Public support for sustainable energy and sustainability

The Province of Drenthe (NL) is in transition. There is a growing realization that our current energy system is not future-proof. In addition, social relationships are changing, also in energy. Citizens, companies and institutions start to organize their energy management themselves. Residents buy solar panels collectively, farmers put panels on their barns and exchange power with their urban neighbours. Local energy cooperatives are springing up from the ground. Everyone is busy with the redesign of the public domain.

This requires a different role of the government. Public support is an important precondition for the transition towards a new, sustainable, energy system. It requires a government that facilitates, connects, lets go, trusts, co-creates and participates. A government that is a good partner for the ongoing initiatives. A government that supports and provides space. In Drenthe we embrace this new role of the government. We support policy that was co-created with partners and with citizens. We want to create unexpected coalitions and partnerships. We want to jointly explore how we can achieve a sustainable energy system in Drenthe.

In our view, the transition to a sustainable energy system can only be effective if we collectively determine the route towards increasing. How do we do this? By focusing on the following three components:

1) Transition Arenas
2) Participation Platform
3) Behavioural Change

1. Transition Arena’s

A crucial role in this approach is reserved for the societal leaders in Drenthe. These are the people who walk out to the troops, visionary and enterprising, dare to think outside the box and others can bring in their ideas. These leaders have many different backgrounds (industry, research institutes, government, concerned citizens, etc.). More importantly, they are innovative, visionary and involved. In this process about 15 leaders will take part in so-called transition arenas. In these arenas, within about 9 to 12 months, these frontrunners will develop a joint vision for Drenthe in the field of renewable energy. There are different levels of scale: an arena can focus specifically on a particular city or village, other ones could focus on a specific theme such as sustainable mobility.

The vision developed by the leaders will not be prescribed by the province, nor by the municipalities, but will be shared vision for the future of this community leaders. In this vision they describe what steps are necessary to ultimately achieve a sustainable energy system in Drenthe. It is like a guiding perspective that comes from society. Based on this vision, a path towards the outcome is back casted: what should happen to actually realize this vision? Many different experiments and projects should be defined that aim to learn from it and introduce a different way of thinking. These experiments and projects are shown in different transition paths: different routes to reach the ultimate goal. Together with the future vision (s) the transition paths form the final transition agenda. This transition agenda therefore involves not just a vision of society, but also to take the steps on the way to it. The transition agenda can be seen as the policy that comes from society and not invented by the authorities themselves.

2. Participation Platform

An important part of DIT energy, is the online participation platform. On this platform, the Drenthe Energy Story is being told. It enables citizens, companies, entrepreneurs, governments and research institutions to share their success stories. Who are they and what do they contribute to a sustainable Drenthe? The stories are not written by officials of the province or the municipalities, but by the people themselves and with the community. It is the place where the call is made on renewable energy in Drenthe. Those conversations are in fact now well fed, but everywhere fragmented. By means of the platform get these a central place, and they are bundled together.

Another important issue is the use of the wisdom of the crowd, or the resolving power of the society. By using the platform, governments, businesses, citizens' initiatives and research institutions to provide certain challenges to the public. In this way there used the improbable amount of expertise that we shall jointly available. The DIT-energy community is like a platform for co-creation which is working together towards a sustainable energy economy Drenthe and the challenges that entails. Here are taken the best ideas and solutions from the Drenthe society, shared with each other and then see which parties are required to actually perform the best idea. This makes the solutions come not only from the government, but they arise precisely because the collective intelligence of the Drenthe society.

The platform addresses the need to stay up-to-date. This much attention will be paid to the offline meetings held in Drenthe. Report will be made of the transition arenas, existing events and all other seminars or conferences that we will organize together with the community. In addition, the latest developments in the energy sector will be discussed at the platform, will find an agenda are what happen in this area is in Drenthe (and beyond), find an overview of the various initiatives and will allow people to find each other to provide insight into the energy network that way.

3. Behavioral change

The energy begins to become more and more a social rather than a technical issue. Governments, nonprofit organizations and companies are doing frantic efforts to persuade the public to use energy in a different way. The need for this is clear to most people. Yet many campaigns do not go beyond good intentions. Success in the form of behavioral change in practice are yet often trickier than expected. This has everything to do with the fact that human decisions are a lot less rational than previously assumed. For many years it was assumed that people make decisions based on knowledge, information and other rational arguments. On this basis, people would change their attitudes and thus change their behavior. However, it appears only partially true. What emerges is that people particularly take decisions very quickly, intuitive, emotional, and therefore mostly irrational.

By making use of the latest insights from behavioral science, supported by expertise from the Hanze University, we focused efforts to provide a concrete action perspective so people will actually show a change in behavior. We will do this by hand to respond to automatic habits and by supporting conscious behavior changes.