public partner. Now, what happens, if you extend the collaboration to a third partner? Within their Vilawatt Project, the city of Viladecans developed an innovative local public-private-citizen partnership (PPCP) to jointly design a new tool for its energy transition.

When the city councillors of Viladecans decided to join the EU project Vilavatt, funded under the Urban Innovative Actions Initiative, they were already convinced that the energy transition succeeds and fails with the engagement of its citizens and entrepreneurs. Vilavatt intends to address deep energy renovation of residential buildings in one low-income neighbourhood of the city. Accounting for826 dwellings built before 1976, the dense and compact residential district of 450,000 sqm with its over 20.200 residents has an annual final energy consumption of 34 GW/h and 75kW/year. The annual income within the district lies 15% below the city´s average income. This is an additional challenge and, at the same time, an incentive for putting in place rehabilitation measures. Unsurprisingly, the private sector remains reluctant to conventional investments.

Unstoppable in its desire for making the city better, the city administration of Viladecans looked for alternatives and they came up with an innovative business model dealing with several energy services at once. The city built a coalition of public and private stakeholders. The purpose of this PPCP? It is, above all, a local energy operator, which will serve as the local energy supplier and renewable energy producer, connected to a local Energy Savings company. Viladecans’ PPCP follows a governance model that is meant to insure transparency, democratic principles and strategic coherence. The governance body will be responsible for the establishment of an appropriate business model, as well as the maintenance of a common vision. Its responsibilities lie hence in the supervision, as well as the framework setting of the project. The legal entity herein is the consortium, which comprises two public entities and a local stakeholder entity. It ensures thereby the participation of all the key public and private stakeholders, securing the non-for-profit character, as well as guaranteeing the municipality´s leadership. As to the city´s Local Energy Operator (LEO), it is the executive body of the programme, dealing for example with capacity-building and community participation within the implementation process. Finally, the examination of the different actions and initiatives taken to diminish fuel poverty lies in the competence of the PPCP´s governance body. The combination of LEO with the local energy savings company is moreover expected to create employment opportunities and expertise in the field of energy efficiency while strengthening the local economy. This is the perfect example of what can be called an energy transition agency!

Villawatt moreover involves its local players through peer-to-peer learning, competition and gamification. Energy teams in each of the neighbourhood’s buildings translate project ideas collected from citizens in a forum into concrete actions. Any energy savings achieved in the buildings will then be rewarded in virtual currency. This new energy currency, called “Vilavatt”, has been established for translating energy savings into purchasing power. Such type of complementary currencies, might they be called SolarCoins for energy produced or Vilavatt for energy saved, have proven to encourage new energy behaviours and energy efficiency investments.

List of organisations gathered in Viladecans’ Public-Private-Citizen Partnership:
Ajuntament de Viladecans • Agència d’ecologia urbana de Barcelona – Public agency • UBIQUAT TECHNOLOGIES S.L. – Private company • ICAEN – Institut Català de l’Energia – Research centre • Associació LIMA – Low Impact Mediterranean Architecture – Non Profit Association • CERCLE GESPROMAT S.L. – Private Company • EGM – Private Company • VIGEM – Viladecans Grup d’Empreses Municipals, S.L. and VIMED – Municipally-owned company • Viladecans Grup d’Empreses Municipals, S.L. – Municipally-owned company • CICLICA SCCL – Cooperative

Read more about the Vilavatt project


Publication date

June 25, 2018